St Luke 21.25-33
Advent I Homily
It is too easy to be confounded, bewildered, perplexed. Not because we are stupid or incapable of clear thinking or making sense. But because so many voices say so many different things. About Our Lord. About His will. About His place. About His ability and desire to help, to rescue, to answer, to deliver, to save.
It is easy to be confounded. And when we are, then we quickly feel defeated, even routed and overwhelmed and crushed. Or we feel ashamed that we should know better. Or have stronger faith.
It is easy to be confounded. Because we feel left out. Left out of God’s design. Not consulted. Not informed. And so we are baffled, even when we’ve been told what will happen. Even when we were plainly told what would be next, and what would come after that.
We’re easily confounded because we believe science more than Our Lord’s word. Because we trust the experts more than the apostles. Because we rely on facts more than sure and certain promises that have been repeated for centuries. Because we’ve talked ourselves out of hope by talking constantly about stress and anxiety.
We’re easily confounded because we’ve misplaced our faith. We’ve placed it in everything we see or hear, everything down here.
“When these things begin to happen”—when you and I are dazed and confused, feeling as if the ground is shifting, and as if everything is out of control; when you and I are confounded, “Look up! Lift up your heads!” For whatever else is true, this is most certainly true: Any help we need in the big times, when we’re caught in the white-caps and things are spiraling and spiraling—any help we must have | will come only from above. Above what we see and feel and think and know. Above our own short-sighted sight.
That is why Our Lord says, “Lift up your heads!” For uplifted heads rise above everything that mystifies. And causes angst. And terrifies. Uplifted heads rise even above hope itself, and look with confidence.
“Lift up your heads,” Our Lord says. And we reply, “Unto thee lift I up my soul. My God, in thee have I trusted. Let me not be confounded.”
Our Lord does not seek to confound us. Or leave us in the dark. He is, after all, the light who shines into darkness and never goes out. So He calls us away from confusion, out of chaos, and into His life, into His warmth, into His light. And by doing this, the Light of the World beckons us into work and pleasure, goodness and beauty, and the company of other loved ones—both living and departed.
We’re confused and anxious and afraid because we’re looking down or looking only at what we can see. But Our Lord summons us to look at Him. Who He is. Which is who we can be. By His kindness. By His grace. If only we keep our eyes uplifted, and our hearts upraised.
“Lift up your hearts,” says the priest. And with these words he is mimicking Our Lord’s call to faith at every Mass. “Lift up your hearts,” because uplifted hearts are hopeful, just as uplifted heads are confident.
Our Lord’s encouragement to look up and lift up is not pollyannish. It’s not a command to ignore what’s going on around us. Or to rebel against what confuses or frustrates or angers. We still need to live here. But we need to live without fear. Not being afraid of what will happen next, or how we’ll be affected, or what so-called rights we’ll lose.
We need to live here. With our feet on this earth, but with our hearts and eyes, our hope and confidence, our faith and understanding rooted and planted in Our Lord and His kingdom. Just as the saints did. And especially the martyrs.
Like St Saturninus, whose heavenly birthday we commemorate today. This early French bishop aroused jealousy because, by God’s grace, his preaching gave people the courage to look up and see in Christ their redemption, even as they were surrounded by persecution. His feet, and theirs, were in this world. But their eyes and hearts were more sure about Our Lord and the life He lived in them and through them. And so this man, who lived unafraid and unconcerned with what the authorities said or did—he did not provoke or protest, but certainly stood firm when asked to compromise his faith. Unshaken in his refusal to let threats or riches tempt him, St Saturninus was cruelly tortured and killed. And yet he left us a legacy of holiness and righteousness.
To live unafraid is to live in holiness. To live without fear is to not let anxiety overrule or control. And to live without fear is to live righteousness, seeking God’s justice and mercy—for others, if not also for yourself.
This faith of not being confounded, of looking up, of lifting up our heads, of living without fear—this confidence that we don’t need to know all or be consulted, but simply take to heart what Our Lord says trusting that His statements far exceed mine or yours or theirs—this belief lies within the motto St Paul urges us to adopt:
Your salvation is nearer than you think. And nearer than you even believe.
So let’s live like it. “Let’s cast off the works of darkness. Let’s put on the armor of light” so that we can see clearly and not be so easily confounded or overwhelmed. “Let’s walk honestly”—honest about who we are, what we’ve done, and what we truly need; and honest about who, above all others, is able to lift us up. And let’s not feed our passions or fantasies. Instead, let’s “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” giving no room whatsoever to what we think is best for us.
Then, and only then, will our confoundedness and worries dissipate. And we’ll be able to say, with free and ready hearts, “Show me Thy ways, O Lord. Teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation.” So that every day I am, by Thy grace, empowered to pin everything I am and have on Thee.
To whom belongs all glory, honor, and worship: throughout all ages of ages.