Hi everyone, here is my homily for the THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT – December 16, 2012.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121612.cfm .  As we remain in shock at the horrific attacks on the school children in Newtown, Connecticut – may we look for opportunities to bring Christ to birth to this world that so desperately needs Him once again.
Fr Jim


    ‘What should we do?’
    This week, while reflecting on this Gospel, I felt drawn to that question that we hear asked three times of John the Baptist, by three different people in this Gospel.  Then came Friday.  At first, hearing the reports of a school shooting, I couldn’t even listen to it on the radio . . . Especially as the true horror of it was being transmitted almost simultaneously with the tragedy itself – little kids, boys and girls, 6-10 years old . . . their teacher, their principal . . . All horrifically killed.  I turned off the radio, hoping it was just a nightmare that would disappear, which, sadly it did not.

     ‘What should we do?’
    There comes a point where random massacres don’t seem to even shock us anymore.  A mass murder at a mall, at a movie theater  – they’ve become tragic occurrences that we talk about, about how badly we feel when these things happen – like we would if a hurricane or tornado visits a town and upends it without any warning.  And that’s it.  A part of life. For too many of us, as the news closes with images from memorial sites and funerals for the victims of this tragedy or that tragedy, we wipe our tears and move along too quickly. We’ve gotten to a point of almost accepting these acts of evil and  violence.
    But you could feel it, all day Friday.  That this time, where all these innocent ones were all simply doing what they should be doing – sitting in their kindergarten class, using safety scissors, coloring – that, this time, there is no acceptance . . . There is only shock.   Disbelief.

    ‘What should we do?’ 
    There’s already been a variety of predictable initial answers to that question:
    – Argue over gun control:  One side arguing to get rid of every single gun, the other wanting every person trained to carry their own.
    – Debate the affects of graphic violence in television, movies, media, video games: People not just wanting to see scary movies anymore, but wanting sick depravity – and,perhaps,  a chance to play along as well.
    – Ponder how our overly-saturated-social-network-connected world has dehumanized people, rendering them as faceless, nameless entities, lacking empathy and sensitivity for one another

    Within just a couple hours of Friday’s brutality, these sorts of things started to be said as we tried to wrap our minds around such evil in our midst.  And there’s a part of that which is understandable.  It makes us feel some sort of control in the face of helplessness and chaos.

    But, at the same time, it contributes to the acceptance of evil in our midst.  Which is what we’re dealing with here.  And the more we try to label it or put it solely into a category of a sociological, psychological thing that we have to study and explore – the more experts we have come in explaining that if we do this (fill-in-the-blank to your own, personal agenda) – the more we end up addressing symptoms, we more we continue to dodge the bigger issue – the acceptance of evil in our midst.
    Which is why we can relate to the question asked of John the Baptist – the question that sums it all up perfectly:

    ‘What should we do?’
    Just like the people who first asked that, we recognize something’s not right.  Something is very, very off.   Just like the people who first asked that – we see horrible things that are classified as “the new normal” – and we feel powerless, collectively, to stop them from becoming such.

    ‘What should we do?’
    John the Baptist continues to proclaim good news that God comes to His people.  It’s understandable that, after Friday, that doesn’t seem possible to us, right now.  As a knee jerk response, some might even blame God for letting this happen – or express the hope that when God does come again He will exact justice for this and all the other brutalities of humanity (or, should I say, of inhumanity?).  But, again, those are distractions.  John is announcing that God comes to His people.  John, as the forrerunner to Jesus Christ, doesn’t allow us to get away with blaming this new normal on a collective “we”; shrugging our shoulders at the accepted evil; and, shirking our own responsibility, blame the Blameless, blame God for man’s iniquity.

    ‘What should we do?’ 
We can’t get distracted by the devil trying to give us a new theory, or new excuse, for such horror.  We have to be clear and keep it simple, identifying that this was an evil.

    ‘What should we do?’
Well, for starters, stop looking for scapegoats.  We stop looking for someone else to blame, or someone else to “fix” things.  It’s up to each and every one of us . . . Each and every one of us has to find that place within us that is sickened, troubled, disturbed, angry – whatever the emotion you initially felt on Friday  –  we need to see this brokenness inside us and recognize that we, as individuals, need to do something.  And that something can begin with us investing ourselves with wanting to change the “new normal.”

      ‘What should we do?’ 
    John gives it to us simply:  Live according to God’s commands – share what we have with those who have nothing – don’t abuse, don’t take advantage of others.  Live in the ways that God expects us to live.  Break out of the routines, patterns and bad habits of the world – and then we begin to make space for the Holy Spirit to enter in, then we can begin to experience what it means to be saved by the God who created us – who loves us and desires our ultimate happiness – Who wishes for our happiness and our salvation even more than we do.

    May you and I have the resolve to actively do what we should, in our own world, in our own lives, in order to welcome Jesus Christ into our midst this Christmas . . . and in the meantime, pray for God’s mercy and healing for ever accepting, or tolerating, or even contributing to evil growing this comfortable, this bold, this brazen in our midst that such a horror could ever have occurred.