| Bishop Steven J. Raica

Jesus as the Master Tuner

Bishop Marks the Third Sunday of Advent

On Dec. 11, Bishop Raica celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, marking the third Sunday of Advent. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My sisters and brothers, the fact that we have four Sundays of Advent to prepare for the Lord’s coming is, in some ways, indicative of the fact that time is very limited. We don’t always have an endless amount of time at our disposal to get right with God. Nevertheless, for us Christians, these weeks are chuck full of meaning, focusing our thoughts on yearning and expectancy. We are over the half-way mark, closer to the moment Advent gives way to Christmas. So, today on this Rejoice Sunday – known as “Gaudete” or “rejoice” Sunday – we “rejoice” that what we await for is nearer than what it was last week or the week before. Our wait is near an end. “Soon and very soon,” we say! We will see the goal of our longing. Christ will truly come!

We also bring our attention to bear on the great personalities of the season who accompany us: Isaiah and the hope of what the coming of the Messiah will bring; John the Baptist, whose preaching still challenges us to “prepare the way of the Lord”; and, next weekend, Mary herself. Through this evocative season, we also find a place for ourselves. How do we prepare for Christ’s coming? Looking at the longings and desires of a people who leave their testimony for us, we see what shaped their minds and vision and what was the hope they harbored in their hearts.

Honestly, many of us are in the throes of getting through our final preparations before Christmas – shopping, Christmas cards, e-mails, phone calls, gifts, planning meals and events. Our spiritual preparation is not, in any way, separated from what we do on our daily routine. While we concentrate on the presence of Christ at a particular moment – 2,000 years ago or at the end of time. We must never forget that our Lord promised to be with us until the end of time. In fact, that is a key factor in the method of our faith. Emmanuel, a name which means God-is-with-us, signifies that we are not abandoned and left as objects of undefined circumstances or incontrollable forces. He is with us. He knows each of us. He knows our joys and hopes, our sorrows, worries, and anxieties. In this context He has a plan for each of us that is not entrusted to anyone else.

I think about the experience recounted by a piano tuner. He was called to one of the senior care facilities to adjust the piano in the common room. He arrived and started the work of tuning the piano. As he did so, some of the residents stopped – some dressed very nicely. He could hear some muttering going on in the background. One of the residents just glared at him. After some time, the recreation coordinator came and explained that the concert scheduled for that time would be postponed until a later time because they had forgotten the tuner was coming. The tuner felt badly. He had not been made aware of the schedule. Nevertheless, the one resident who glared, still glared at him. A few muttered under their breath. But one lady approached him and observed, “I see you are going to stay with the piano until it sounds just so.” To stay with the piano until it sounds just so – just right – the way it was meant to be! Perhaps this Advent is a reminder that God sent His Son because humanity was off pitch – it was sounding a bit sour, out of tune, lacking harmony. Jesus came as the master tuner and not always according to our plan by His because He was able to put us back “in tune” – in harmony again to sound “just so” again or “the way it should” and was meant to be from the beginning so that a truly beautiful harmonic and symphonic chord would emerge.

Isaiah the prophet gives us some of the clues about what this symphony would look like visually and with sound – the desert and the steppe will rejoice and bloom … with abundant flowers, joyful song, a sumptuous unforgettable meal, etc. He will “strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: ‘Be strong, fear not!’ … the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared, then the lame will leap like a stag, and the tongue of the mute will sing.” Everything will get re-tuned to the original way envisioned by God.

The coming of Christ will be truly an orchestra with an incredible sound like we’ve never seen nor heard before. Through it we will hear more clearly our name. We will hear again the words our hearts are aching to hear. “You are loved. You are found!”

“Be patient,” we are urged in our second reading. Like a farmer who waits to receive the grain, we, too, must remain hopeful and patient. It is challenging these days when we have to wait in line, or the computer goes down, or we are too far back to “make the next traffic light before it turns yellow.”

The Gospel poses the all-telling question raised by John the Baptist, who was in prison at the time, to Jesus. He sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus explained to those disciples: look at what’s happening around you! The “blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel proclaimed to them.” Order is being restored from chaos! All the clues, given in Isaiah the prophet, are not just relegated to a future time, but with John the Baptist, point to the fact that the fulfillment of the prophecy is near at hand. It is here now in the person of Jesus Christ. The piano tuner is staying with the piano until “it is just so,” tuning us into God’s wavelength.

So, it is with each of us today. What is out of tune in your life? What are you looking for then? We hear the Word of God in the Scriptures. We see the clear example in the concrete lives of those whom Jesus touched that they are put back in tune again as He was able through the miracles they witnessed. When one is put back in tune, back in order, our senses become more acute. We witness the glory of God and His splendor shine forth. It verifies the One about Whom John the Baptist and the prophets of the Old Testament longed, had indeed come.

As we prepare for the birthday of our Savior, we rejoice on this Gaudete Sunday that the Lord is near. Yes, the Lord is near, and our hearts beat just a little faster as the celebration of the birth of Christ is near. May God bless you!