14th / 15th December 2019

posted 23 Dec 2019, 02:27 by Parish Office   [ updated 23 Dec 2019, 02:28 ]

Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete), Year A – 14 & 15/12/19


Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, which means that there is just over a week now to go to Christmas.  If you’re an adult, you might think that means that Christmas is just round the corner.  If you’re a young child, Christmas might still seem like ages away.  I can remember as a child getting to the 20th December on my Advent calendar and still thinking that Christmas was still quite a long way away.


But whatever your age, the words of St James today in the second reading are so appropriate.  “Be patient.”  He also adds something else relevant in the run-up to Christmas:  “Do not make complaints against one another”.  Amidst all the preparations, making sure that all the food has been bought, the stress of having relatives coming round to visit, getting the decorations up (or “When will the decorations go up?”), it’s easy for patience to run thin and for tempers to flare.  But let’s step back a bit and think through what we are doing and why.  Who are we celebrating?  Why are we celebrating?  The presents we give and receive remind us not only of the three wise men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but of the fact that Jesus is the present God the Father gives to us.  And why is He so important?  We get an inkling of it in the Gospel today.


John the Baptist is in prison, and, as we know, he is going to be executed shortly.  His disciples had started following Jesus, although at this point he was clearly still in contact with some of them.  Maybe some of them were still a bit unsure of Jesus.  John had baptised Christ, and the voice of the Father had said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him” (Matt 3:17).  In St John’s Gospel it says that John the Baptist pointed Him out as the Lamb of God, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).  But now John sends his disciples, maybe as a way of getting them to learn first-hand, who Jesus is:  “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?”  The reply Our Lord gives them inspires them and also John when it is related back to him:  “the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me” (Matt 11:4-5).  John has baptised Christ, and since then, John has probably only heard things in passing about what has been happening.  Now he and his disciples hear it from Our Lord Himself.  The kingdom of God is among you.  God is among you and working His wonders.  We are in a new age, the age of the New Testament, when God walks among us in the flesh.  The time that the prophets predicted and longed for has come.  As we heard in the first reading:


“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

the ears of the deaf unsealed,

then the lame shall leap like a deer

and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6).


The One awaited has come!  Think how John must have rejoiced to hear what was happening.  But he was in prison.  Whether he thought that his execution was definite, or whether there might be some chance of release, we don’t know.  We do know what happened, though.  After he had baptised Christ, and some of his followers were leaving him and following Christ instead, John said, “A man can lay claim only to what is given him from heaven. … He must grow greater, I must grow smaller” (John 3:27. 30).  He had that great humility to know that the most important thing was fulfilling the will of God in his life; any other ambitions or desires he might have, had to be subordinated to that.  It was in doing the will of God that John found his freedom, his peace, his fulfilment.


This Advent, may our outlook on life be the same as John the Baptist.