Thursday, December 8, 2011

3rd Sunday in Advent (B)

I am so sorry for not putting as much diligence into the blog in recent weeks.
Hopefully I am back on track as of now!!
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3rd Sunday of Advent: Gaudate!

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, 'I am not the Christ'. 'Well then,' they asked 'are you Elijah?' 'I am not' he said. 'Are you the Prophet?' He answered, 'No'. So they said to him, 'Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?' So John said, 'I am, as Isaiah prophesied:

a voice that cries in the wilderness:
Make a straight way for the Lord'.

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, 'Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?' John replied, 'I baptise with water; but there stands among you - unknown to you - the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap'. This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.


Rejoice!

If you live in Ireland, or nearly everywhere in the West in these days, you may ask yourself, what is there to rejoice about. What is there to be happy and jumping about, because the entire outlook is so bleak. It is as if the world is ending, the worst is yet to come, brace yourself for a storm, all the clich├ęs are dished out with relish. The truth of the matter is, we have been like this for the last four years. I came across a little play we put on in the parish four Christmases ago, 2007. I was shocked! The same things we are talking about now were in the lines of that short sketch. Fear about jobs, fear about mortgages, fear about it all. Did you notice that all this fear has one thing in common? There is a thread that unites it all; money! The fear that is projected that we are all supposed to be crippled by is economics. It is as if the only way that we can be happy is by having a healthy bank balance and when that is sorted, all is sorted.  Yes it is true that one of the most serious causes of stress is money; if you have money worries yourself, you know exactly what that means. Sleepless nights, endless calculations and recalculations, hoping the books will balance. However a bit of perspective can help us find the balance between genuinely worried about what we need to survive and what is 'unnecessary anxiety' - a phrase some colleagues were fond of using, after the Our Father in the 'old dispensation'!

John gives us perspective. The Gospel begins :

'A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.'

John came to proclaim his baptism of repentance. He did such a good job, caused such a stir that people had all kinds of ideas about him. Was he the Christ, was he the prophet? Who is this man that has captivated so many. You cant really blame the people. They were so much talk in the air about the coming Messiah, they would have been delighted to have been put out of their anxiety and claim to have seen the Christ. But John says no, I am not he. I am not he, but he stands among you, unknown to you. The Christ is here, the one who will take away the sins of the world; not symbolically, but actually. He is  here. 

Journeying towards Christmas, many voices cry out. Many voices of gloom and doom, voices of despair and fear of the future. Many will hear only these voices. If you were in the crowd all those years ago and heard them saying John was the Christ, what would you have believed? If they are all saying it, must it not be correct! The same goes today, when I hear voices saying, we are all doomed, the country is ruined, the Church is finished, do I listen to them? Do I allow myself to lift up my head and look around? When I do,  might be very surprised to see the good that surrounds us and the reality of the world may nit be as frightening as I think? 

John pointed to the one who stands among us, unknown. As we continue to journey towards Bethlehem, may the courage of John help us to keep firm in faith and hope to remember Jesus is with us, and journeys with us in trial and triumph. A voice cries "a voice that cries in the wilderness:
Make a straight way for the Lord" . This voice is one of authority and hope, it does not permit it to wallow in self righteousness or self pity. Christ has come and will come. He gives us strength to stand and say though I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap, He will never let me go. Christ is God with us, not God away from us. He strengthens every trembling hand and foot. 





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