Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A
Theme: “When John heard what the Messiah was doing, John said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” (Matthew 11:2-3)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday December 15 2019
The church tells us that Advent is a time of waiting, a time of joyous expectation for the wonderful thing that is about to happen – the birth of the Savior, the one who comes to set us free from the bondage of human limitation.
As I’ve gotten older, though, and have reflected on so many Christmases past, I’d have to confess that they never quite matched the expectations I’d built up. Over the years, Christmas has even become a bit of a “downer”. I mean, nothing has changed for the better. Violence and tragedy remain headline news; the hopes I’d harbored during Advent remain unfulfilled; there is no sign at all that heaven has set us free. Then it is that oft-spoken words of my mother return to me: “God helps those who help themselves”.
In childhood days, Mom often flung these words our way when one of us kids wanted her to do something we could very well do for ourselves. I mean, with 6 of us in tow, she had little time or energy to coddle a slacker. “Stand on your own two feet,” Mom sweetly but insistently urged us early on. “You know very well you can do that for yourself.” And when we’d whine or grumble about her perceived insensitivity to our needs, she’d toss out that worn maxim: “God helps those who help themselves”.
Indeed, Mom was instructing us in one of the great truths of Christianity – that the world is ever-evolving under God’s creating hand, and we are called to work with God in the continuing creation of the world. So, as Mom instructed us, don’t just sit back and expect things to be done for you (either by Mom or God); rather, get out there and give your hands to your hopes. Make good things happen. God expects it (and so does your mother)!
Advent is no longer the season when we wait for God to do wonderful things while we remain spectators. Rather, Advent is now that joyful season when, through reflection, God invites into our awareness our fondest dreams for a better world. And then he challenges us to give our hands to our hopes that these dreams might become reality.
In the gospel passage we hear today, the imprisoned John the Baptist wonders if this man Jesus is the very one whose coming John was sent to announce. St. Matthew writes, “When John heard what the Messiah was doing, John said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” (Matthew 11:2-3) And what response does John receive as affirmation that Jesus is, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah? Jesus instructs the disciples to tell John that, “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew 11:5) Yes, Jesus affirms, I am the long-awaited link between heaven and earth.
This Advent, media headlines are quick to remind us of those who are yet prisoners of pain and misery. We even see their faces as they raise arms and eyes heavenward to the God who can seem so very far away. And too often, sadly, our response is the worn maxim Mom so often voiced— “God helps those who help themselves”. Only these desperate people can’t.
Out of haggard necessity, Mom encouraged and coaxed us kids early on to do for ourselves, even framing her cajoling in spirituality: “You want things to be better?” Mom might ask. “Well, then, put your hands where your hopes are and get to work.”
This Advent, as we dream of and pray for a better world, let us likewise give our hands to our hopes. But it’s now Jesus who offers the challenge. “You want a better world?” I imagine him asking. “Then make it happen! You may find it hard to believe, but you are the long-awaited link between heaven and earth for someone in dire need. You are the long-awaited answer to someone’s desperate prayer.”