Homily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Saturday 3 December – 4.15pm

[Readings: Is 40:1-5, 9-11;  Ps 85;  2 Peter 3:8-14;  Mk 1:1-8]


The liturgical season of advent is one that opens us up to the coming of Christ.  On the feast of the Lord’s Nativity we will celebrate his coming as one of us, to renew fallen humankind from within.  Advent opens our minds as well to the future coming of Christ, when the new heavens and new earth will be established, and God’s kingdom will come about in its fullness, where righteousness will be at home.  In between his first and his final coming, we are invited to be open to the Lord’s coming into our lives, here and now.

Prepare the way of the Lord!  We hear this command several times in today’s liturgy.  Prepare … make a way for the Lord.

When Isaiah spoke the words we hear in the First Reading, the Israelites had endured decades of bitter exile in Babylon.  Isaiah speaks words that would have engendered joy and hope: the people’s time of exile would come to an end, the Lord is coming, and he will shepherd his people.  Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God, Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid …

This is what the Lord wants to do during Advent … to speak once again to the heart of his people, and through his people to all humankind: to proclaim salvation.  The light comes into the darkness;  new life comes where there is death.  It’s the role of the church to be like Isaiah and the prophets of old and to cry out, make straight in the desert a highway for our God;  it’s the purpose of the church to go up the high mountain of faith and to proclaim to the people: Here is your God!  [who] comes with might.  In the midst of suffering, poverty, hunger;  for those who have had to flee their homelands, for those who suffer violations of their rights, the church is called to proclaim the coming of Christ who brings salvation.

The Christian person lives in an in-between time.  Christ has come, and he will come again … Christ has brought salvation, and God’s kingdom will triumph in the end … but in between, the reign of God still needs to break through.  Things aren’t yet fully as they should be.  Evil still needs to be contended with.  St Paul speaks of this in-between time in the Second Reading.  This time of waiting for the new heavens and the new earth is a time in which the Lord is showing us his patience.  He gives us time to repent, to be converted.  God doesn’t want anyone to be lost.  God wants his kingdom to be established in the hearts of all people.

When we look at history, the church has always been active in preparing a way for the Lord, in making a highway in the wilderness for our God to come.  Wherever there has been need, and human suffering, the church has responded.  We think of the saints through history who’ve spent their lives making a way for God’s salvation to touch the hearts of people: in caring for the sick, in teaching, in providing for the suffering and the abandoned.  Blessed Mother Teresa is a great witness of this from our own times.  She exemplifies how the Christian person lives in the in-between, here and now amidst suffering, but helping God’s kingdom to come about.  In one of her writings she says, “We wait impatiently for paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise even here on earth and from this moment.  Being happy with God means loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him.”  Mother Teresa lived amongst the poorest, and endured her own spiritual suffering, and yet with one foot ‘in heaven’ she helped God’s kingdom of peace and salvation to break through into the lives of those she served.  She truly prepared a way for the Lord to come in the wildnerness of people’s lives, and she made a straight highway for God in the desert of misery and suffering.

The readings we hear today make us ask ourselves: how are we preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness of our world today?  How are we making straight in the desert a highway for our God to come?  How are we bringing God’s consolation to his people in their suffering?  How are we helping God’s kingdom to be established in the hearts of all people?

As we come this evening to be nourished in word and sacrament, we are reminded that Christ comes to us: he shows us his steadfast love, his mercy and compassion … he grants us the salvation he came to bring.  As we are nourished with these gifts of his, let’s pray that our hearts will be so filled that we will more eagerly share these gifts with others.  May we prepare a way for Christ’s salvation to come into the lives of all we meet.