YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
HOMILY THEME: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption
is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
The gospel passage we hear today speaks of terrifying events preceding a great awakening. “When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28) Indeed, newscasters remind us even minute by minute of natural disasters and human devastation occurring around the globe. So often, though, that’s all of the story we hear, redemption and salvation following upon destruction usually deemed not newsworthy. Very often, though, when one focuses the eyes of faith on the aftermath of tragedy, new life is already rising from the ashes. I was a witness to such an awakening.
In the midst of a hectic morning in the hospital’s ER, the jarring tones of the radio signaled the imminent helicopter arrival of an unidentified young male in critical condition resulting from a car accident. Upon his arrival, the trauma team went about the multitude of procedures to stabilize him. Meanwhile a family gathered in the waiting room searching out Philip, their seventeen year-old son and brother who, they’d been told, had been in a serious accident. When the tentative mother was ushered in to the bedside, so badly bruised and swollen was the young man’s face that it was only Philip’s distinctive earring that made positive identification possible. Once the link was established, the medical staff spent much time with the family members explaining each test and procedure being performed and the meaning of the results they’d already received. From all indications, the prognosis was good. Philip would live, but likely spend considerable time in an intensive care unit. It was while his family stood at the bedside, looking in disbelief at Philip's broken body that the ER doors opened to receive Amelia.
An ambulance attendant pushing her wheelchair up to the admitting desk, he informed the clerk that Amelia, elderly and appearing frail, was in need of a psychiatric evaluation. Because her medical condition was stable, she sat quietly in the corridor strapped into her wheelchair. Near her, Philip’s room just around the corner, his family surrounded the bedside in anxious prayer while several state police officers conferred about the details of the accident that had brought the young man to the hospital. Suddenly every other sound in the ER was overtaken as, from Amelia’s wheelchair, a deafening operatic rendition of the “Star- Spangled Banner” washed over every patient, family and staff member. Frozen in place, a still- life tableau, all activity and conversation ceased for three seconds, the spotlight Amelia’s alone. Her breath depleting mid-stanza, a loud, wheezy sucking of additional air assured the crowd that she aimed to complete the anthem. By now it seemed that Amelia had erased every other care in the world as she brought her performance to a conclusion: “O say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
Even Philip’s family had left his bedside to investigate the impromptu hallway concert, their choking tears of moments before now replaced by smiles for the relief of a moment’s simple joy. As Amelia finished, a few stunned onlookers applauded as, bowing from her wheelchair, she next moved into a full-throated bellowing of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” At graced moments in our lives, someone like Amelia makes a grand entrance that causes us to lift our heads from the immediate concerns of the moment. At graced moments, someone like Amelia—or God—unites us in common sentiment with others whose former concerns were quite disparate from ours. At graced moments, God— with the operatic voice of Amelia—invites us to sing of light and love, liberty and freedom. “When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)
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