Homily Third Sunday of Advent Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok UdoekpoJoyfully Awaiting Christ
· Isa 35: 1-6a, 10;
· Ps 146:6-10;
· Jas 5:7-10
· Matt 11:2-11
Once in a while we show signs of special joy and happiness in our life. This happens, let’s say, when we mark our wedding, ordination or birthday anniversaries or when we receive cards and surprise presents from our loved ones. Parents even name their children- JOY. We also celebrate when we pass our examination, promoted in a job, and even when we pass through successful medical procedures, [Many people today, even the circular media are also very happy with the gift of our new Pope Francis, who also titled one of his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Gospel of Joy) ].
Every third Sunday of Advent is a moment of joy, that bears the gospel of joy. It is called a joyful Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) - a theme also well captured in the entrance antiphon “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5). In my native language, we would say/sing “mfin edi usen idara.” Today is the day of Joy! This message of Christian Joy dominates today’s Bible Readings.
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah reminds us of the joy that comes with salvation and victory over temporary challenges. Similar message is heard in form of music in the responsorial Psalm (Ps 146; Isa 35:4) “Lord, come and save us…the Lord keeps faith forever, secure justice for the oppressed, sets captives free, gives sights to the blind, provides food for the hungry, raised those who were viciously lowered down, protects the immigrants and sustains the orphans, widows and widowers.”
Even though Isaiah, thousands of years ago was originally addressing the Israelites oppressed and exiled in Assyria and Babylon – he is talking to us today in our various weaknesses, feebleness: social, political, economic and spiritual! Our transcends time. He strengthens not only the feeble hands, but would make firm the knees of the exiled and, of every time and culture, and will eventually liberate them. Such freedom would bring joy to every one of all time and culture. As Isaiah would put it, “those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion, signing, crowned with everlasting joy” (35: 1-6)
In our Christian faith and hope, John the Baptist of today’s Gospel (Matt 11:2-11), even though in prison, actually came to prepare the way for the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy in the person of the redeeming Christ, whom we anticipate at Christmas. And this is the reason why we rejoice today, the joy of the Gospel, stressed by Pope Francis. It is as a joy to also notice that in today’s Gospel John the Baptist acknowledges Christ as superior in his saving grace that comes to us in a mysterious manner and when and how he wills. Christ is the source of our energy and strength.
What a joy, what a hope. We have every reason to be joyful. The challenge for us today, is that, like the Israelites of old, when we feel weak, tired, frustrated, scared of the future, betrayed, oppressed by harsh socio- political factors, or threatened by natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, political uncertainties, or by wars, and terrorism, or in our own imprisonment, like John the Baptist, our hope and trust must be focused on our saving Christ, Jesus born for us at Christmas!
Put differently, while longing for this joy at Christmas, St. James in today’s Second reading (Jas 5:7-10), advises us to be patient (Nyene Ime) and firm in heart. We also require tenacity in faith, endurance, perseverance, togetherness, oneness and generosity of spirit as we joyfully awaits Christ through our spiritual and material preparations.
· As Christmas approaches what gives you joy?
· What can you do to bring joy to members of your family or parish community or colleagues at your places of work or school community?