Too Good to Be True?

Homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Year C.

If I was to tell you this morning—and not just tell you but promise you—that the new church we are building will be done by Christmas, I’m sure none of you would believe me. And rightly so because it isn’t true; it’s not going to be done by Christmas. If I was to promise you that, one of the things you might say is, “That’s too good to be true.” That’s what we often say when we hear a promise or a piece of news that seems impossibly positive or optimistic. “That’s too good to be true.”

That might have been what Jeremiah was tempted to say when God spoke these words to him in our first reading: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” To understand just how impossibly positive and optimistic this promise must have sounded to Jeremiah, it’s helpful to understand the historical situation at the time.

To begin with, Jeremiah was in prison. And he was in prison for speaking the truth that God called him to proclaim. Prison is not a great place for believing a promise, period, but it’s an especially bad place for believing a promise from God when believing in God and doing what He told you is what got you there in the first place. Secondly, the city of Jerusalem was under siege by the vastly superior Babylonian forces. Jerusalem was going to fall; its people were going to be killed and its buildings destroyed. The Davidic kingdom appeared to be at an end. And frankly, good riddance: There hadn’t been many good kings from David’s line—maybe two or three, but that’s it. So, when God promised Jeremiah that one day Jerusalem would safe and secure, and that one day there would be a new Davidic king who would do what is right and just, it would have been quite understandable if he would have said to God, “That’s too good to be true.”

But our God is a God who keeps His promises, and His promises are never too good to be true. His promises are always perfectly good and perfectly true. In God, Truth and Goodness are the same. God is Truth and Goodness itself. Therefore, His promises cannot help but being both perfectly good and perfectly true. God, of course, kept His promise to Jeremiah, and it was fulfilled some five-hundred and eighty years later when a young girl from Nazareth, betrothed to a man from the house of David, said yes to becoming the mother of God.

Advent is the season of promises. During this season, we will hear about the great promises God made to the Jewish people. From the perspective of the Jews who first heard these promises, they may have seemed too good to be true. But from our perspective, we know that they weren’t too good to be true: they were perfectly good and perfectly true. And we know that because God’s promises have been fulfilled. Jesus was born at Christmas two-thousand years ago. And He was the Messiah and Davidic King that God had promised.

But although we are at an advantage over the Jewish people who lived two-thousand years ago, in many ways we are in the same situation as them. God has made further promises to us, and sometimes we also find these promises hard to believe; sometimes we also find them too good to be true. Consider some of these promises that Jesus has made to us:

  • Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Mt. 7:7).
  • Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest (Mt. 11:28).
  • Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day (Jn. 6:54).
  • I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth (Jn. 14:16).
  • Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit (Jn. 15:5).
  • I am with you always, until the end of the age (Mt. 28:20).

And finally, from our gospel today:

  • They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Lk.  21:27).

Jesus has promised to answer our prayers, give us rest, feed us with His Body and Blood, raise us to new life, fill us with the Holy Spirit, make us spiritually fruitful, never abandon us, and to come again at the end of time. Do we believe Him? Do we believe Jesus’ promises? Or do we think that they are too good to be true?

Like Jeremiah, the concrete circumstances in which we live today may tempt us to think that these promises are impossible positive and optimistic. But they aren’t—they’re God’s promises. And God’s promises are never too good to be true. This Advent season let’s renew our faith in God’s promises. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t change. If He was faithful in the Jewish People in the past, He will be faithful to us now. Amen.