TEXT: Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023 Father De Celles Homily

Second Sunday of Advent                                                         

December 10, 2023

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

From the very beginning of God’s revelation of Himself to the Hebrews

         3,800 years ago,

         God has chosen individual human beings to act as His instruments

                  to communicate His will to the world.

People like Abraham, Moses, and David; Elijah, Samuel, and Isaiah.

These people were sent to Israel to deliver God’s message

         or to do His work among His people.

In the language of the Church we refer to these as mediators.

And so, in today’s first reading we find the Prophet Isaiah

         acting as a mediator between God and man

         in giving us one of the most important messages

                  ever given to man by God:

“Prepare the way of the Lord…make straight His paths.”

The message of God which Isaiah mediates to Israel

         also tells the people that there will be another great prophet

         who will come to declare this message again to Israel

         –“a voice crying out in the desert”–

         a voice mediating between the Messiah and the people of Israel.

In today’s Gospel, St. Mark tells us that this long-promised mediator

         who comes out of the desert is the prophet St. John the Baptist.

Still, why does God send mediators at all?

And are there any more mediators after Jesus?

         After all, like Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets,

                  John came before Jesus, and Jesus is God the Son.


Advent is a season of preparation for Jesus’ coming into the world

         —coming as one of us, a human being.

At the heart of this mystery of Christmas is the fact that God became one of us

         to communicate with us more clearly and completely

         —through His human bodily actions and words.

And so, we read in the Mass of Christmas Day from the Gospel of St. John,

         “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,

                  and the Word was God…

         And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

In His person, through His incarnation in the flesh

         and His bodily entering into the world,

         Jesus, the Word, is the great and perfect mediator,

                  bringing God to man and man to God.

As St. John tells us elsewhere in Scripture,

         “That which…we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,

         …and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life….”

But Jesus took His body with Him when He ascended into heaven.

On the other hand, in a real sense, He is still here in His body.

Of course, He’s here in His body which is the Eucharist.

But He’s also here in His body which is His Church,

         which lives and acts through all and each of us.

                  We are here, in our bodies, still speaking with human words,

                  hearing with human ears, and seeing with human eyes.

And by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we received at Baptism,

         Jesus lives in us and acts in us and through us.

And so, He continues to send human beings into the world

         to mediate His message through the body:

                  through the proclamation and hearing of the Word,

                  by the symbols we see and touch, and through the sacraments we receive.

All of us are called to mediate God to the world in some way

         –just as it’s been throughout all Salvation History.

Some are called to be great public prophets like Isaiah and St. John the Baptist.

Some are called to be apostles like St. Peter, St. Mark, and their successors

         –the pope and the bishops.

And some are called to be pastors or priests.

And in this great mystery of the priesthood

         –through the mediation of a human being sent by God—

         Christ can come to us, and we can come to Christ.

By the priests’ proclamation of the Gospel,

         and by the sacramental signs they administer

         and that we hear and feel and see and taste,

         Jesus Christ comes to us in a most unique and clear way.

Not so much because of the priests themselves,

         but because of Christ who acts through them.


The Gospel today tells us that 2000 years ago, the great mediator

         St. John the Baptist, proclaimed

                  “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

And in response, as Scripture says,

“People of the whole Judean countryside and Jerusalem

were going out to [John]…as they acknowledged their sins.”

Today, we do much the same thing as we go to the sacrament of penance

and acknowledge, or confess, our sins before God’s appointed mediators.

But when we hear those mediators say, “I absolve you from your sins,”

         we hear in their human voices them mediating not the voice of St. John, 

         but them mediating the voice of THE ONE TRUE mediator

         between God and man, Jesus Himself.

The voice Isaiah talks about today when he says,

         “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her

                  that…her guilt is expiated…Comfort, give comfort to my people.”


Priests have this role as mediators in this special way

         —and it’s a great gift to the whole Church.

But as I said before, by your baptism in water and the Holy Spirit,

         all of you were also made to be mediators of Christ.

Like ordained priests, you are all called to “prepare the way of the Lord”

         by proclaiming to your family and friends and coworkers,

         by your words and your good example,

         the joyful news of Christ’s coming into the world 2000 years ago

                  to bring merciful forgiveness for those who repent their sins,

                  to dwell with all His power and peace in those who will accept Him,

                  and to tenderly comfort all who are prepared to welcome Him.

For many devout Christians, this Advent season is a time when

         this call can elicit a very strong emotional response from us.

We hear, “Prepare the way of the Lord,”

         and our hearts are moved to respond, “Yes, Lord!”

But then, most of us stop on that emotional level;

         we don’t really try very hard to carry it out.

Sometimes we don’t try because we’re afraid.

Sometimes we don’t try because

         we’ve tried before and nothing seemed to happen.

And sometimes we don’t try because

         we really don’t know how to prepare the way.

But no matter what our reason is for holding back, God still calls us.

If your excuse is that you’re afraid, remember what Isaiah tells us today:

         “Fear not to cry out and say…`Here is your God.'”

If your excuse is that you’ve tried before with little or no results,

         remember that you are only the messenger, the mediator.

Jesus is the one working through you.

And as St. Peter reminds us today in the 2nd reading,

         “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years,

                  and a thousand years is like one day.”

It may seem like your efforts are fruitless, but your effort is only instrumental:

         You prepare the way only by doing your best

         to allow God to act through you,

         and then you wait to see how God finishes the work without you.

Remember that even the great mediator of the Messiah, St. John the Baptist,

         recognized that his work was incomplete and only an opening for the Lord:

                  “One who is more powerful is to come after me.”

And as the all-powerful Jesus Christ acts through you,

         don’t worry about seeing results.

Be patient, as St. Peter tells us,

         “The Lord does not delay…though some consider it delay.”

And finally, if your excuse is that you just don’t know how to prepare His way,

         remember that the best place to start preparing is with yourself.

As you attempt to “clear a straight path for the Lord”,

         let it first be a clear path to your own heart.

Begin doing that by following the message of the Baptizer:

         Confess and repent of your sins, big and small;

         renounce your vices and your bad habits;

         remove any obstacles that might lay on the road between God and you;

         and open your heart to the word of God

                  proclaimed in Scripture and the teaching of the Church.


It is God’s will and God’s plan

         that the human mediation of God to man

         did not end when Christ ascended into heaven.

Few of us are called to be public figures

         mediating like Isaiah or St. John the Baptist.

And not all of us are called to be ordained priests.

But every single one of us is called to—in some way—

         go out into the world and prepare the world to receive Jesus Christ.

This is especially the case

         during the season of preparation for the coming of Christ–

         this season of Advent.

As we now move more deeply into the Mystery of this Holy Mass,

         as the Lord Jesus descends to this altar

                  and becomes truly present in His real Body,

         and then comes to you in Holy Communion and abides in you,

                  his very Body dwelling in your very body,

         hear with your heart and with the ears of your body

         as He calls on you

                  through the mediation of St. John the Baptizer and of your priest

         to go out into the world this Advent, and

                  “Prepare the way of the Lord…[and] make straight His paths.”