There are two homily notes here for our reflection
Rev. Fr. Thomas OYODE
“What is your Expectation of the Messiah?”
The third Sunday of advent is also known as the “gaudete Sunday”, the Sunday of Joy. The liturgy continues to give us the character (personaggio) of John to reflect on. Today, John is presented as being in prison and confused about the identity of the Messiah which he had earlier proclaimed. Like John the Baptist, therefore, we may need to ask ourselves: WHAT IS MY CONCEPTION OF THE SAVIOUR? WHAT ARE MY EXPECTATIONS OF THE REDEEMER?
As a matter of fact, John was not alone in this confusion. From the prophetic times until the time of John it was difficult to give a clearly definitive description of who the Messiah, the Saviour would be and who he was when at last he came. He was generally expected to be an annointed king who, like David, would restore peace to the people and lead them to prosperity again.
However, the Messiah was supposed to be a divine person to give salvation, true liberation from the slavery of a dysfunctional social order caused by sin; he was not supposed to be a political leader. The first reading (Isaiah 35: 1-6; 8-10) gives credence to this. It describes the signs of the manifestation of the Saviour. It would be noted that this passage is more or less an introductory summary to the accounts in chapters 40-55, describing the joy of the exilic return and the role of the redeemer who would lead the people back from exile which is depicted in the person and image of Cyrus the Persian king of the 6th Century BCE. Thus, when Jesus has to reply John’s enquiry about whether he is the expected Redeemer he tells him to remember the signs: 1. The blind now see 2. The deaf hear 3. The dead are raised 4. The good news is proclaimed to the poor
These are the very signs that Isaiah makes reference to in our first reading. In other words, in the context of our first reading, Jesus says to John, “all of creation is in gladness, all things are being restored and renewed and the glory of the Lord now lives among men. Is there supposed to be another sign?”. I believe that Jesus’ reply to John is a reply to me and to you. In many parts of the world, the Christmas fever is almost widespread. For us in Nigeria, Christmas is most often attended by an unbridled frenzy. It can be said to be even more terrific for many this time around because of the state of the country and the increased cost of living. There is almost a prevailing helplessness and utter disappointment with those the steer the wheel of leadership in our country; they take us for granted and care less about our collective interests. Those who laboured and are retired can hardly enjoy the fruit of their labour, their rightful pension and gratuity. Our youths struggle to navigate the labyrinth of a crooked and unfortunately rudderless national system. The sorry situation is worsened by some religious leaders who have failed in their responsibility to show the way to the true Messiah. Have our hopes and expectations been dashed? Have we been enveloped and blown away by the gloomy vortex of despair? Do we find any joy, expecting the Saviour at Christmas?
After Jesus mentioned the powerful signs of joy manifested by the power of his works in reply to John, he said: “And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” Thus, in the figure of John the Baptist, Jesus blesses us and warns us at the same time. The warning is do not doubt the joy and peace that Christ brings simply because the foundations built on human structures have failed, do not be downcast because men have failed you. The blessing is that those who hope in God in steadfast faith are never troubled by the affairs of the world; they are ever joyful. Theirs is an interior joy that flows from within, a kind of joy and peace that is never attained by material possessions but the possession of him, the Lord who restores all things (Mat. 6:33, Ps. 46). Let us heed, therefore, the words of St. James in the second reading and wait for the Lord with firm patience and without complaining. He is with us and only in him will our hearts find true joy.
HYMN: How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news/announcing peace/proclaiming news of happiness. Chorus: Our God reigns (4x).
Mary, Cause of our Joy. Pray for us!
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.” This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4-5: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” This Sunday is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near. We are called to rejoice in the Lord and not in the world. In the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, the boy demanded for his share of his father’s property. He desired to leave his father’s house to where he thinks we will find much joy and pleasure. He wanted to rejoice in the world. The same way some of us desire to leave the Church (Our Father’s house) to seek joy elsewhere.
What does it mean to rejoice always?
It’s interesting that the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is, “Rejoice always” (1Thess 5:16). The shortest verse in the English New Testament is, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). They are not contradictory! Our Savior could weep and yet have the fullness of joy. In Rom.12:15 Paul says rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Matt.5:4 blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. So, we would misapply Paul’s words if we think that Christians will never be sad or grieved. Is our Mother Mary not regarded as our Lady of sorrow? The psalms are narrative of joys and pains. Therefore, to rejoice in the Lord always is an attitude of contentment and hope that transcends circumstances. Though our hearts may be heavy with sorrow or grief because of trials, beneath the surface is the abiding confidence that our God is powerful and that our lives are in His hand, such that not even the hairs of our heads fall to the ground without His knowledge. So to rejoice always means contentment and hope. Contentment when there is plenty and hope when there is nothing.(Phil.4:11-13)
The gospel reading of today tells us about the experience of John the Baptist when he was imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, he sent messengers to Jesus to ask if he is the Messiah or they should expect someone else? This is the same John who in Matt.3:13-17 baptized Jesus and witnessed the open heavens, the dove and the voice speaking. The same John who in John1:29 pointed out the Messiah saying “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” But here he is asking if he is the messiah or they should expect another. Beloved in Christ, every great man has his period of crisis, life can be so trying that you begin to feel like trying another god.
Another lesson in today’s gospel reading is John’s expectation. John expected the Messiah to be a judge who would be hard on sinners; he expected that the Messiah will be one who as in Matt.3:12 will gather the wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. But to his greatest surprised the Messiah was not behaving the way he had expected; he saw instead one who tried to save the lost. Instead of burning the chaff he savage the chaff. Jesus wanted Magdalenes to be brought off the prostitute houses. Most times God does not grant our expectation but fulfill our needs. It is not about what you are expecting; but about what he is offering you. Most times our eyes are so fixed on what we are expecting that we don’t see what he is offering us. And the Jesus says not my will but your will be done.
Most times we don’t understand the help of God, if anybody had want to help Joseph, he would have remove him from the prison and by so doing removing him from his destiny. If Jesus had want to help John he would have removed him from Prison not send messages that they should tell him that the blind sees and the lame walk . The help of God is not what some of us think. At times we ask for help that we don’t need. At times the help we received has become our very problem today.
Know this, the delay of God is not an unwise the delay. But Christians don’t want to hear this and so in the gospel Matt.11:6 Jesus tells the disciples “Blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.” The cross is bitter but it makes you better later. Things may not be working well but God is not sleeping “blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me” Job was tried and he was ask to cause God but he did not because he knows as he said in Job 19:25 I know my redeemer lives.
Still on expectation, advent is a time of expectation and anticipation but, most importantly, it is a time of waiting: waiting for the Messiah to arrive in our lives and in the world. It is a celebration of his first arrival and expectation of his second arrival. In this expectation of his second coming he may not come like we popularly think that there will be a loud trumpet in the sky. He will rather come in a way we don’t expect. What then is our hope? We must be patient while waiting.
Waiting is part of all our lives in doing this the second reading says we must be patient. It says Be patient, brethren until the coming of the Lord. Therefore, the time we spend waiting should be useful, or our waiting must be purposeful. This means using the period of waiting to prepare for him. If we do not prepare while waiting the time spent in waiting is wasted. Lord, help us that our expectation may not be cut off.