Theme: WHEN JESUS CHRIST COMES, THE GOOD NEWS WILL BE PROCLAIMED TO THE POOR
- Isaiah 35:1-6. 10
- Psalm 145:6-10. R. cf. Isaiah 35:4
- James 5:7-10
- Matthew 11:2-11
Today is the Third Sunday of Advent and today is also joyful Sunday, because we are more than half way through to Christmas! That is why we lighted the pink candle and that is also why I am wearing a pink vestment instead of a purple vestment! The purple vestment is a sign of penance, but the pink vestment is a sign of joy!
To begin with, the word Advent is from the Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival”. Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of time. Jesus Christ came 2,000 years ago in Memory, Jesus Christ comes to us this Christmas in the liturgy, in the Eucharist, in Mystery (The Word “Christmas” comes from two words “Christ” and “Mass”), and Jesus Christ will come at the end of time in Majesty. But the preparation for the 3 comings of Jesus Christ is the same, that is, we pray, we do penance, we practice justice, we practice charity, we love, we forgive, we become Santa Claus to the poor, the orphaned, the children, the aged, the sick, etc., we go to confession, we go caroling to proclaim the Good News, etc.!
But even before we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, we must first know who Jesus Christ is and what will he do when he comes! We must not take this for granted! John the Baptist took this for granted and lost his faith! He expected Jesus to be a fiery Messiah of Judgment and retribution, and burning up every sinner in hell! But when Jesus came he did not burn up every sinner in hell, instead he made the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers clean, the deaf hear, the dead rise, and most importantly, he proclaimed the Good News to the poor (sinners)! In other words, Jesus Christ was not the fiery judgmental punishing Messiah of John the Baptist, but instead Jesus Christ was the loving, compassionate, kind, merciful, and forgiving Messiah of God the Father! And most importantly, the first part of the gospel ends by saying ‘happy is he who does not lose faith in me’, that is, in a loving, merciful and forgiving Messiah!
John the Baptist is not the only one who loses faith in a loving and forgiving Messiah; today we also lose faith in a loving and forgiving Messiah. I personally know of an old priest, and worse, a young priest, who do not proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ’s love and mercy, instead they proclaim the bad news of judgment, retribution, punishment and hell! I also know of a relative who not only wanted hell fire for her unfaithful husband, but she wanted hell fire here and now for her unfaithful husband! When my mother told her that her husband would be punished in hell fire after death in the afterlife, she responded to my mother saying ‘hell fire after death and in the afterlife is too late’!
Now we understand why the gospel ends by saying ‘to be the least in the kingdom of heaven is to be greater than John the Baptist! John the Baptist was the greatest of Man, and the greatest of the prophets, and he was also the messenger of God, but to be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is to be greater than John the Baptist, because even to be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is to be in Jesus Christ, to be in his love, and compassion, to be in his mercy and forgiveness and to be saved!
The Church has also chosen the first reading from Isaiah to tell us who Jesus Christ is and what will he do when he comes! In the first reading the Israelites were in exile in Babylon and Isaiah was prophesying to them the hope of returning home. It will be a second Exodus and like the First Exodus, the desert will be turned into fertile land. There will be flowers and forest in the desert, but most importantly, the blind will see, the lame walk, the dumb will speak and the deaf will hear! In fact Jesus quoted this passage of Isaiah in the gospel of today! And the first reading ends by saying, there will be joy as they return to Zion, there will be joy in their faces, and joy and gladness will go with them. There will not be sadness and lamentation anymore!
Again, the Church chose this first reading to tell us that when Jesus Christ comes there will be a New Exodus, more important than the First Exodus, again, the blind will see, the lame walk, the dumb speak, the deaf hear, and there will be joy and gladness, there will not be sadness and lamentation anymore!
The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. It is a meditation on the first reading. In fact the response of the responsorial psalm is from Isaiah 35:4: “Come, Lord, and save us”! Like the first reading the responsorial psalm tells us that when Jesus Christ comes, he will save us, he will bring justice to the oppressed, he will feed the hungry, he will free the captives, he will give sight to the blind, he will raise up those who are bowed down, he will protect the strangers, the widows and the orphans. There will not be injustices and wickedness anymore. He will reign forever and forever!
The second reading today is from the letter of St. James. The Church has chosen this reading of today to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ with patience, that is, patience with persecutions, and patience with our everyday trials of life, patience with ourselves and patience with others, and most importantly, patience with the “delayed” coming of Jesus Christ!
The second reading was originally written by Saint James to tell the poor of his time to be patient with the unjust rich who oppressed and exploited them and did not pay them their wages, but more importantly it also tells them to be patient with the “delayed” second coming of Jesus Christ. The second coming of Jesus Christ will be soon and they will be liberated and there will be justice. The second reading exhorted them to be patient like the prophets who suffered persecutions patiently, and more importantly, who waited patiently for the coming of the Messiah!
During this time of Advent, the Church exhorts us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of time, by prayer, penance, repentance, conversion, practicing justice, making peace, going to “confession” to make peace with God first, practice charity or “sharity”, to be “Santa Claus” to the aged, the poor, the sick, the orphaned, the children, the blind, the deaf and the dumb, etc., and to go caroling to proclaim the Good News to the poor! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.