Friday, 15 December 2017

December 17th 2017. Third Sunday of Advent
GOSPEL: John 1:6-8, 19-28
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading ...

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GOSPEL: John 1:6-8, 19-28
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, "Who are you?"
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, "I am not the Christ."
So they asked him,
"What are you then? Are you Elijah?"
And he said, "I am not."
"Are you the Prophet?"
He answered, "No."
So they said to him,
"Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?"
He said:
"I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
'make straight the way of the Lord,'"

as Isaiah the prophet said."
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
"Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?"
John answered them,
"I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . This is Gaudete Sunday and we are invited to rejoice at the Lord’s immanent coming. The figure of John the Baptist is presented to us. He stands at the edge of the Jordan. The Jordan is the place where the people of Israel crossed into the Promised Land, and John stands there inviting us to enter into something new and marvellous. He tells us that there is someone among us that we do not recognize. The Lord is working among us but his action is not directly perceptible. John the Baptist challenges us to recognize the action of God who is coming into our lives. He especially invites us to welcome him in the future events of our existence. Do we appreciate that the Lord is saving us and that his future action in us will be even greater than we have known up to now? This is the message of John The Baptist. He tells us that he is only the beginning and that the great one is on his way to us in the future unfolding of our lives. Everything is a form of preparation, a preparation for growth, for a new love which will be sown in our hearts, a greater spirit of service towards others, a greater joy, a more mature knowledge, for deeper encounter with the Lord. It is good to be aware that whatever the Lord might have done for us up to now, it is only the beginning!

John the Baptist stands at the Jordan, at the threshold to the Promised Land. He invites us to prepare ourselves for our entry into something wonderful, the arrival of the Lord
The third Sunday of Advent is always Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of Joy. As we have said on other occasions, the penitential time of Advent is always tempered by the invitation to rejoice in this Sunday’s liturgy. Lent is tempered in a similar by Laetare Sunday. The fundamental attitude of the church is not sadness but joy. Someone is coming and his arrival will be beautiful and marvellous. Let us try to understand the unity of the first reading and the Gospel by considering, firstly, the last line of the Gospel. Earlier in this passage from John’s Gospel, we hear of the appearance of a man sent by God whose name was John. This man came as a witness to the light. The end of the passage gives us information which seems to be secondary. “This took place in Bethany, across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” Here we have a fairly precise indication of the place where John was exercising his ministry, ebeen though the location was never identified until after the state of Israel came into being in 1947. After the political situation has stabilized, archaeologists discovered this settlement of Bethany across the Jordan. So it is a historical place, even though its existence was only documented by this mention in John’s Gospel. The location of this place across the Jordan is highly significant. John the Baptist is being presented as a type of Joshua. To cross the Jordan, for the people of Israel, meant to enter the Promised Land. It signified to enter into a new and beautiful state of affairs. John the Baptist stands there on the threshold inviting people to enter into something new and wonderful. The first reading speaks of one who has been anointed and brings good news to the poor, binding up the broken hearted and proclaiming liberty to captives and the beginning of a year of the Lord’s favour. The light is on its way! John is not the light, but the true light is on its way into the world.

John tells us that there is one among us that we do not recognize. God is working among us in ways that are perceptible only to the eyes of faith
John is interrogated as regards his identity. His preaching has had such a positive reaction that people begin to recognize him as an authentic prophet whose words carry weight. “Who are you?” they ask. “I am not the Christ”, he replies. “Well, who are you then?” they want to know. “Why are you doing these things? Those in power want to know your identity.” “I am only the beginning”, John tells them. “After me will come one who is much greater. I am a voice crying in the desert. In the midst of you is one that you do not recognize, one who will bring the promises to fulfilment”. In the midst of our lives there is someone that we do no know. God is working among us in ways that are not immediately perceptible.

John the Baptist invites us to see the action of God in everything that will happen to us. The Lord is coming into our lives and every future event is a potential encounter with him, the unfolding of our story of salvation
John the Baptist announces this work of God which is ongoing in our lives. Padre Pio used to say, “Entrust your future to Providence”. How important it is to abandon the future to the coming of the Lord. When I think of my future I must recognize the presence of this powerful One who will bring life in its fullness into my future existence. Where are the events of my life leading me? To the Kingdom of Heaven. Where will the action of God in my life take me? The question of my relationship with future things is an important one. Advent calls us to mediate on our relationship with the future. John the Baptist invites us to see the initiative of God in everything that will happen to us, to see the work of benevolent Providence in those things that are taking place. When we begin to see things in this manner then we understand our lives as being a story of salvation, the story of an Advent, the story of the arrival of God into the depths of our existence. We are fearful because we think of life as a journey towards emptiness and the void. Instead it is a journey which ends with a leap into the arms of God! Everything is a form of preparation, a preparation for growth, for a new love which will be sown in our hearts, a greater spirit of service towards others, a greater joy, a more mature knowledge, for deeper encounter with the Lord. This is a journey that never ends because when we discover these beautiful things we always long for more. When we encounter the Lord we are happy because we know for certain that he will return again, that he will not leave us alone, and that he wants to enter into our lives in a still deeper way.

Let us be assured that the Lord has only begun his work in us. There is so much more that he intends to do with us, so let us prepare for his coming!
John the Baptist invites us to contemplate the fact that things are still incomplete, to appreciate that what is most beautiful has yet to come. When the people demand to know who he is, if he is the one who has been promised, he replies that he is only the beginning of something marvellous. How often people who are living the faith need to realize that they are only at the beginning, that the Lord is going to do even greater things with them! It is important to be aware of this fact. How true it is! If we have known the Lord to any degree, let us be assured that we are only at the beginning, there is much more that the Lord wishes to give us.

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