Second Sunday of Advent
Reading I Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Reading II Romans 15:4-9
Gospel: Mathew 3:1-12
Did you ever notice that if you listen to the Gospel it’s not always supposed to make us feel good. Oh, just keep on reading — it’s so exciting! The Gospel is always challenging us, saying, “What’s going on in your life?” And so today it is all about the voice, the voice within us. It’s the voice that keeps stirring you and inviting you to help other people. Jesus says, “When you were baptized I gave you a voice and I am asking you to use that voice.” So the question is: How well are you and I using our voice?” And a voice is done in different ways. It doesn’t mean that someone is always talking as I am doing now. It means the actions, how we live our lives, and how we care for each other to make the world a better and safer place to live. The voice leads us to look at someone we don’t know but say, “You are my brother or sister.” It’s that voice that God wants to feel.
There was a man who became a doctor. He went to a small town and fell in love with the people because they never had a doctor there and there were so many needs. Word spread around town that this man could help them when they were ill and in need. One day he was to marry a woman, the love of his life, and someone called and said, “You need to come. Our daughter is dying and you are the only one who can make a difference.” Following his voice, the doctor went to the house, and when he got there, he was able to give the child life. Obviously, his fiancée who was waiting at the church to have a wedding was very upset. He didn’t show up, she cancelled the wedding and went off on her own. But that day when he cured that young girl — it changed his whole life because he heard the voice of God telling him, “This is where you need to go.”
After that event, the people in the town looked on him in a very special way. They gave him an office above the store and when you walked in, on the wall was a sign that read, “Dr. Braddock upstairs.” And for forty years people went in that store, saw the sign and went upstairs. They heard his voice and he helped heal them day-after-day-after-day. At the end of many years of serving people, a patient went up to his office and found him dead on the floor. The people took his body, carried it out to the cemetery and buried him. People came from all over the area for this man used his voice for them. They wanted to put a stone by the grave but didn’t know what to write on it. So for sometime there was no stone, but all the people for miles around knew where he was buried.
One day the young girl who he had saved forty years before came to visit the grave. She was now a grown woman. She said, “I know what the headstone should say.” She went to the store where his office was located and took down the sign that had guided people up to his medical rooms for so many years. She went out to the cemetery and stuck it in the ground: “Dr. Braddock. Office Upstairs.”
We all would like to have that story told about us. And it will be told in a different way and in a powerful way. When you die you have no clue all those you have touched; some will go ahead of you, some will go behind you. When we die we don’t send invitations to the funeral. Those who want to come, will come. And those who come will be those people you have touched in their lives.
That’s the voice that comes with baptism. It’s now a voice that someone can stand up here and sing. It’s the voice that comes from within and somehow we don’t think twice, we just love someone, we want to journey with them, we want to make a difference in their lives. This morning we are going to give Lila that voice and we have no idea where it is going to take her. Our parents had no clue where life was going to take us either. It just takes us where we allow God to lead us. And so for all of our lives we have to constantly be listening to that voice.
When my mother was dying in Sunset Home, she couldn’t see and she really didn’t know where she was or who she was. But the one gift God gave her, he never took away and that was her hearing. And so all my brother and I had to do was walk in the room and say, “Mom” — and she called us by name.
So you and I have to realize that in our lives God gives us a great deal of power. But, if we feel like it’s our power — forget it. But if every day we just let go and let the power of God come forth from us, we have no idea who is listening, or whose lives we’ve touched — and it also fires back to us. Someone may say something to you today that you will never forget for the rest of your life. A lot of what we hear and read evaporates, but certain things stay with us. Think back on your childhood, and I bet everyone here within a matter of seconds could stand up and say, “I will never
forget so and so,” and you can go back to the moment it took place.
Why is that? It’s because the voice is so powerful, and it is because that voice is coming from within. It’s not something dangling on the outside, and it ‘s not superfluous, it’s always just there for you. When someone says thank you, when a student says to a teacher, “I now get it.” When a child is having a speech problem and a teacher can take that child and move him or her along and no one else can — that teacher has given that child the voice.
So today, you and I need to humble ourselves. We can’t stand up and say, “Well, I know I have a voice. I’ve helped so many people and half of them are grateful and half of them aren’t.” God would say, “Would you please sit down. You never got the message throughout your whole life.” When we do things, we do them simply because we want to.
This morning we are taking up our offering for Haiti. If I could put you all on a plane and take you down to St. Antoine’s Parish this afternoon, you won’t have to panic because you don’t know the language. You don’t have to worry about packing any clothes because if you have just one outfit you’ll be just like them. But I guarantee you, when you get off the plane, and you go to their Sunday liturgy that takes two or three hours, you will hear the voice.
We all have something in common. Black or white, Catholic or non-Catholic, man or woman, child or adult, we all know, “I need to hear the voice, and I need to hear the voice of so many people.” So today, let’s just pray that God will open our ears and our eyes and our tastes and our bodies, so that what ever happens for the rest of our lives — God will grace us. And maybe you, without knowing it, are Dr. Bradley. And maybe someone you touched many years ago will put that sign on your stone and say, “His or her office is upstairs.”
Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.