Advent 4 2020


It seems to me that most of the Angels I have encountered in life seem to show up in unlikely forms at uncanny times and with intriguing messages. Maybe you have encountered the same in your lives?
We live today in a world that seems to most often be marked by scientific certitude—or at least the hope of it!
Every day, our TV screens are filled with Doctors, and Scientists talking about the Vaccine, the who, the how, the what, the where the when. Then the politicians and leaders break it down further….this is how this is where this is when.
It all seems like orchestrated chaos at many levels but covered with the blanket of scientific certitude. We often enjoy the fallacy that we can control our world with our certitude.
In a mere 9 months, we have captured, deconstructed a previously unknown virus at a molecular level, and have managed to remove a piece of it, replicate that piece at a massive level, insert it into a medium and inject it into the human body, which then triggers our immune systems to develop antibodies against this previously unknown and unexperienced deadly virus!
That is an amazing accomplishment. And I am not downplaying its impact or importance in our lives. Yet it can leave us or lead us to believe that we can control our lives and our future with our Scientific acumen.
We are not a people who are comfortable with mystery, the unknown, the unexplained, or the unmanageable.
We like to enjoy believing that we are the Architect of our own futures, and in some ways we are, and yet in many ways, we are not.
This pandemic has reminded us of that fact. A little, unknown, unseen, microscopic particle has sickened millions and has killed over a million as well.
Yet, our Sacred Scriptures, stand as a constant reminder that certitude is or at least can be a very slippery slope to the pit of despair, hopelessness, and delusion.
You see, we don’t hear much about Angels, the mystery of life and death, or the mystery of this entity we call God….yet today in our Scriptures, we hear…and will continue to hear about many angels…in many forms….with many messages…some jarring, some hopeful, so disconcerting, and some intriguing.
Let’s explore that a little bit….today we hear about the Angel Gabriel…who shows up in Mary’s life…in the inner sanctum of her garden. Mary is doing and living her life as she understood it to be. She was a young Jewish girl, a Mediterranean girl, doing what was supposed to be done, living as she was supposed to live.
Then…this Angel Gabriel appears…and blows up her world, her life, her plans, the plans of her family, everything she thought and dreamed.
It is now officially a total mess…and reportedly her response…” Be it done to me according to your will.”
How drastically different has our response been both personally and communally to the announcement of the pandemic? I am not saying an Angel brought this about, or that it was willed by God….what I am saying is it is quite amazing how different our response has been to something which blew up our world, much like Mary’s world was blown up.
I was having this discussion this past Wednesday with a Buddhist Monk who in the midst of our dialogue said: “Marty, we will never be able to eliminate pain and suffering from our world, the only thing we can change is our reaction to it and how we live this moment because of it.!”
And my first thought was…ok….but I like the warm, all-encompassing blanket of certitude. I like believing that I know what the future holds. I like knowing that a Vaccine is proven 94% effective. I like knowing there is a light at the end of this winter of discontent. I like knowing that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning and that the Moon will come up as well. I like knowing that gravity and the laws that seem to govern it will not ever go away. I like knowing that our planet will not burn up anytime soon. And the list goes on…
And Sacred Scripture stands in direct contrast to the fallacy of our certitude and reminds us as we heard just a few weeks ago…” You do not know the day or the hour…”
Sacred Scripture reminds us over and over that beyond any doubt, the experience of God, which we call faith, will end up destroying nearly every certitude we have ever had or entertained in our lives.
Mary would attest to it.
Elizabeth would attest to it.
Joseph would attest to it.
Moses, Noah, Abraham, David, Rachel, Rebecca, Mary of Magdala, Thomas, Peter, and even Jesus—would all attest to the fact of what we recall and remember and celebrate in just a few days…the one certitude that we can be assured….that God is truly Emmanuel….God is with us.
In the pandemic, in the joys, in the sorrows, in the pain, in the suffering, in the healing, in the struggles, and in the past, present, and the future.
Angels keep showing up to remind us…God is with us… So to each and every one of you…let me say thank you….thank you for being Emmanuel….thank you for being God with us, each in your own unique and necessary way. You manifest God as no one else can!
Oh, by the way, remember how I shared at the opening of this homily…how Angels I have encountered in life seem to show up in unlikely forms at uncanny times and with intriguing messages.
You might be interested to know, the Buddhist Monk I was dialoguing with… is a 32-year-old man who is serving his whole life in prison for a murder he committed when he was 17.
I would say….don’t ever doubt….you might be someone’s Angel!