As many of you know I recently had a surgery to repair a hernia. But some complications required that I be admitted to the hospital. I was supposed to be home in time for the Price Is Right, but instead I was stuck in the hospital until I completed a checklist of requirements that would prove I was ready to go home. I wanted out fast so I ate everything they placed before me, I walked the hallway every couple of hours, and when they asked if I wanted pain medication, I replied, “Pain? What pain?” One nurse asked me, “Are you Superman?” and I replied, “I’m not Superman, but I just had a Kevlar mesh installed inside of me and I’m pretty sure that makes me Batman.”
But anyone who has had surgery is a superhero, because when you are recovering from a procedure you have a superpower. All you do is point at something and it comes to you. It’s incredible. If I wanted a drink, I pointed at it and BAM someone in the room would get it for me. If I wanted a book or the newspaper, I just pointed at it and BAM there it was. It’s an amazing superpower. It is so powerful that people will sometimes race to be the person to bring you what you pointed at, and if you point at something too large or too heavy like a restroom, people will do their best to pick you up and carry you to it. Of course now that I am 99% recovered, I no longer have that superpower, but Batman doesn’t need a superpower to be Batman.
John the Baptist had a superpower involving pointing as well, but quite different from those recovering from surgery. John did not point so that people would bring him something or come to him, although very large crowds of people did gather around him to be baptized and hear his message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In everything he did and said, John pointed to Jesus. As it says in today’s Gospel, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” As John made his way around the Jordan he was very popular and people thought he was special, even the ultimate superhero the Messiah, but John pointed to Jesus, and as a result he led many people to Christ.
I think John has an important lesson for each of us this Advent. We too must point to Jesus. This season is not simply about our preparing to receive the gift of Jesus Christ at Christmas, it’s about us sharing him with others. Christmas after all is not just receiving gifts, it’s about giving them as well. As we prepare for Christmas we must share with others the gift of our Lord and Savior.
So how do we share Jesus? How do we point others to him? Do we go out into the neighborhoods knocking door to door passing out brochures? Do we stand in Market Square downtown with a bullhorn shouting out “Prepare the way of the Lord!”? Do we become like John the Baptist and start baptizing people in the river by PNC Park? Do we need a superpower?
We don’t need superpower or do any of these other things to share Christ with others, we just need to point to him in the ordinary moments of our everyday lives. It’s about not being embarrassed about publicly displaying our faith: saying grace before a meal in a restaurant or cafeteria and praying or blessing ourselves before an important meeting or test. It’s about not being shy about having faith as a part of our lives: that we stick up for our faith in God, the Bible, and what the Church teaches. Most importantly it’s about showing that God is at work in our life. We recognize that our wonderful family, our nice home, our career, our health, and all the other blessings in our life are gifts from God. That we tell others that our amazing recovery from a difficult surgery is not because we are Superman or have superpowers, but our healing is the result of our faith in Jesus, the help of the Blessed Mother, and all the people that have prayed for us.
Sharing our faith with others is so very important right now. Society has made God, faith, religion, and prayer private matters that have no place in our schools, our workplaces, the government, or any public forum. Faith is under attack and as a result, we are under attack. The world is becoming more violent and less peaceful, more hateful and less loving, crueler and less merciful, more vengeful and less forgiving. As a result the war on terror continues to grow and the violence of terrorist attacks like the recent one in Paris and mass shootings like the recent ones in Colorado and California are becoming common place. Some believe that we can end terrorism with a ground war, while others believe that more air strikes are the answer. Some believe eliminating guns will protect us from violence, while others believe more guns are the answer. But the real answer, as it always is, is our faith in Jesus Christ.
In the 5th Century Attila the Hun and his army of barbarians were the terrorists of their day. They looted and conquered most of Europe in a very short time and were easily making their way through Italy. But at the gates of Rome Attila and his men were stopped dead in their tracks, not by brave knights or a powerful army, but as history records, an old man wearing long, fancy robes. The old man came to Attila without weapons to attack or defend, nor gold or jewels to bribe the army. He simply came bearing what he considered the most precious gift, Jesus Christ. The old man sat and talked to Attila about his love for Jesus and shared his faith with him. Because of this encounter at the gates of Rome, Attila and his army turned back simply because an old man pointed to Christ. The old man became a hero for saving Rome and today we know the old man to be Pope St. Leo the Great, the first pope to be given the title “Great.”
We also are called to be the heroes that are willing point out Christ and share him with the world, because Jesus is so badly needed in the world today. God, faith, religion, and prayer are the most important parts of our lives and should be honored by all aspects of society at all times, not just at candlelight prayer vigils after terrible tragedies have occurred.
This Christmas we again receive our most precious gift, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a gift so important that he must be shared with others and with the world. Like John the Baptist and like Pope Leo we are called to be the heroes that point toward Christ, and when we point at Christ he comes to us and others.
When Jesus came his peace, love, mercy, and forgiveness completely changed the world. With our help his peace, love, mercy, and forgiveness are again about to change the world.
Rejoice and be glad!
Deacon David, your homily was so down to earth and also so beautiful and spiritual! It was truly what we should and will remember not only during Advent but also hopefully for a long time.
I always heard about Attila the Hun but never knew the story behind him. I was very glad to finally know his legend and especially about St. Pope Leo The Great. It was very informative. Thank you and God bless!
My mom used to say I went about my work like Attila the Hun, I never knew until your homily what she meant. (FYI).