Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Year B (GAUDETE SUNDAY).
Theme: JOY IN WITNESSING
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday December 13 2020
R1 – Is. 61:1-2,10-11
RESP. PS. – Lk 1:46-50, 53-54
R2 – 1Thess 5:16-24
GOSPEL – Jn 1:6-8,19-28
On June 1, 2001, a young Arab boy, Saeed Hotari, who was tutored and brainwashed by the Hamas, an Islamic Terrorist Group in Palestine who are committed to educating young children on the glories of jihad, namely: the merits of eternal joy through houris (the reward of 72 virgins at the gate of heaven), strapped a load of explosives to his body and walked into downtown Tel Aviv, Israel. He waited until he was surrounded by a crowd of Israeli citizens, and then Hotari triggered the bombs. Twenty-one Israelis died along with Hotari in the blast.
The most striking part of the story is, as soon as the news reached Saeed Hotari’s community, his family and friends began celebrating. To them, he is a hero. And anyone who dies in a jihad is guaranteed to go straight to Paradise. Saeed Hotari’s proud father remarks that his son’s heroic act is the highest form of religious witnessing.
He went further to encourage Saeed’s brothers and friends to follow his example and become suicide bombers too as he says, “There is no better way to show God you love him than witnessing.”
Beloved in Christ, today is Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday. Jesus tells us today that there is no better way to show Him that you love him than to be a true witness of the Gospel of salvation.
The demands of this call to witnessing is not as misguided or even demonic as we see in the introit story. There is a better and simple way to show Jesus you love Him, rather than dying and killing other people for Him-bearing witness.
The Gospel reading presents us with one of the two biblical figures whose lives of WITNESSING, traditionally prepare and accompany us in our Advent journey, John the Baptist. He came to bear witness to Jesus, the Light of the world. At the heart of his mission, was introducing people to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29).
The Baptizer wants all the Jews to rejoice because the long-expected Messiah, the light of the world, Jesus Christ, will illumine the darkness of sin from the world.
*BRIEF EXEGETICAL ANALYSIS OF THE GOSPEL READING*
The Gospel pericope starts with; “there was a man sent by God. His name was John. He came for testimony, ‘to bear witness, to testify to the Light.” (Jn. 1:6-7).
The author of the fourth Gospel, while giving designations to the role of John the Baptist, uses the same root word for two verbs, “marturian” (to witness) + “marturese” (to testify). The famous English word, “martyrdom” (marturio) is derived from it. Witnessing unto death (witnessing with ones blood), thus the highest form of witnessing. No wonder, among all born of a woman, no one is greater than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11).
From the above, we deduce that the highest form of witnessing is spending our whole being, in our families, situations, vocation, career, profession and various walks of life, illuminating the life of others and doing the will of God.
*WITNESS AS A LEGAL TERMINOLOGY*
Perhaps, since “witness” is a legal terminology, let us briefly appeal to Law for more insights.
A witness is someone who gives testimony in court for the purpose of aiding the court in making a sound decision. Such testimony must be true. Where he gives false testimony he has committed the offence of pejury- that is to lie on oath.
*There are three major types of witnesses* , they are;
– Expert witness
– Eye witness/ lay witness
– Character witness
From the above insight, we realize that the Jesus, the Supreme Judge (Heb 12:23) requires our life of witnessing. Little wonder, Jesus tells us, for me you are all witnesses (Acts 1:8). The various forms of witnessing, equally challenge us that the life of witnessing is encompassing and all- embracing for all; whether a lay faithful, a religious or a clergyman.
For us to become true and efficient witnesses to Jesus, we have to adopt the following witnessing styles of John the Baptist.
*LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST AS A TRUE WITNESS*
(1) SPIRIT DRIVEN
(4) SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT
*(1) SPIRIT DRIVEN*
The first hallmark of a true witness is being Spirit-led and driven. The life of a true witness must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. We recall that the main reason for the unction at Pentecost is to become true witnesses: “You shall be my witness” (Acts 1:8). The apostles had accomplished the mission of the twelve (Mtt. 10) and mission of the seventy two (Lk. 10) prior to the Pentecost. Even though it was successful, they still needed the Holy Spirit inorder to withstand adversities and oppositions as seen during the arrest of Jesus. They all took to their heels.
So they needed the Spirit to:
▪Help them in their weaknesses (Rom. 8:26)
▪Teach them how to pray (Rom. 8:26
▪Speak for them (Lk. 12:12)
▪Be their Comforter (Jn. 14:16)
▪Be their defender (Jn. 14:14).
▪Be a reminder (Jn. 14:26)
Like John the Baptist who left the comfort of his home inorder to access God in the secret place inside the desert, we too must create covenant moments of one-on-one with God inorder to live a life controlled by the Holy Spirit.
John was a courageous witness, who could raise his head amid fears and intimidations in confronting Herod over the coveting of the brother’s wife, Herodias. He was so bold that he never feared him who can kill only the mortal body without having power over the soul as Jesus instructed us (Mtt. 10:28).
The courage to say the truth would enable us to perpetuate the apostolic manifesto of the coming Messiah (freeing the falsely accused) as we see in the first reading: “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to bring Good news to the broken hearted, liberate captives, etc” (Is. 61:1-2).
Our Advent preparations require the humility of John the Baptist, inorder to level the mountains of unforgiveness, hatred and indifference among believers. It takes humility to say “I am sorry or being the first to greet an enemy or request for forgiveness. John was so humble that he deemed himself unfit to undo even the straps of Jesus’ sandals.
*(4) SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT*
John lived an unconventional life. He never conformed to the worldly standards (Rom. 12:2). He lived in the desert as a Nazirite, he never drank wine like others, he survived on honey, and grasshopper-as one separated unto God (kadosh-holy man). This is what Paul admonished us in the second reading that guarantees the joy of true witnessing-leading blameless, holy and thankful lives guided by the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, there is a story told about a pious and devoted man who had travelled to a faraway country on a business trip. This was years ago when Christians kept Sunday as a very special day. For this man, “keeping the Sabbath holy,” also meant not riding the trains or any means of transportation on Sundays. Thus, after he finished up his business late Saturday night, he had to stay over until Monday morning.
On Sunday morning, he left the hotel looking for a place to worship. The streets were quite deserted, but finally he saw a policeman and asked him for directions to the nearest Church. The stranger thanked the policeman for the information and was about to walk off when he turned and asked the policeman: “Why have you recommended that particular Church? It looks like a Catholic Church. There must be several Churches nearby that you could have recommended.” The policeman smiled and replied: “I’m not a Church man myself, but the people who come out of that Church are the happiest looking Church-people around this vicinity, and they claim that they have received Jesus and they are happily taking him to their homes. I thought that would be the kind of Church you would like to attend.”
The Scripture reminds us today to let the joy of our witnessing propels us more to win more souls, even unbelievers to God.
MAY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OVERCOME AND DISSIPATE EVERY FEAR IN US AND ENABLE US TO BE COUNTED AMONG THE TRUE WITNESSES OF THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION.
*GOD BLESS YOU AND HAPPY SUNDAY!*
FR GERALD MUOKA.