Fr. Ben’s homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C
Theme: THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!
By: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
Homily for Sunday December 12 2021
*Zeph 3:14-18, Phil 4: 4-7, Lk 3:10-18.
Today is ‘Gaudete Sunday’. We are putting the gear 3 of Advent season velocity to talk about a quintessential aspect of Messianic expectation – JOY and LOVE. These two fruits of the Holy Spirit are presented to us in today’s readings as a kind of appetizer to the ministry of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which only the ministry of Jesus Christ gives us the full dossier. John the Baptist made it unequivocally clear that his ministry is a Baptism of repentance from sin. However, he went on in today’s gospel to give a kind of prologomenon (brief introduction) to this Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
John’s ministry concentrated on the Baptism of repentance – a type of spiritual experience that concentrates on fasting and abstinence, that makes a believer repent of all his past and present sinful proclivities; levelling the mountains of pride, hot temper, lust, vanities, etc and filling up the valleys of spiritual lukewarmness, depression, lack of charity, lack of obedience, etc.
B. THE BAPTISM OF JOY
The 1st reading says: ‘The Lord is in your midst, you shall fear no more’. Zephaniah was a prophet who preached during the 2nd half of the 7th century BC; a period of religious degradation. The pure monotheism of Moses’ time was forgotten; Pagan idols were worshipped even in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Nothing leads to fear like idolatry because the Bible says that ‘Pagan idols are of silver and gold. They have mouths but say nothing… their makers will come to be like them, everyone who relies on them’, Ps 115:8. According to Vima Dasan, ‘No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear’.
The 2nd reading of today says ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Have no anxiety about anything’. This is simply because ‘The joy of the Lord is our strength’, Neh 8:10. It is not the degree of affluence or material comfort that makes a believer happy. His /her happiness comes directly from God.
*The Joy of the Lord is the power of positive thinking that comes from the gift of Christ the Messiah as our sublime source of peace.
*The Joy in the Lord is the power of happiness that comes from the disposition of our heart /conscience when we are in a state of grace. Consider the many sources of joy we have during each Christmas season; Santa Claus /Father Christmas, return of relations, new clothes, Christmas gifts, good food and drinks, etc. Good as these may be, we have to realize that the highest source of joy comes from spiritual healing and we shall have it from the message of John the Baptist in today’s gospel.
C. THE BAPTISM OF LOVE
After the radical kerygmatic message of John the Baptist to the multitude, they asked him ‘What shall we do?’ This is the only response to the Word of God that can bring us Joy in the Lord this Christmas season. His reply was:
(a) A UNIVERSAL CALL FOR CHARITY: ‘He who has 2 coats, let him share with others’. As Mother Theresa of Calcutta will often say, ‘There is more joy in giving than in receiving’.
(b) WARNING AGAINST CHEATING: To tax collectors (all those who collect illegal money from people, especially people they are better than) he said ‘Collect no more bribes’. We are a beautiful loveable people but we are also a vulnerable people – vulnerable especially to SELFISHNESS with the tendency of receiving (like the Dead Sea) without giving.
*My analogy of the leaking pocket phenomenon is real. Those who rob others (including Lecturers who collect illegal money from students) must surely develop leaking pockets (problems that will take away the whole money).
(c) WARNING AGAINST VIOLENCE: To soldiers (cultists, terrorists and fighters) he said ‘No more violence’.
*Every profession facing the font of baptism must change their sinful habits under the influence of the Holy Spirit. ‘For everyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation’, 2 Cor 5:17. In the end we expect to have good tax collectors (like good NEPA agents), good soldiers and policemen (who will not extort money by force from okada men), good lecturers and teachers (who will not exploit their female students sexually or through illegal handouts), good politicians (who will respect people’s votes and not rig/ influence elections starting from the party primaries), good businessmen (who will not cheat people severely in the market), good students (who will not depend on examination malpractices) and good priests (who will not merchandise prayer, prophesy or over pressurize people to make offerings in the Church even when they are not disposed).
D. THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT The full era of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit will be ushered in by Christ. What John the Baptist preached in today’s gospel is only a tip of the iceberg – a prologomenon to what Jesus taught at the Sermon on the Mountain, Matt 5, 6 and 7.
St Paul will later talk about the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit; Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Trustfulness, Gentleness and Self control. Oftentimes today, the Pentecostals and Charismatics emphasize more about the flamboyant gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as healing, speaking in tongues, prophesy, etc when they are talking about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. But that is wrong. That was not what John the Baptist and Jesus laid down for us.
The joy of the Lord and the joy in the Lord is all about the joy in the Holy Spirit. Paul says that ‘The kingdom of heaven is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’, Rom 14 : 17. The joy of the Lord removes all fear and makes us put everything in prayer, Phil 4 : 1 – 3. The joy of the Lord makes us confident when we are in a state of grace because we are protected by his breastplate of righteousness, Eph 6 : 14.
There can be no Christmas joy without the sacrament of reconciliation. St Francis of Assisi was often ill and poor but very happy. He told any of his followers who was sad to go to confession since he must be in mortal sin because there seemed to him no other explanation of sadness in a true Christian’s life. Confer Rom 8:35.
John the Baptist and Prophet Elijah are 2 ministers that challenge modern day ministers on zero tolerance for idolatry, bribery and corruption. They had a lot in common: both challenged evil Kings together with their evil wives and a coterie of sycophants/ cultmen and both suffered persecution and feeling of divine abandonment.
The ‘baptism by fire’ that Jesus brings symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives at this charismatic era. If Elijah could do what he did around 587 BC and John the Baptist could do what he did around 30 AD, why is it that all we pastors can show for the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s action is the ‘Orobo scatter… koriamama ma ma ma ma’ and all the noisy stuffs.
John the Baptist’s instructions are a prelude to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mountain where Christ will say ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit (those who depend on God for provisions), the meek (who are gentle with people) and the peacemakers (who avoid quarrels at all costs), etc.
The message of today therefore is ‘Rejoice in the Lord’. Prayer is the only real and thorough cure for anxiety, especially when we are in a state of grace. Christmas is such a special moment of grace. We need both the Joy of the Lord and Joy in the Lord which we can only get through a full Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Happy Sunday dear friends!