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Living in the Real World Leads to Repentance

Posted : Dec-03-2021

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Fr. Frank McDevitt is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Aurora, Ont.

Recently, I was talking to a friend’s seven year old son about school. He was telling me that the best thing about school was recess when they played bumper cars.

I was surprised that the students were allowed to bring bumper cars to school. He assured me they didn’t have bumper cars, they played bumper cars. They just raced around in a circle and ran into each other.

The blessing of a child’s imagination. A whole world of racetracks and bumper cars can be created every recess.

Adults are capable of some pretty extraordinary fantasies, too. In fact, we can create fantasy worlds every bit as real as those of children.

We can imagine how much better things would be if we only had the job that someone else has.

And, of course, at the same time someone else is coveting your situation in life.

Our fantasies are a natural part of being alive. They are not, however, where we meet God.

God meets us in the real world. The world of flesh and blood and bone. The world of imperfection and sin.

The call of John the Baptist to readiness is the call to repentance.

Repentance is the rejection of the fantasy world, that world where we are always the centre, where our behaviour is okay because it is our behaviour. It is the rejection of the fantasy that our behaviour does not make a difference to others.

Repentance is taking ownership of our flesh and blood, our relationships and ambitions, and ordering them in relation to others and to God.

Repentance is setting aside our flights of fantasy and landing our bumper car in the real world. It is the rejection of the litany in which each invocation begins with, “if only, if only.”

We are about this task of setting aside fantasy so that we can find the world that Christ came to, the world that he loved. The world of imperfection, the world in need of His redemption.

We find that world through repentance and acknowledging our responsibility for things not being as they could be. If we choose to seek out that world, we travel a path straight to God. For it is the real world with suffering and failure and doubts and regrets which is the world of Christ. The world of His glory.

It is not some pointed expression of drama that has John proclaiming that all flesh shall see the salvation of God. That is exactly what John means to say. It is the world of human fragility where God will come and dwell, not in a fanciful flight of the spirit that separates one from the other but at the unitive place of flesh and blood.

In this time of Advent preparation, we do not look to the limitations of flesh and the world, but raise up this world of which we are part and proclaim the harvest of righteousness. The harvest of good that we can do in God’s name. The power of His grace working in our fragile existence to make God’s love known.

To come to that place of privilege, we first repent and set aside the world of pretend and live in the world that is. We create in that world a witness to the powerful grace of God.

Grace that fills in the valleys and pulls down the hills that are obstacles on the way to God. Valleys which we meet in our sense of our incompleteness or vulnerability before the world and God, and those mountains we make out of molehills when we see the times we have missed the mark and come believe that we are unlovable to God.

I hardly think it is my place or your place to tell God who to love. He does love you and me.

Let us seek the straight path that leads to God and His grace. Let us seek the straight path which brings the news of salvation to all flesh.

This homily is based on the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C: Baruch 5.1-9; Philippians 1.3-6, 8-11; and Luke 3.1-6, The Proclamation of John the Baptist.