Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A
Theme: Despite Everything, Rejoice and Be Glad because of Your Hope
By: Fr. Evaristus Abu
Homily for Sunday December 15 2019
(Read Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146, James 5:7-10 and Matthew 11:2-11)
_“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” *(Matthew 11:4-6)*_
At any point in time, life always gives us some reasons to be happy and some reasons to be sad, some reasons to be very scared and some reasons to be hopeful, nothing seems very certain. Our cup is never full and never empty, it is always in between, either half empty or half full. Meaning that our sadness or happiness depends on where we choose to focus.
If we consider all the evils going on around us, the problems facing the world today, the issue of bad leadership, corruption, immorality, attacks on the Christian faith and so on, we may end up sad, angry, depressed and afraid; our faith flies away. We feel left alone, weak and powerless.
We begin to feel that God has not done enough for us or that the problems are beyond what God can handle. John the Baptist felt this way in prison. The people of Israel also felt this way in the time of Isaiah. The Church felt this way at the time of James the Apostle. Some of us may be feeling this way now based on many problems facing us.
Dear brothers and Sisters, there is good news for us: there is surely a way out of our sadness and depression. There is a way we can boost our faith once again.
*1. Focus on the Bright Side of Things.*
Dear friends, let us think about this: What prompted John the Baptist to send people to ask Jesus if He was the One to come? Was it not the same John the Baptist who directed two of his disciples to Jesus saying “Behold, the Lamb of God”? (John 1:36). So why is he sending this message to Jesus now? Simple answer: John was in prison, and he was beginning to find it very hot, his faith was dwindling. Perhaps John was expecting that Jesus, being the Messiah would have come to free him from prison. Since this was not forth-coming, John started doubting if Jesus was really the Messiah.
Let us be honest, is this not what happens to us when our prayers are not heard? Don’t we sometimes get angry with God for not giving us what we wanted? Haven’t we doubted whether Jesus is actually as powerful as we proclaim? Haven’t we asked, “God are you really there?”
Jesus sends word back to John the Baptist: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, even the dead are raised up and the poor receive the good news.” Basically, Jesus was telling John the Baptist, “stop looking at the prison walls around you, don’t mind the harsh treatment you are getting from the prison warders, your lack of food and freedom, instead, just bear in mind that your great work of preparing the way for the Messiah is bearing fruits.” Because of your preaching, many have received the Messiah, and great things are happening.
It was never the will of God to rescue John the Baptist from prison. Let us face this fact, some things are just not meant to happen. That notwithstanding, there is still no reason for us to go about life gloomy and sad. Jesus was telling John the Baptist, even if you are still in prison, be happy. Great things are happening here. Of Course, I am the Messiah. I don’t cease being the Messiah just because you are in prison. As the messengers left, Jesus showered praises on John the Baptist saying he was more than a prophet.
*2. Do not take Offence at God*
Jesus added: “Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” Dear friends, what does it mean to take offense at God? It is to become angry with God, it is to do what Job’s wife was recommending when he was in deep crisis. Job’s wife said to him: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9).
To take offence at God is to curse God. Think about this, if Job in all his misery did not curse God, what could be my suffering and pain that would warrant me cursing God? Why lose hope in God? Is it because your prayers were not answered? What if you are simply going through a test? Instead of Job to curse God, he burst into singing: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25-26).
Dear friends, today, the Church is asking us to put on our dancing shoes and begin to praise God, begin to worship God, despite whatever we are going through. Sing, Sing like Paul and Silas who were thrown into prison for preaching the word of God but refused to allow their spirits dampened.
Acts 16:23-26 reads: “And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s fetters were unfastened.”
Another way we take offence at God is when we stop being good; when we begin to regret our holy deeds, when we now dive into sin like someone jumping into a river from a tall mountain. It is like saying: “God, since you have decided not to do what I want, I will not do what you want again. I will sell my soul to the devil and begin to walk in darkness.” Like a child who leaves his father’s house in protest, we sometimes walk away from God in protest, but we only end up like the prodigal son – we land ourselves into more pain and sorrow. The only thing we gain from sin is death. (Romans 6:23).
If you think God has failed you, know that Satan is only a trickster. He is a thief who will pretend to be your trusted friend only to end up taking your soul. No matter what, don’t take offence at God, remain steadfast even in suffering.
*3. Forget about Your Fears; they will not Happen.*
In today’s first reading, we hear the prophet Isaiah speaking to a people who were completely overcome with fear: “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 35:4-6). Your fears are false expectations, your level of fear is a measure of your level of faith. The more we trust God and hope for the best, the less we are ruled by fears.
When Isaiah speaks of waters flowing in the wilderness, burning sand becoming a pool, thirsty ground springing water, he is basically saying that God is the impossibility specialist. For God, nothing, absolutely nothing at all is impossible. God can make a woman pregnant without knowing a man. God can make an old woman who has long passed the age of child bearing have a child. He did it for Sarah, He did for Elizabeth. He can do it for you. Stop nursing your fears. Change your attitude. Rejoice that you serve a God for whom nothing is too difficult.
*4. Consider the Time of Pain as Planting Season.*
Dear friends, nothing lasts forever. Please say that to someone: Nothing lasts forever. This is the message of St. James in today’s second reading: “Be patient… Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged.” (James 5:7-9). The book of Ecclesiastes would say: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. (Ecclesiastes 3:2)
Bear this in mind that it is not the same day a seed is planted that it begins to bear fruit. Know this too that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24). These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ when he was encouraging us not to be let down by the crosses we have to carry for His sake.
There would be moments of pain we cannot escape, tears we must cry, loses we must make and deaths we must die. These are planting seasons. They must come and they must go. If they don’t come, we cannot grow. If the farmer eats all his seed and fails to “sacrifice” some for planting, there would be nothing to eat in the next season. So Thank God for adversity, thank God for your pains. Rejoice and be glad. Even that which you are going through right now is working for your good. As St. Paul says: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
These beautiful lines from St. Paul sums up all that we have heard (read) so far: *“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”* (Romans 5:3-5).
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, may my hope in you never disappoint me. Amen.
*Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete). Year A. Bible Study: Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146, James 5:7-10 and Matthew 11:2-11).*