HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT [YEAR B]
THEME: IDENTITY AND MISSION
BY: MSGR. MUSA GERALD
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28.
We are in a world where many people want to be recognized and where people aspire to be celebrities. To be a celebrity and to be a popular person is not a bad thing in itself, but it is best to crave to know oneself before aspiring to be well known by the world. St. Theresa of Avila believes self-knowledge because “All our trials and disturbances come from not understanding ourselves.” No wonder, the topic of self-awareness, self-knowledge and personal identity occupy a special place in various branches of knowledge including spirituality, philosophy, psychology and other fields of human development. According to the Philosopher Plato “The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge.”
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Prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist were very conscious of who they were and what their mission was in the world. Both of them saw themselves as servants, stewards, messengers and witness. Isaiah spoke of his mission in the following words: “…The Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask John one profound question, which is, “Who are you?” John began by stating who he was not. Without mincing words, he boldly said, “I am not the Christ.” John was aware of the many misconceptions in the town and villages about who he was. Apparently, some people already thought that he was the Messiah or Elijah who came back for a second time. The people went further to ask him: “What do you say about yourself and he said to them: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.
Why did John declare himself as a mere voice and not the word? He must have described himself as such because the voice is usually a servant of the word. According to St. Augustine: “The sound of the voice brings you to understand the word. And when my voice has done this, it ceases; but the word carried to you by the sound is now already in your heart…” John saw himself as a voice proclaiming the Word, which was with God and was God (John 1:1).
John had a large following and a large crowd went to listen to him and be baptized by him. John could have easily set up a movement, a political party, or he could have been a self-proclaimed demi-god, but he did not; he could have inspired people to worship him, but he stood against such vanity and temptation. In today’s Christian world, a preacher with such fame and large crowd would set up a mega church and make it a business enterprise of sorts. Today, many preachers are constantly breaking out from the original communities that have raised and nurtured them in order to form their independent ministries/churches. Nobody wants to be a voice, a messenger or a steward to another. On the contrary, most people prefer to be founders, leaders, and general overseers. People want to be totally in-charge and to be commanders who are giving out orders and instructions. We are in a world where obsession with self-projection, personality cult and chronic individualism are entrenched deeply in the consciousness of people.
The identity and mission of Isaiah and John the Baptist reminds us about the importance of self-knowledge/identity and mission in life. We can also serve as messengers of the Light like John the Baptist and stewards of Good News like the Prophet Isaiah. Thus, in this season of advent are called to light up a candle and not be the cause of darkness.
One remarkable thing about the season of Christmas is that it is a season of joy. The third Sunday of advent, which is also known in Latin as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, sets the tone of joy with the words of the Apostle Paul: “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Therefore, it is our collective mission to bring tidings of comfort and joy to the world.
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