Let’s Get Violent

Doug McManaman
Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent
(Preached to the Students of Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy)
Reproduced with Permission

“Fear not, I will help you ...Fear not...”

These are beautiful words from the First Reading, but more than that, they are God’s words. He said this, not me, I just read it. But it is the Lord God who says: “I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, fear not, I will help you, fear not.” When I tell my students “Do not fear, the test is easy”, they often doubt, and for good reason: I am a human being, I make mistakes. It might be an easy test for me, but not for a student who has just been introduced to the ideas for the first time. And so I might be wrong, I might be misleading them when I say “fear not”. I might not really know what I’m talking about.

But God is perfect, He is all knowing. He can’t be wrong. God cannot make a mistake. And He says: “I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand, it is I who say to you, fear not, I will help you. Fear not”

That you can trust, because it is coming from One who cannot lie, who cannot mislead, who cannot be wrong, whose love for you individually is perfect and beyond your ability to fully understand.

But you have to choose to believe that. And not everybody does, like those who live with a low grade fear, continually; those students who are always worried.

The world is a dark place, and it is fearful to walk through a dark valley. But it is much easier when you sense the presence of someone next to you. If it is so dark that you just can’t see in front of you, it makes it much easier when you sense the presence of one who can see in front of you. Like a child walking in the dark, the child is terrified until she senses the presence of her own father, who takes her hand and walks next to her.

That’s what we have to do, make our way through this world, intimately aware of the presence of God right next to us. Then we can live without fear. But how does one come to sense the presence of God in the midst of this darkness? The answer is right in this gospel reading we just heard proclaimed: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.”

That’s a great line. You see, the joy of belonging to the kingdom of heaven is a joy that can begin now, in this life. It is supposed to begin here and reach completion in the next life, a life of unimaginable joy. But Christ established the kingdom of God over and against the kingdom of darkness. He conquered death by dying and rising from the dead. We can belong to that kingdom right now. The joy of heaven can begin now. But how?

The answer is in the gospel. You’ve got to get violent, you have to be aggressive. The Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.

It’s an ancient image Christ is employing here. Think of a kingdom under siege, an army of aggressive marauders using a battering ram to break open the doors of a fortified castle, and when they finally break down the doors, they go looking for loot. That’s what Christ is telling us. If we want the kingdom of God, if we want the Lord in our own life, we’ve got to get aggressive; we’ve got to get active and break down the doors of heaven, push our way through and go looking for the treasure that is ours for the taking.

Now if you are indifferent to having the Lord walk with you, if you’re passive and easy going, if you are not a seeker and you just want to be comfortable, sit around and take it easy, settle for life’s little pleasures, you won’t find Him. He’s there in the midst of our darkness, but if we wish to really know the Lord, to become aware of his presence, we’ve got to go looking for Him. God loves to play hide and seek. He reveals Himself, He came among us, but He hides, so that we might find Him. Hide and seek was the favourite game we played on the 24 hour famines that we had in previous years.

Students love hiding and waiting to see if the one who’s It can find them. That’s God’s favourite game too, and if we don’t go looking for him, aggressively looking for him, He will remain hidden.

And you know where to find him. We find him within and without. Just as the Magi found him at a particular place, under the humble appearance of a child, we find him at a particular place, under the humble appearance of ordinary bread.

The Eucharist is literally the substance of Christ’s body and blood, not merely a symbol, but the real thing, under the appearance of bread. If we pray more often before the blessed sacrament, in our own chapel during the day, if we return to Mass and Confession regularly, the more we’ll become aware of his presence in the dark and silence of our own soul, and we’ll begin to live with much less fear. Amen.