Hi everyone, this is my homily for DECEMBER 23, 2018 – the FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT. The readings for today’s Mass can be found HERE Thanks as always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments. I appreciate it. Have a good week – God Bless – Fr Jim
Also you can get the audios of the homilies from iTunes as a Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fr-jim-cherns-homilies/id1440618142?mt=2
“I put all that in God’s hands.”
Those were the words of a man by the name of James Bain who’s story a couple of years ago, became international news. The headline said it all “Freed after 35 years – DNA test clears Florida Man.” Back in 1974, James Bain was arrested and convicted of a kidnaping and committing a horrible act of sexual abuse to a 9 year old boy. The 9 year old picked Bain out of a lineup… the jury didn’t believe Bain’s alibi that he had been home watching Television (that his sister had corraborated) he had remained in prison ever since.
Being wrongly imprisoned for 35 years?, that’s the stuff of nightmares. How many nights did he go to bed in tears? How often did he hope that someone, ANYONE, would believe him – finally believe and listen to him, that he was innocent – that he didn’t do this horrible thing that he was convicted of doing? Well finally, someone did back in 2009… Fortunately (and finally) everything came together proving his innocence. In one afternoon, a judge signed an order and he was released from prison.
As incredibly sad as this is that an innocent man lost 35 years in prison, as justifiably angry as he may have been – what made this story so memorable to me was video of him as he was released from prison – his absolute, radiating happiness. The smile on his face, the incredible joy. It caught some by surprise, especially some reporters. As they asked questions and were probably trying to imagine how they would feel if this had happened to them – what emotion they would feel, one asked Mr. Bain, a pretty direct question. “After 35 years of false imprisonment – aren’t you angry?” And he said “No I’m not angry, because I got God.”
He explained that the support of his family and his religious faith had helped him get through this horrific ordeal, and left him with the conviction: “[It] just was the right time for God to release me from this. I just had to be very patient for that… I cannot feel angry. I put all that in God’s hands,” he said.
Many who heard this story focused solely on:
-how did he get wrongly convicted in the first place.
-why did it take so long for his innocence to come to light?
– or how many others, just like James Bain have been innocent for years and proclaiming their innocence only to be doubted and ignored?
All of those are legitimate questions and things we should be asking.
But in that questioning, we can miss an incredibly important thing for James Bain and for us as people of Faith. He didn’t see them as lost years. His belief in God, his trust in God, his faith in God would never leave him “lost” or as a waste… If there was ever a person we’d excuse for abandoning his faith after so much pain and suffering, Bain would seem to be on the top of that list. Yet, his family and his faith helped him endure and as he sees it, were essential in his freedom. Not just the day he was finally released, but each and every day he was falsely imprisoned.
That story came to mind as this last week of Advent comes around and we now focus on recounting the historical first coming of Jesus Christ into the world. We see nativity scenes, and cute pageants telling the story. And while those are all beautiful, often times, they make us have a story-book image of the Christmas story. We get caught up on angelic greetings setting these miraculous events into motion. Mary is told of her role in the plan of salvation. She visits her relative Elizabeth, who at an old age (after being labeled “barren”) is drawn into this story with the improbable news she was pregnant with the boy who would grow up to be John the Baptist.
Yes, both women were faith-filled women. They are women who embraced God’s will for their lives – despite how crazy it might have seemed to them. Yes they trusted God. But they were human beings just like all of us. They still had to be nervous. They had to be afraid. They had to even have had doubts. Did they wonder “why me?” Did they ever get upset with how their own plans were fading in light of accepting God’s will? Did they ever get impatient or angry at all the inconveniences, struggles, trials they had to endure?
They probably had their moments. But Mary and Elizabeth’s lives echo what Mr. Bain said, “I put all that in God’s hands”
That’s the same challenge we’re faced with if we wish to be faithful disciples. Whatever the trials and struggles we each encounter. When we’re not sure how the mysterious course of events happening in our own lives figures in as a part of God’s plan, the devil messing with us or something else altogether.
It’s not a matter of being just positive thinking and saying to ourselves “trust in God and don’t be afraid.” We will be afraid, and weak at times. Which is why a key part of this is that faith-filled people need other faith-filled people to be around. Mr. Bain credits his family who encouraged his trust in God through all those years. Perhaps that’s why as soon as Mary receives her incredible news that she would be bearing God’s Son Jesus, we read she set out and traveled in haste – to be with Elizabeth. These two women of faith needed to lean on each other (and would remain together for months) That didn’t mean they doubted God. Only a person of faith would be able to encourage another person of faith. They needed each other.
And so do we. It’s one reason Jesus commanded us to come together every week to celebrate the Eucharist. We aren’t called to be lone rangers facing the twists and turns of our lives simply praying that a distant God will somehow take care of everything. St. Paul very matter-of-factly addresses us as Brothers and Sisters in the second reading. That isn’t meant to be a feel-good expression but rather a revelation for us. As God’s family, we find His presence is revealed, affirmed and demonstrated in many ways, especially when we support each other, especially when our reasonable doubts seem to be doing a number on the heart of faith.
Like Mary, we who are called to bear and give birth to Jesus Christ’s to the world today in the face of great challenges and difficulties need words of hope and encouragement. We too need to know that God continues to do miraculous things here and now in our time in our day, when we truly put “…all that in God’s hands.” Mary believed. Elizabeth believed. Even a man falsely imprisoned for 35 years believed. Will we be among those to hear Elizabeth’s words said of us -“Blessed are you who believed that was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled?”
THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed this year to our ANNUAL CHRISTMAS APPEAL! It has been a record breaking year already as we close in on our final push to hit our goal (and perhaps go over it!) We’d appreciate your consideration and support – go to www.MSUNEWMAN.com/appeal for more details