Homily for December 6, 2020

Got Hope?

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

December 6, 2020


I found a paragraph that really spoke to me about the situation we find ourselves in:


We’ve just completed a difficult year. Twelve months ago, as we approached the familiar stories and scriptures of Advent and Christmas, life was “normal.” We moved about as we wished; we prepared for Christmas; we went to movies; we attended concerts; kids went to school; we bought what we wanted; we went out to restaurants; we visited friends and friends visited us; we assembled in groups larger than 10; we went shopping; we went to church; we went to work and received paychecks; we did all these things and a thousand more ... all without a second thought. 

A few months later, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, our lives were turned upside down. You know what happened next because it happened to all of us. The entire world was suddenly different than any of us had ever experienced. Everything about life was affected: families, school, work, shopping, health care, eating, travel for work and travel for fun, finances, exercise ... every aspect of our lives was affected in one way or another.

So today, when we hear the ancient words, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God,” our ears might strain to hear more. We wonder, is there comfort for us? These words of Isaiah were spoken during a particularly difficult time, when Babylonia had conquered the Jewish people and forced them into exile away from their homeland and out into other parts of the Babylonian empire. We’ve endured our pandemic for eight to nine months, but the Israelites were forced to live in exile for seventy years. So, you can imagine how they felt when the prophet Isaiah says, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God….Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care”—leading them safely home after the time of national suffering and upheaval.

In our time of global sickness, economic hardship, and social unrest, we are in dire need of comfort. In addition to our physical and social problems, many are also having psychological problems. The rate of suicide has gone up. There is more domestic violence. Many are living recklessly, without any sense of responsibility, endangering themselves and others by not listening to the scientists and medical authorities. Many feel like they’re at the end of their rope.

Let me share a story…. It’s a story about an oilman who started to drill a new well on his land. In oil jargon, the drilling pipe is called a “rope.” After drilling a deep hole, there was no oil to be found. The owner decided that it was a dead hole, and told the crew boss to cap the well. He would write it off as a complete loss. Meanwhile, the foreman called to the driller and asked how much “rope” was left on the rig. “About six to eight feet,” replied the driller. “Then keep on drilling deeper,” shouted the foreman. After drilling only two feet more, the well struck oil, and was one of the most productive wells in the entire oil field.

We can learn a lot about life from the drilling of an oil well; while there is still rope, there is still room for hope. In our case, there is a vaccine on the horizon. Masks, sanitizing products, and soap and water are available. We know what “six feet apart” looks like.

For many years now, I have believed that we here at Our Lady of Peace have a unique mission of dispensing hope. We do what we can to feed the hungry. We respond with incredible generosity to those who are struggling to make Christmas special and meaningful for their families (over $3,000 contributed to Adopt a Family, and counting!). And when people feel that no one cares and no one listens, somehow they instinctively know that they can come to Our Lady of Peace, ring our doorbell, and receive the help they need to keep going. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.”  That’s not just God’s job. That’s our job, our mission—now more than ever.

It’s our job to check on each other, to call each other, to offer a listening ear and a helping hand, so that no one feels that he or she is in this all alone. It’s our job to dig deeper within ourselves, believing that we’re not at the end of our rope, because with God there is always more rope—and more hope. And then we can reach out to others and remind them of this truth that we have discovered. With God, there is always reason to hope:

                   “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock

                   and gathers the lambs in his arms,

                   holding them carefully close to his heart,

                   leading them home.”

© 1976 Bob Dufford, SJ

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.