Homily for the Third Sunday in Advent A – December 11, 2017 – Deacon Jim Hackett (Isaiah 35: 1-6A, 10; James 5, 7-10; Matthew 11, 2-11)
“Are YOU the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Not exactly words of confidence – of certainty – or of faith.
And THESE are the words coming from the mouth of a man said to be a prophet – the SAME man who we heard in last week’s Gospel telling us, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
But today we hear the voice of a man, perhaps shaken in his faith – SO shaken that he doesn’t go HIMSELF – but sends his followers to Jesus to ask the question, “Are YOU the one who is to come” – JUST to make sure.
As we live out life as Christians – trying to make the life of Jesus a reality in our own life – those around us are going to be WATCHING us! These people can be ANYWHERE – at work – right here in the pews sitting next to us – even in our own homes! And at certain key moments, one of them is going to be looking to YOU for help – hoping maybe – that you’ll be their salvation – THEIR way out. Very indirectly – perhaps very quietly – or perhaps… quite directly – they might ask you: Are YOU the one who can help me – who can help me find salvation in this mess we call our world – or do I look for another?”
WE are Christians! We openly and publicly bear the name of Christ – and we do it for ALL to see. Furthermore we identify ourselves as Catholic. We attend Mass – we celebrate the Sacraments. And as a result…. people are going to look at us – examine our actions – look into our lives. And they will – no doubt – ask us questions – and CHALLENGE us!
Having been marked with the signs of Baptism and Confirmation – and having been joined into Christ’s Mystical Body in Holy Communion – the Church now sends us out – out into the world around us. With Jesus by our side – WE are ones who are sent. The word “Mass” is derived from the Latin word “missa” – meaning being sent – a mission!
And so as a baptized and confirmed Christian – as a representative of Christ – openly living the Christian life – we will encounter people who will be looking at us – and how we live our life – and asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another? Is your Faith REAL is your Faith true and right – or do we look to another?”
John the Baptist – the one who himself had baptized Jesus – asked that question of Jesus because even HE had doubts. He HAD been sure once – at the beginning of Christ’s public life – having baptized Jesus with a baptism of repentance – an ancient Jewish practice that was not uncommon in those days.
But now – faced with his OWN challenges and bound behind prison bars – facing his ultimate beheading – John was now questioning HIS own faith – he just wasn’t so sure anymore. You see. Jesus hadn’t, as yet, FREED the Jews from the yoke of the Romans and their occupying army. Jesus hadn’t vindicated the Jews in front of the whole world – and so John began to wonder – is Jesus REALLY the Messiah – the Savior – after all.
Well, Jesus wanted to make sure that he set John the Baptist straight – so He sent a reply to John – via John’s very OWN messengers. And he does this by using the words of ANOTHER prophet – Isaiah – who we heard in our first reading today. “Tell John”, Jesus replied, “what YOU see and hear: the blind see once again – the crippled can now walk – hopeless lepers have skin that is now clean – people that couldn’t hear can now hear and speak again – dead men are raised, back into living – and men and women, who were without hope, NOW hear GOOD NEWS!”
And then Jesus adds a little “zinger” for his cousin, John – when He says, “…blessed is the one who takes NO offense at me.” In other words, John – not to lose faith because YOUR expectations have not yet been met.
So what – we must now ask – will be the message that others – around us -receive about our lives? What kind of things are happening in our lives that will give those people in our lives hope? What will answer their insistent call to US: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”
Each one of us here should be able to give the answer that Jesus gave. People who know us should be able to see – to have a vision and see what the meaning and purpose of human life is all about. They can dream the dreams that we dream.
They need to SEE that there is LIGHT in our lives – a light that shines in the darkness – a light that points to hope, the hope of eventual victor the hope of the triumph of GOOD over evil, the hope of peace – a light that reveals to all the presence of salvation in our lives. The spiritually blind ought to be able to see God’s presence in humanity because of US.
Then there are the crippled – the poor – the broken and marginalized. Others around us should SEE in us, a person who is actively DOING something about the downtrodden in our world. And this does NOT mean just dropping a check in the mail. EVERY day we have an opportunity to directly respond to folks nearby who need our help – to see the face of Christ in everyone we meet.
And then there are the lepers. All around us there are people whose skin crawls with self-hatred. These are those who have been ostracized by others – cast away and left to fend for themselves. They are the lonely, the socially underdeveloped, the so-called freaks – those who are “different” than us. Do we regard them as lepers and refuse to even get near them – or even breathe the air that they breathe?
“O Christian – are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”
And what about the deaf those who can’t communicate those who listen but do not hear. These are those who don’t understand Christianity or Jesus who have never really heard about Jesus Christ, who haven’t studied His personality, His character but who MAYBE – would LIKE to. Can you and I be an answer to their prayers?
And, finally, we, as Christians, are sent to raise the dead back to LIFE again. Reaching out to those in our lives who are exhausted, worn out, dead tired – and giving them the energy of our love, giving them the power of our love – our enthusiasm! It means spending a lot of time and energy on them, our own time and lots of our precious energy. It means helping them to break out of their shell and bring them BACK – back into LIFE again.
It means giving them hope, something to live for, a life full of beauty, wonder, awe, goodness – and ALL of those things that REALLY make life worth living. It means giving good news to those who are near death – those who have nothing but bad news because they have lost hope.
And so, my brothers and sisters, as you continue through this season of Advent, this season of great hope and anticipation, and Christmas comes to you once again – happy are those who are NOT disappointed in YOU.
You are the one – sent by God – into the lives of others – so they need NOT look for another!
Make THIS Christmas – the one when that you become an extraordinary Christian – an EXTRA ordinary Christian. We already have enough of the ordinary ones.