December 5, 2021
How does the prophecy of Baruch in the darkest days of Gods’ people give us hope for the Church today?
- God sent Baruch, a prophet, to warn Jerusalem that the Babylonian army was knocking on Judea’s door. The leaders refused to listen to the voices of the prophets and continued in their sinful ways.
- The lowest point in all of Israel’s history was when Judea and Jerusalem were captured, destroyed and the people were exiled in Babylon.
- Today, there are many issues in the Church. It is a human organization that also has a divine dimension.
- The Church is the Bride of Christ and our Mother.
- A prophetic sign for our Church today is that after this terrible time of trial and purification, God himself will act to renew the Church.
- Our Blessed Mother and Her Immaculate Conception is the great sign of hope for all the Church. She is the Mother of the Church ad the greatest example of what the Church is to be.
This is a prophetic word, to trust in God’s love for us and for His Church, and to trust and hope in the renewal of the Church, sharing His triumph.
“Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning, and misery. Put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” What does this passage that we’re hearing today from the Prophet Baruch, what does that have to say to us today in Advent 2021? What is the Holy Spirit saying to us through that passage? That passage which is speaking to Jerusalem. Jerusalem as its capital represented Israel and Judah, that people that God had gathered together. And the Church sees itself as the New Jerusalem, the beginning on earth, of the New Jerusalem. And so much of what is said of Israel, and Jerusalem, the Church sees as having for us today. And so, let’s look for a moment at the situation, and which Baruch. So, this passage from way over 2000 years ago, what was the situation in which the prophet Baruch was speaking. So, Burke was the disciple and a scribe of the prophet Jeremiah. And so, and I’ll be quoting here from for the way one scholar describes it. He says that this is certainly one of the most trying, and tragic periods of all the history of Israel. The Babylonian army had come knocking on Judea’s door, up to Jerusalem. The leaders of Judah, refused to listen to the voices of the prophets; refused to listen to the voices of the prophets, that God was sending them. That’s something we’ve often spoken of how important that is. That’s a big part of our mission is to try to make us in the church today, more attentive to the voices of the prophets, when God sends prophets to his people. Because for 1000s, of years, so much has depended upon whether the people of God listen to God’s prophets, or whether we refuse to listen to His prophets. Again, that’s so central to the Mission. That’s why this time of Advent, this great time of these prophecies is so much like this special time for our little Mission of Divine Mercy. So, the leaders were not listening to the Prophet. And the leaders, on the contrary, tried to save themselves by merely human technological means, using political and military alliances. So instead of listening to God, trying to use just human means, to save ourselves and to solve the situation. And so, this was a time in which the kings were very unfaithful. The priesthood was corrupted. The people were falling into idolatry, as Isaiah said, the prophet Isaiah, how has she become a prostitute? The faithful city, the faithful city has become a prostitute. So, as a result of this, Judea was conquered and destroyed, Jerusalem was conquered and destroyed. Its people were tortured, maimed, and carried off into exile in Babylon. This was perhaps the lowest point and the whole torrid history of ancient Israel. So, when they’re hearing these words, they now so now they’re in exile, listening to these words, so far off in a foreign land. And so, there’s no Temple where they can worship. They don’t even have their own land. They have no freedom, and no reason to think that the Babylonians would ever release them. So that terrible dark time, a time in which it seems a time of despair, because they have been attacked by an exterior army by an exterior enemy. But worse, an exterior enemy was the sin which was like the interior enemy, which corrupted them and weaken them. So that’s the situation that Baruch is speaking in. And so, what does that have to do with the situation in the Church today that we’re living in? What is it saying to us today? This time of which I’ve often spoken of, we’re living a terrible crisis in the Church. And we know that many have left the Church, so many people leaving the Church every day. And our times so many people, especially young people, as I say that it’s not to blame them, but they’re like, they’re like a sign of the situation that we’re in. So many leaving the churches, so often criticized, or simply ignored, as completely unimportant. And we know that so many divisions in the Church and in many places, which had been strongly Catholic for centuries, the Church is dying out. Places like Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, Quebec, the Churches, seems pretty much as I say, dying out. And so why is this happening? One reason is when its members are unfaithful, especially when its pastors are unfaithful. And we’ve had so many terrible scandals about the infidelity of the pastor’s. And so, it’s important that we be realistic, like the prophets were realistic about the evil in the Church, not to pretend that everything is rosy, the prophets that Jesus Himself spoke very clearly denouncing the evils when it was the time for there was a time in which He was silent. And then there was a time in which He denounced strongly, the evils of His people, including their leaders, denouncing sin. So, it’s not infidelity to denounce sin that is wounding and corrupting the members of the Church. So sometimes the Church is attacked because it’s unfaithful, sometimes also the Church is attacked when it is precisely faithful, when the members of the Church are faithful. When they’re transmitting that authentic teaching of God, the Church has often been attacked for that. So, what is the Church in this difficult time for the Church in which so many are discouraged? What is the Church? So, the Church is certainly a human organization. And like all human organizations has, there’s a lot of flaws, in its members. But there’s more than that. There is a mystery in the Church. And we’re part of that mystery. There’s a mystery in that church. There’s something that is not visible, but something which is divine. So, the Church has both a human dimension, but it also has a Divine dimension. Here’s the way the Catechism says, “The Church is both visible, and spiritual.” And I say this because we hear so many people say today, you know, I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual. I’m spiritual, but not religious, you know, I want to be open to God, but I don’t like all this human stuff. And so, the Church is both visible and spiritual. A hierarchical society that is an organized society with a hierarchy, but also the Mystical Body of Christ, mystical body, she is one formed two components. And this is very important, two components, human and Divine. This is her mystery, which only faith can accept. So, there’s something mysterious in the Church, that only faith can accept, that’s, not visible to simply human, a human Lord, human perspective. So, the Church on earth is made up of all its members, us, we’re all sinners. The Church is made up of sinners. There’s some of the members of the Church on earth have been very inspiring witnesses to Jesus. We think of people like Mother Teresa, St. Francis, and many, many other saints and many who are not canonized saints, but people maybe we ourselves have known. But unfortunately, there’s also been many, there still is many, who are living lukewarm, mediocre, even scandalous lives. So, this is the mystery of the Church, the difficult mystery of the human element and that Divine dimension. But the Divine dimension what is happening in Divine dimension is what’s most important. It’s God who’s gathering His people back to Himself. Sin, from original sin separated the children of God from God. The Church is the gathering, God gathering His children together. That’s what the word for Church comes from, which was used already in the Old Testament of God, gathering people. Sin scatters, and separates, and God is gathering His Church back. And so, the Church is also called for that reason, the Bride of Christ. Jesus calls the sinful, the sinful woman, the Church to become His holy Bride. The Catechism says, there’s a lot if you’d like to learn more about this, there’s a lot of good. There’s a section of Catechism, of course, on the Church. I’ll just read you two passages. It says, “The Church is she whom Christ loved.” And so, this has given us a sense of the mystery of the Church beyond just the human organization, the mystery, “She whom Christ loved, and for whom He”, and this is St. Paul. St. Paul says this, in Ephesians five, “the one who Christ loved and for whom He delivered Himself up, that He might sanctify Her. It is she whom He unites to Himself by an unbreakable alliance, and whom He constantly nourishes and cherishes.” To use the words of St. Paul. So, to really understand who the Church is, we have to look at Her with the eyes of Jesus, and Jesus sees Her as His Bride, His Bride and our Mother. The Catechism says, “The Church indeed, by receiving the Word of God, and faith, becomes Herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism, she brings forth children, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God.” So, the Church is the Bride of Christ, and our Mother. So, what is this passage again, saying about the Church? So, Baruch is talking about the terrible destruction of Jerusalem that the people have experienced, which seemed like it must have seen to many that was the end of the people of God, and of their holy city. But it was precisely then, in the darkest hour, that Baruch receives this prophecy, the one we heard today. It’s precisely at that moment that God says to His people,” Rejoice, because you are remembered by God.” And so, this passage of Baruch, is a call to a prophetic hope, a hope not based on human ideas, but based on the prophetic word that God gives. So, this time of Advent that we’re living right now, this Advent 2021 is a time of prophetic hope. And I was talking about that last week, in the homily last week, which was not long enough, I think, for those, for the survivors of the homily last week. And so, this is talking, this is continuing this message of heroic hope, for the renewal of the Church, heroic hope for the renewal of the Church. The Church will only reach its perfection in heaven. The Apocalypse shows us the New Jerusalem. But what this is speaking of, I think, is a great renewal of the Church here on earth. The Church is called to follow Jesus. That’s what Jesus said right through His disciples, “follow Me.” So, the Church is called as His Bride to follow Jesus. And like Jesus, the Church will be attacked, betrayed, abandoned, condemned, tortured and killed. And the Church has been experiencing that throughout its history. And it’s experiencing that today in many parts of the world in which Christians are being literally tortured and killed for their faith in Christ, today, right now in our time, but even in our country in different ways, and more subtle ways the Church has been persecuted and marginalized. But this trial itself is a sign of the mystery of the Church. Jesus spoke of the gates of hell, attacking the Church, the forces of Hell, attacking but not overcoming the Church. And so, we Catholics are going through a great purification. A great humbling, which I think the Church is being humbled and purified. And what happened in Baruch is a sign because we see an amazing way that God will act and restore His people. And that’s a prophetic sign for the Church today, that after this terrible time of trial and purification, God himself will act, to renew the Church. And so, with that, with our Church today in mind, let’s listen again, to this prophecy, these words that the Lord gave to Baruch, realizing that it also has the meaning for the Church today. “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery, put on the splendor of glory from God forever, wrapped in the cloak of justice from God.” So not sin but justice from God. “Bear on your head, the miter that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor.” So, this is not talking about heaven, it says, will show all the earth, the splendor of the Church, which is so hidden in this figure right now. “You will be named by God forever.” So, this is not a human decision. This is God himself, said naming her forever. “The peace of Justice, the true peace, the peace that comes from Justice, the glory of God’s worship, arise Jerusalem, stand upon the heights,” this Jerusalem which has been so cast down, “look to the east and see your children gathered from the east to the west at the word of the Holy One. Rejoice in that they are remembered by God.” This reminds me of this passage from Isaiah, Isaiah said, but Zion Zion, which is Jerusalem said, “The Lord has forsaken me. My Lord has forgotten me.” And we can feel that way today as if the Lord, we can feel forsaken, forgotten by God. “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the sons of her womb? Even though these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved in you on the palms of my hands. By the lead away on foot by their enemies, they left you,” so that’s speaking of the children of Jerusalem being led away, into exile, and we think of all those that the evil one has led away from the Church. “But God will bring them back to you, born aloft and glory, as on royal thrones.” God will bring these children back to you. “For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of His glory, with His mercy, and justice for company.” And the Psalm we had today is a Psalm of the that, years later, when the people of Israel did experience this amazing God leading them back to Jerusalem. This is what the Psalm was saying, “when the Lord brought back the captors of Zion, we were like men dreaming that our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing. Then they said, among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us. We are glad indeed, those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.” And so, I think this is a time in which we’re sowing in tears, but which can bring a harvest of joy. And so, in conclusion, providentially this week, we have the Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother who is the patron of our country. So that’s a holy day of obligation. It’ll be Wednesday, our Mass here will be at 1130. And so, in the Immaculate Conception as the catechism that says about our Blessed Mother, “at once Virgin and Mother, Mary is the most perfect realization of the Church. In her, the Church is already all holy.” So, in our Blessed Mother, we already have realized this holiness, this renewal that the Lord wants for all His Church. Already in her life on earth, she was the perfect example of what the Church is called to be. And so again, in her we see not just an idea, a hope or a dream, but the realization on this earth, of what God wants, the transformation He wants for all His Church. So, our Blessed Mother, and Her Immaculate Conception, is the great sign of hope for all the Church. She is the Mother of the Church, and she is also the greatest example of what the Church is. She is the perfection. That’s why a lot of that scripture, passages speak of Jerusalem also refer to her. They refer well, actually what the Church teaches is, a lot of these passages about Jerusalem, both refer to the Church as a whole, and to Mary as the most perfect example, and also to each one of us as parts of the Church. So, this is a prophetic word, to trust in God’s love for us and for His Church, and to trust and hope in the renewal of the Church, sharing His triumph. And so, to end I just invite you to close your eyes if you’d like and just listen again to these words that the Lord gave to Burke. “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning in misery. Put on the splendor of glory from God forever. For God will show all the earth your splendor. You will be named by God forever. The peace of Justice, the glory of God’s worship. Arise Jerusalem, stand upon the heights. Look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west, at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God led away on foot by their enemies they left you but God will bring them back to you. Born aloft in glory, as on world thrones. For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of His glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” Amen