Saturday, December 16, 2017

Homily Third Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Third Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11;
·          Ps /Luke 1:46-50, 53-54;
·          1 Thes 5:16-24
·         John 1:6-8, 19-28.
Expecting the Lord with Joy!
When we expect an important guest or anticipate an appointment, there is always that natural tendency or social protocol, to call back and forth in order to confirm the arrival of our guest or confirm our appointments.  When our guest finally arrives or appointment successfully met it brings us joy and happiness. Today’s celebration, Gaudete Sunday of Advent in the light of today’s scripture communicates not just hope but joy and happiness of freedom in Christ’s birth. The joyful mysteries, well captured by Saint Paul in the second reading when he says to the Thessalonians “Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing. Give thanks to God in every circumstances.” Perhaps, what Pope Francis would called, “the Joy of the Gospel”!
 Even though this is Advent, we must make it a joyful and a prayerful Advent. What brings us joy and happiness during Advent is the fact that Our Lord is near; the birth of our Savior is at hand. He comes to free us. He comes to forgive us. He comes to liberate us. He comes to bless us. He comes with peace and justice lacking in the world and in our families today. This is who God is, accompanying his people throughout history.  
He accompanied the ancient Israel as they return from humiliation, and exile to rebuild their temple.  Speaking on behalf of YHWH, Isaiah assures the homeless, the captives, the poor, the ignorant, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God….” (Isa 61:1-2a)”. What a message of hope often cited by Luke 4:18-21 as the inaugural address of Jesus. It is joyful message that gave them joy. It give us joy today that Our Lord will never abandon us.  At Christmas, he comes to us through the son of Mary, as promised.
The responsorial Psalm constitutes, the Magnificat, the joyful song of Mary that the birth of Christ promised her is fulfilled through her, a lowly and humble handmaid of the Lord (Luke 1:46–48, 49–50, 53–54). It’s a song of joy with humility!
 [Think of what Mary had to go through from her immaculate conception, betrothed to Joseph, her mysterious encounter with the Lord, through the Angel Gabriel. Although there were moment of sorrowful mysteries in Mary’s life, today Mary prays the joyful mysteries because of the nearness of the Lord. That which was told her, as poor and lowly as she was, has been fulfilled. She became the mother of our Savior. To have Christ is to have joy, unhappiness sets in when we lose Christ. Mary through the joyful mysteries is an example one who possess Christ through listening obedience to the will of God, love of one’s neighbor, purity of mind and body, poverty of the spirit and humility to serve others, as she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant with John the Baptist.  At Mary’s visit, John the Baptist who was few months older than Jesus, imitated the mother, Elizabeth joyfully honoring Mary and her son, Jesus. Recalled, John the Baptist leapt in her mother’s womb when Mary visited her.]
The same note of joyful message is heard in John’s Gospel as John the Baptist insists joyfully in that humility. He baptizes with water, but he joyfully acknowledges that the one coming after him at Christmas, namely Our Savior will baptize with the Holy Spirit, the source of life, the breath of life!  John is not even worthy to untie the strap of Jesus’ sandals. What a humility! Unless we forget ourselves and not so much be consumed in our ego, we will not be able to know and serve and have Christ who is the true source of joy and happiness!
Advent, especially in a today’s world of isolationism, and indifference to one’s next door neighbor, is a time we reach out to our neighbors, support one another, pray for one another, and bear one another’s burden.  And we should do this joyfully. Advent is time we rejoice and try to be a source of joy to one another. It is a time we strive to imitate Israel’s prophets, the missionary zeal of Paul, John the Baptist, and importantly our mother Mary who knew how to expect her baby Jesus with joy, and who expresses that joy in the joyful mysteries, and at the birth of her son. As we joyfully expect Christ at Christmas, may we daily pray the joyful mysteries(the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity, the presentation and the finding of Jesus in the temple) radiate that joy and happiness in our neighborhood, churches, dioceses, parishes, stations, schools, offices, homes and places of work!
Reflection Questions
1.      What gives you joy as you prepare for Christmas?
2.      What is your take away from today’s bible readings, the humility and joyful zeal of Mary and John the Baptist or the hopeful and joyful and prophetic message of Isaiah?
3.      How do you prophetically share the joy of the Gospel (Evangelli Gaudium) with your neighbors or members of  your faith community?