To Show the World What Was Possible

2nd Sunday of Advent | December 8, 2019

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the first reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons


So there are very few things that cause me to be truly anxious.

    But the dentist office is definitely one of them.

    And I feel like I have justified reasons.

        See when I was a teenager, I needed to have a tooth filled.

Now, I know this is going to be a shocking revelation, but I actually have an incredibly small mouth. I know — the irony, right?

And because of this, it is really hard to get the novocaine to hit the right nerve to numb this particular tooth. 

Well, I kept telling the dentist that I was not feeling numb. So he kept giving me novocaine. Until he said, “Well, you have to be numb by now. I’ve given you three times the normal dosage.”

And so he proceeded to drill. Hitting a nerve that was definitely not numb.

    Yeah, so now you understand my anxiety around the dentist.

Well about a year ago, I fractured my molar on this same darn tooth. Which means I needed a crown.

Three times, I attempted to get the crown put on. Three times, the dentist failed to get the novocaine to work. Three times, I left defeated.

So last week, I get scheduled for a root canal.  Because if I can’t numb the nerve, we are just going to get rid of it all together.

And I am having a full-blown panic attack sitting in that chair.

    I am sweating profusely.

    Clutching to those armrests so hard that I was afraid I’d snap them off.

So the doctor looks at me and gently goes. Trust me. You will not feel any pain.

    And I just refused to believe him.

Because my body had failed me too many times. I had been hurt too many times by people who had uttered similar promises.

And of all things to think about in that moment, I suddenly thought of the readings for this weekend.

Because when I hear that first reading from Isaiah, I have a similar reaction.

I find it difficult to believe.

    Because I know how the animal kingdom works.

        Predators do not just stop being predators.

        Prey don’t suddenly becoming trusting of their natural enemies.

    And I know how we work as human beings.

        Those stubborn flaws that come back again and again.

        Those pitfalls we fall into, despite all of our resolutions to avoid them.

        The ways in which we wound one another.

        The trust that is broken.  The scars the accumulate. The ways in which we build            thicker walls to shield us from the world that can seem so cruel.

And yet, as I was ruminating on these readings.  Convinced of how I knew it all. Something remarkable was happening.

    My tooth was being drilled apart.  And I didn’t feel a thing.

And in that moment, these readings took on a new appearance.

    Because maybe in my cynicism I was missing the whole point.

Which is that the Christ-child came among us to show the world what was possible.

    That genuine conversion was possible.

    That healing was possible.

    That forgiveness was possible.

    That unconditional love was possible.

And he sent John the Baptist ahead of him to prepare the way.  To break through our complacency and cynicism. Our doubts and defeatism.  To remind us that the status quo does not need to remain so.

    Reminding us that the world can still change.  We can still change.

So let us heed to call of the Baptist crying out into our own wilderness. Let us place our trust in the one who is Emmanuel. God with us.

Let us take stock of what holds us back and face it with determination and patience.

Let us take stock of what scares us and face it with courage and grit.

    Let us take stock of what has wounded us and face it with mercy and compassion.

And in so doing, we may just find ourselves at rest on the mountaintop.

May God be Praised.

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