Friday, December 13, 2013

Homily (2) 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A- Rev Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A- Rev Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 35: 1-6a, 10; Ps 146:6-10; Jas 5:7-10 and Matt 11:2-11
The Joy God has Brought us in Christ

 Once in while each of us has an occasion to celebrate or show some special sign of joy and happiness. This happens during wedding and ordination ceremonies or when we receive cards and surprise presents from our loved ones, and family members. It also happens when we pass our exams, promoted in a job,  go through successful medical procedures, have received nice anniversaries and birth day gifts, appreciation of the freedom we have, to name but a few. Many people today, even the circular media are also very happy with the gift of our new Pope Francis. Every third Sunday of Advent is a moment of joy. It is called a joyful Sunday. It presents us an opportunity to think of joy, to search for joy, to practice joy and to live joyfully.

  These joy and hope run through the Bible readings of today and it is the heart of  the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Gospel of Joy).  Prophet Isaiah in the first reading is a reminder to us that God in whatever circumstances, whenever we call upon him would come to save us.  In the particular case of the Israelites, it was the hope that their enemies, the Assyrians would not reign forever. Their exile was never going to be in perpetuity.  This is a good news and the cause for joy( 35: 1-6 )

Isaiah’s message of hope and joy of freedom would be fulfilled in Christ (Isa 7:14). He says God has “strengthen the hands that are feeble making firm the knees that are weak” (v 3).  There are many circumstances in our lives that remind us our weakness and feebleness. Think of the   nuclear and threats of terrorism that you and I live under today. Think of the natural disasters, the tsunamis, the sandies, the hurricanes, the typhoons, and the shootings, to name but a few. Think of our experiences of physical illnesses, which sometimes will make us feeble and weak.  As a nation, community, family and individual we also have our strengths and weaknesses. Some are stronger economically, socially, politically, intellectually and morally than others.

 Whatever your strengths and weaknesses  for the prophet Isaiah sorrow and fear are not the right solutions for believers, but hope, patience, penance and joy because God has the power to make even the lame and cripple to walk and jump like a deer. He is able to make the mute to sing.

Each of us has been blessed by God.  The gift to see this day is not because we are smarter than our neighbors or because our health insurance is much better than that of my next door neighbor, but because it has been God’s decision and purpose in Christ Jesus who enables us experience this day and His healing love. 

 The Psalmist captures this well today when he says: The LORD keeps faith forever, the LORD secures justice for the oppressed, the LORD sets captives free, the LORD gives food for the hungry, the LORD gives sights to the blind and the LORD protects the strangers (Ps 146).

Sometimes it is difficult to figure this out and to believe that God is watching over us. As St. James would remind us today, it takes patience, prayers and endurance sometimes to discern these blessings and the role of God in our lives, especially in times of great pains, economic or social hardships or political imprisonment.

 In the Gospel of today ( Matt 11:2-11) John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, a Jew, sitting in prison on account of Herodias (Mtt 14) perhaps was wondering why Christ, a Jewish messiah would not intervene in his imprisonment. Remember earlier on John’s disciples were surprised that Christ’s disciples did not follow their pattern of fasting and Jewish observances (Matt 9:14), but spent time healing the blind, the lame, the deaf, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers and preaching the Good News to the poor (Matt 11:5-6) and mingling even with sinners (Matt 9:9), exercises that put others off, or that were forbidden by the status quo and the establishment. Remember, John Baptized with water. Christ baptized with the Holy Spirit.

  Christ is superior to John the last prophet of the OT. Even among those born of women, we are told  none is greater than John the Baptist, yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John (Matt 11:11). John is the greatest prophet, God’s messenger up to his time, as planed by God, which was a preparation for a new order, the Kingdom of God, which is the fulfillment of all that OT prophets had foretold including the call for repentance and all manners of preparations by John.

 The challenge for us is that to be in that Kingdom, the least is not only invited to imitate the hopes and the mission of John the Baptist and other prophets, but to practice with joy the life style of Christ: peace, love, hope and joy. We are called to be a peaceful people, a hopeful community and a source of joy to our neighbors, including the weak, the sick, the aged, the feeble and the poor members of communities.

As Christmas approaches we want to take joy in sending out those gifts and Christmas cards and flowers, if we can. We want to take joy in practicing virtues and justice. We want to take joy in hoping for the birth of Christ in our families. We want to take joy in being a Catholic. We want to take joy in being a Christian.