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THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT A19

The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, from the latin, Rejoice! taken from the letter of Paul to the Philippians 4:4-5 in the entrance antiphon "Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, Rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near." The rose- colored vestment worn by the celebrant/presider, the altar draped in a marvelous and lovely hue of pink and in general, a sudden shift in the motif of the church's environment, are powerful symbolisms of sunrise depicting the coming of the Lord shortly, two weeks down the road.

For the past two weeks, we have heard John the Baptist's message setting the tone for  an impending destruction and terrifying winnowing process of judgment associated with the arrival of the Messiah which on the contrary, didn't work as he thought. This time he's in prison for saying something Herod Antipas didn't like to hear. It seems his career as a Prophet is coming to an end. In a lavish party, Salome would request for John the Baptizer's head on a platter and that's it for him.

By this time, Jesus may have already making waves and news about his miraculous works have already spread like wildfire. John's disciples have certainly heard about him and thought he was an amazing fellow wanting to know who he was but couldn't tell whether he was the man or not. Part of it was the fact that he didn't look like the one John advertised. Did he have a different idea about the Messiah? We’ll know in a moment. Instead of judgment and destruction, he demonstrated love and healing which appeared to be the most credible piece of evidence. He was humble and ordinary as anyone else and assumed a lowly status, unlike the mighty with all the entourage as expected.

While in prison, his disciples may have paid a visit to check how he was doing. Possibly, in the course of the conversation, Jesus going viral thing, Jesus sensation may have surfaced. So, to clear all doubts if it ever crossed his mind, John sent them to Jesus to get a word of approval if it was really him. Fair enough. As far as he was concerned, there was no hint of doubt in his mind that Jesus was the Messiah. Did he doubt? Or was this move a preparation for the next life? He was the greatest figure of his time, preached the truth with spirit and fire, a forerunner, a precursor and a messenger to prepare God’s way for eternity. His job as a prophet was to foretell Christ – to point his finger to him. After all, he would never put himself in that position, behind bars and later, facing martyrdom, at the cost of his life for his faith if he weren't convinced, 100% positive, so to speak, about the truth and consequence of the message.

Off they went to the rough and rugged terrains of the desert plains and without much introduction, asked him, "Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?(Mt. 11:3)" The one who is to come is generally identified as the Messiah – the Anointed One. Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see, the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear and the dead are raised and the poor have the good news preached to them (Mt. 11: 4-5)." Tell him what you see and what you hear, what I'm doing and what's happening. The deeds and the works of Jesus are the most sublime evidence that the Messiah has come in your midst. The presence of Jesus brings healing. The awareness of God provides comfort and consolation. The words of the Prophet Isaiah 35 in the first reading is clearly in line with Jesus’ mighty works: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” At this juncture, notice that Isaiah’s expectation about seeing the great light is beginning to come to light. It’s coming along pretty well. It goes according to God’s plan. It’s baffling but slowly it’s matching up. God himself will come to save us. I figure you’re probably tired reading this. It’s because prophetic voice sounds odd on advent. It doesn’t sit well with the joyful atmosphere. The stillness, the deafening silence, the long wait and the solitude is the strangeness of the season. This is the odd part and yet, the heart and soul of advent. St. James in the second reading urges us “to be patient until the coming of the Lord (James 5: 7).”

The Holy Father Pope Francis was chosen by Time Magazine as the 2013 Person of the Year. According to reports, it has to be someone whose life had profound impact in the world. You have to be talked about. In the article, Pope Francis' simplicity of life is exceptional. Though he occupies the most exalted throne on earth, he makes us think it's easy by his lifestyle.

If there's anyone who wants to know Jesus, an intellectual debate is not much needed. Give your life to him, and see what he can do for you and experience his saving and changing and transforming power in spirit, not in argument. When I taught RCIA, I always reminded my students that my job is not to give the impression that following Christ is all about studying although that’s important "And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me (Mt. 11:6)".  Blessed are those who are not scandalized by God’s healing actions in the world. Amen.

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