4th Sunday of Advent | December 18, 2016
Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
PROTIP: You can take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the first and Gospel readings.
So I think I spend the bulk of my life answering questions.
Thankfully, most of the questions I can handle on a daily basis.
Fr. Brian, do we have school tomorrow?
Fr. Brian, when is the next retreat?
Fr. Brian, when was the last time you got a haircut?
But it seems more and more that I am getting questions that are a tad more difficult.
The questions that we all grapple with from time to time.
What do I do now?
What if I’m wrong?
When will things change?
How do I get through this?
What was I thinking?
Why? Why did this happen?
What do you want from me?
How do I know?
And let’s be honest with ourselves. These questions do not come with cheap or easy answers. We often have to sit with these questions. We wrestle with them.
And even when we begin to get an answer, it always seems somewhat inadequate.
And yet, they are the unavoidable questions that come to us.
My friends, I am convinced that what we do with these questions is what defines us as believers.
On the one hand, we can follow the example of King Ahaz.
Because he has no intention of grappling with the tough questions.
He wants to hide behind a false piety.
And in the process he reveals how shallow his faith really is.
What I find fascinating is that Ahaz is contrasted with two other figures from Scripture this weekend. And in the figures of Mary and Joseph, we are given true models of faith. Faith claimed in the midst of the tough questions.
Take a moment and reflect on the questions that both Mary and Joseph grapple with in the sudden and unexpected circumstances that they find themselves in.
Why me? Why us?
What happens next?
What will people think?
Am I making a mistake? Am I able to do this?
Is this really happening?
What if I’m wrong?
Tough questions to be sure. And the questions would not stop there. They would keep coming throughout their lives.
In frantic moments searching for a lost child in Jerusalem and baffling moments of being turned away when Jesus was speaking to the crowds.
In heartbreaking moments at the foot of the cross and breathtaking moments in the days after the Resurrection.
But what separates Mary and Joseph from King Ahaz is that they were not afraid to ask the questions. They treasured these questions in their hearts, even as they continued to walk forward along the path they discerned through faith.
And in their willingness to believe even in the midst of such questions, they encountered the great truth of Christianity.
Which is that we do not always get all the answers that we seek.
We get something greater.
We get the presence of a God who comes to us in our questions. Who sits with us in our doubts and pain. Who walks with us into the unknown.
Who gazes upon us as we cradle our newborn and hears our questions filled with wonder.
Who sits beside us as we utter our anxious questions about teenage children grappling with depression and addiction.
Who discerns with us as we attempt to figure out where our lives are headed. What is the next step in our journey.
Who receives our angry questions that rage against the circumstances of our lives.
Who clutches us to himself as we cry out in anguished pain after burying the one we love
We gain Emmanuel, my friends, God with us.
So be not afraid.
Ask the questions.
Seek the answers.
Encounter Emmanuel once again this Advent season. May God be Praised.