HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B.
HOMILY THEME: “JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES, ‘BEWARE, KEEP ALERT; FOR YOU DO NOT KNOW WHEN THE TIME WILL COME.’” (Mark 13:33)
BY: Fr. Robert DeLeon Csc
“Dr. João Carlos Resende is an oncologist who works at the Barretos Cancer Hospital, one of the largest hospitals of its kind in Latin America, which receives patients from various regions of Brazil. Anyone who has visited this institution knows how hurried and busy the routine of its staff is, since the number of consultations tends to be very high every day. People who are familiar with the hospital also know how much suffering there is in the daily life of patients who go to the institution to receive cancer treatment. But [Dr. Resende] took the time to recount an ‘encounter’ he had with God. Yes, God visited him, disguised as a patient. [Here is his testimony]:
“‘A short and tiring week, my heart agitated, my mind in a whirlwind. God decided to visit me today. He came in a tiny woman’s body, with a face lined by the sun and the subtly roughened hands of someone who has done heavy work her entire life, smelling like lavender mixed with ashes from a wood stove. She talked in a simple and beautiful way, with a drawling accent. She was wearing her best clothes: colorful, well cared for, but splashed by the soup they served before the appointment. Her striped cotton shoes didn’t match her floral blouse … ah, but He was God and could do anything.
“‘Her eyes avoided mine. How could God make Himself so small like this? Then, I remembered that He knows very well how to do this. I remembered that He became man, and bread, and will always be a great, little God.
“‘She seemed embarrassed, worried by the news, which unfortunately wasn’t very good. She was tired because of her trip, the packed waiting room, and years of fighting cancer. Before the greatness in front of me, I increased my littleness so I could fit in the smallest crack I dared to use to enter that life. Her illness had changed, had progressed, and had started to attack her again. That treatment, which made her so tired and which nauseated that fragile body weighing so few pounds, would be necessary once more.
““But, Doctah. Don’t tell me that.” Her face fell with sadness, and how much it pained me to see God being one of us before my eyes! ‘Ms. Socorro, don’t be sad. This here doctor has a soft heart and might start to cry.’ She looked at me, and I could see the light in her wise eyes saying, ‘I’m going to cry at home, so you won’t see me.’ “‘How that strengthened me! How could God visit me like this? That brought an end to my fatigue. I only had room for emotion. I examined that small body. A strong and noisy heart, lungs that breathed on me the breath of life, and I contemplated the most beautiful smile caused when I inadvertently tickled her by probing her abdomen with my hand. I thought to myself how much I wanted to remove each of those tumors with my hand, and at the same time, I was filled with emotion, because with that visit, God took away each of my own tumors, which weren’t physical. My prescription would be the least important thing during this appointment, but I gave it to her anyway.
“‘Ms. Socorro, I’m going to prescribe that bothersome treatment, but only to try to control your disease.’ Humbly, she responded, ‘That’s the way to do it.’
“‘In the end, after those few, eternal moments of grace, God looked at me and said, “Doctah, the rest of me might be sick and not working right, but my heart is big and good.” Ah, God! What a heart.
“‘Already emotional, I only asked for a hug, and I was thankful for all that had happened. But I received more. I received a photograph, a caress on my cheek, and the certainty that God is always with me, and always visits me in different ways. Today, He visited me, cured me, and gave me strength to carry on. Ironically, when she left that room, she said, “God be with you, Doctah.” “‘I was with Him, Ms. Socorro.’” ( aleteia.org/ 2017/07/15 )
In the gospel passage we hear today, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.’” (Mark 13:33) That is, be ever expectant to encounter The One Who will always be in disguise, often distressing disguise.
In truth, while God made a place for himself in our hearts at the moment of conception, he waits with every dawn for an invitation to enter. Every day he knocks at our heart asking entry. Never forcing himself upon us, he requires—he begs—for invitation.
Dr. Resende bade his most special patient goodbye with a hug. “She responded, ‘God be with you, Doctah.’ He replied, ‘I was with Him, Ms. Socorro.’”