Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Year B
Theme: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.” (John 1:6-8)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday December 13 2020
“A college professor, an avowed atheist and an active member of the ACLU, was teaching his college class. He shocked several of his students when he flatly stated that once and for all he was going to prove that there was no God. Addressing the ceiling he shouted, ‘God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you exactly 15 minutes!’ The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by. He repeated his challenge, ‘I’m waiting, God. If you’re real, knock me off this platform.’ After four minutes the professor again taunted God saying, ‘Here I am, God. I’m still waiting.’ His countdown reached the last seconds when a Marine, a new-comer to the class having just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, slowly rose from his desk and calmly walked to where the defiant professor stood. With no word of warning or even a change in his calm expression, the Marine punched the man square in the face. The blow sent the professor tumbling from his platform to the floor, the man knocked out cold. The silence of stunned shock filled the classroom as the Marine calmly returned to his seat. As babbles of confusion began to erupt seconds later, the students looking from fallen professor to unruffled Marine, the man on the floor began to regain consciousness. Struggling to his feet and onto the podium from which he’d been felled, he challenged the Marine. ‘What the heck is the matter with you? Why did you do that?’ Coolly the Marine responded, ‘God is really busy in the Middle East today protecting those who are ensuring your right to say stupid things and act like an idiot. So he sent me.’” (Original source unknown)
While one may certainly take exception to the Marine’s shaky theology, suggesting that God has taken sides in the Middle East war, yet I expect that we could all agree with the soldier’s conclusion: God uses human agents to make himself known. Though I doubt the college professor found this a compelling argument for the existence of God, we who already believe know by personal experience that God sends into our lives particular people at particular times with a message of his watchful love over our cares and concerns. While the Marine took a rather straightforward approach in acting as a divine representative, his message delivered in dramatic fashion, more often does God use human agents in manner more subtle and gentle.
In the gospel passage that we hear today, we are presented with John the Baptist’s job description: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.” (John 1:6-8) Indeed, this is also the job description of every Christian, to proclaim to a dark world that Jesus, the light, has come among us. And, like John, each of us must take pains to ensure that we ourselves are not deluded or mistaken for the light. We Christians are but messengers; we are not the message. A week ago, I made the acquaintance of one such humble messenger, unique for the clarity with which he saw his mission.
Hospitals can be confusing places to negotiate, especially those whose construction took place over many years, newer buildings and wings sprouting out like new buds along older corridors. This is the case at the hospital where I work, and to further confuse the weary traveler, construction of new wings seems an ongoing evolution. Last week, passing by a former hospital entranceway now walled up because of new construction, I met Alan, a hospital security guard. Posted at the end of the long corridor, he smiled and nodded to all who passed, occasionally directing a distressed visitor to the new exit some yards away. In the course of that morning, I must have passed Alan half a dozen times as he remained cheerfully helpful at his post, each of my passings eliciting a wide smile and a comment, “So we meet again!” When, in late morning, it seemed that we’d grown beyond the passing nod, I stopped to chat, asking Alan if he’d not yet grown bored with smiling, nodding and showing the occasional passerby how to exit the building. His head tilting upward a bit and to the side in what I took to be a prelude to some wisdom about to be imparted, he replied, “No, I’m not bored. I have an important job here. I’m helping people find their way. Isn’t that what you’re all about too?” I stood silently stunned at this clear statement of my earthly mission from one who, at least at that moment, was more heavenly messenger than hospital security guard. “Wow, I guess you’re right, Alan,” I replied a bit sheepishly to his wide, warm grin. “The big difference,” he continued, “is that I guide people in a horizontal direction and you’re supposed to guide them vertically.” With that he gave me a slap on the shoulder as an elderly couple approached him in need of horizontal direction.
Today’s gospel passage proclaims, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” Last week, I met another man sent from God, but this one’s name was Alan, and it seemed clear to me that God had sent him to remind me what I was supposed to be about as a Christian and as a priest: someone who helps people find their way home. And as Alan so rightly professed, it’s the job of every believer to be a guide and companion for others on the often confusing and frightening road home.