THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (Year B) – 24th June 2018

Theme: JOHN THE BAPTIST PREPARED THE PEOPLE FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD

  • Isaiah 49:1-6;
  • Psalm 138 (139): 1-3. 13-15. R/ v. 14;
  • Acts 13:22-26
  • Luke 1:57-66. 80

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist. We celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist, because he prepared the people for the coming of the Lord!

The gospel today tells us about the birth, circumcision and naming of John the Baptist. John was born of old age parents and his mother was barren. John’s birth was from God. John was circumcised to initiate him into the people of Israel. The name John means “God is gracious”! God was gracious to John’s old age barren parents in the birth of John and more importantly, God was gracious because John heralded the coming of the Lord! (Lefrois) The gospel ends with the people asking:

“What will this child turn out to be?”

The answer is in the Canticle of Zechariah (CSB):

“As for you, little child, you shall be called a prophet of God, the Most High. You shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before him.” (cf. Lk 1:76; Gospel Acclamation; SM)

Indeed the second reading tells us that he will prepare the way of the Lord by proclaiming a baptism of repentance and by declaring that he was not the one the people imagined him to be and that the one was coming after him whose sandals he was not worthy to undo! Thus we read in the second reading:

“God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Savior, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, ‘I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.’” (Ac 13:23-25; SM)

The first reading is taken from the second of four suffering servant songs of Isaiah. The first reading was chosen to tell us about the birth of John the Baptist (Fuller), but more importantly, the first reading tells us about our Savior Jesus Christ whom John heralded!

The first reading tells us that our Savior Jesus Christ will come as a Suffering Servant of God. Though innocent, he will suffer and die for the salvation of sinners! Vicarious suffering! Vicarious sacrifice!

Thus he will be “the light of the nations” (Is 49:6; SM). Light in the New Testament symbolizes three things: (i) Light symbolizes faith in God as opposed to unbelief which is darkness and blindness. (ii) Light symbolizes life, happiness and contentment as opposed to death, misery and unhappiness which is darkness. (iii) Light symbolizes good as opposed to evil which is darkness. (Lk 2:32; Acts 13:47; Jn 8:12b; NJB)

More importantly, the three are connected, that is, faith in God brings new life from God and that new life is good! Most importantly, in the end, light will overcome darkness, faith will overcome unbelief, life will overcome death and good will over come evil! And that would be the salvation of the world! Thus we read in the first reading:

“I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6; SM)

The responsorial psalm was also chosen to tell us about the birth of John the Baptist (Fuller), thus the response: “I thank you for the wonder of my being”. (Ps 138 (139): 14; SM)

But originally, the responsorial psalm tells us that God is all knowing! (NJBC)

The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza tells us that God is all knowing. God knows even our “thoughts” and our “ways”! (vv. 1-3) The second and third stanzas tell us that God knows us because God created us! (vv. 13-15)

To know is to love! We cannot love someone we do not know! God knows us, loves us, and saves us, so that we can be happy with him forever! We know God, love God, and serve God, so that we can be happy with him forever! To know is to love, to love is to serve, and to serve is to be happy forever! The same is true of knowing, loving, serving and being happy with our neighbor forever!

As we celebrate the Solemnity of The Birth of John the Baptist today, let us thank God for John the Baptist, and let us thank God especially for Jesus Christ whom he heralded, and let us ask God to help us to be John the Baptist, to prepare the way for the Second Coming of the Lord, to prepare the people for the Second Coming of the Lord by announcing the Gospel of the Lord! A happy and blessed feast day to all of you!

 

Amen!

14th December 2014 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

Theme: REJOICE

  • lsaiah 61:1-2. 10-11 .
  • Psalm Lk 1:46-50. 53-54. R. ls 61:10
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
  • John 1:6-8. 19-28

 

Today we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival”. Jesus Christ came the first time 2,000 years ago. He died rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit. He gave us his graces, his love, his peace and his joy! These gifts are eternal. They come from God and they will go back to God. When these gifts become complete and perfect in us, Jesus Christ will come back a second time to take us to heaven to continue to live this eternal life of love, peace and joy!

 

But between His first and second coming there are thousands of years, and we do not know when is his second coming. It may be in another two thousand years. But one thing we do know, i.e. in the thousands of years between his first and second coming, Jesus Christ has not forgotten us, he has not abandoned us and he has not left us to ourselves to work out our own salvation. To work out our own salvation is against the very nature of our salvation by grace.

 

Between his first coming in the past and his second coming in the future, Jesus Christ continues to come in the present every year, every month, every week, and every day. He continues to come to help us grow in his Spirit, in his grace, in his love and in his joy, until at last when his grace becomes perfect and complete in us he will come a second time at the end of the world to take us with him to heaven!

 

That is why we celebrate Christmas every year and at the beginning of every liturgical year! When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ every year, every month, every week, and every day! And Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas!

 

The Church has chosen the gospel today to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. In the gospel today, the Jews sent priests and Levites to John the Baptist to ask if he was the Messiah, or Elijah who was supposed to come before the Messiah, or the Prophet, i.e. another Moses who was the prophet par excellence and who will repeat the Exodus on a grander scale.

But John the Baptist replied that he was not any of these. He was as the prophet Isaiah said. ‘a voice that cries out in the wilderness, make the path straight for the Lord’. John the Baptist was not the Messiah; he was only the one who prepares the people for the coming of the Messiah. The Church has chosen this gospel reading to exhort us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas.

 

Then the Pharisees asked John the Baptist why he was baptizing if he was not the Messiah, and John the Baptist replied, ‘l baptize you with water, but there is one among you, who you do not recognize and whose sandal-strap I am not worthy to undo, i.e. I am not worthy even to become his slave. In short, John the Baptist said, ‘I am not the messiah; I am only the one preparing the people for the coming of the messiah. Again, the Church has chosen this gospel reading to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas!

 

Even more important, the Church has chosen the first reading from Isaiah to tell us that when Jesus Christ comes at Christmas, he will bring good news to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, set the captives free, liberate those in prison and proclaim the Lord’s year of favor and grace!

In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus tells the people in the synagogue that this text of Isaiah 61:1-2 is fulfilled in him!

 

The poor are not only the materially poor or even the spiritually poor, but the poor are the humble who are dependent on God alone for salvation, i.e. the humble who recognize their own sin, and more importantly, their own helplessness to overcome sin, and most importantly, their total dependence on God to help them overcome sin!

 

The broken hearted are not only those who have been jilted by boyfriend or girlfriend, or husband or wife, but those who have not experienced the infinite and unconditional love of God, the forgiveness of God, and the mercy of God! The captives and those in prison are not only those who are in our jails, but those of us who are enslaved by sin, lust, sex, power, drugs, wealth and death and who have no way to get out of our enslavements. Only Jesus Christ can free and liberate us from our enslavements!

 

And finally, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor and grace! Salvation is 100% God’s favor and grace, not 99.9%! We have only to respond to God’s grace and favor, but even our response is a result and an effect of God’s grace and favor! Salvation is God’s favour and grace all the way!

 

The first part of Isaiah, which we have just seen, is taken from Isaiah 61 :1-2, but the second part of Isaiah, which we are about to see, is taken from Isaiah 61 :10-1 I. Again, it is important to remember that the Church has chosen this second part of Isaiah to tell us of the joy and rejoicing of Christmas! This second part of Isaiah may be seen as a response to the first part of Isaiah. Thus we read, ‘I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me with the garment of salvation and he has covered me with the cloak of integrity (saving-justice, NJB), like a bridegroom wearing his wreath and like a bride wearing her jewels. (God is the bridegroom who covers us his bride with the garment of salvation and wrap us with the cloak of saving-justice. He is like a bridegroom who wears a garland and he adorns us his bride with jewels.) Just as the earth brings forth vegetation and the garden seeds spring to life, so too the Lord will make integrity (saving-justice) and praise spring up in the sight of the nations’!

 

This theme of the joy and rejoicing of Christmas is taken up and reinforced in the Responsorial Psalm. In fact the Responsorial Psalm today is strictly not a Responsorial Psalm. It is not even a psalm. It is the Magnificat of Mary! It is from the gospel of Luke, chapter 1! In the gospel of Luke, chapter 1, we read of the announcement of the angel Gabriel, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you’. We also read of Elizabeth saying to Mary, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, and blessed are you who believe that the promise made to you will be fulfilled’!

 

ln response to these blessings, favors and graces, Mary ‘responds with the Magnificat by saying, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of God, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

He has looked on his lowly handmaid; from now on all generations will call me blessed.

The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name! His mercy is from age to age on all those who fear’.

 

Again, the Church chose the Responsorial Psalm of today to tell us that Mary responds to the favor, grace and blessing of God with joy and rejoicing!

 

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent and it is called literally “Rejoice” Sunday! It is taken from the Latin word “Gaudete” meaning “Rejoice”. That is why just now after proclaiming the gospel I lighted the 3rd candle of the Advent wreathe which is pink in colour. The vestment I am wearing is also pink in colour and with the word “Joy”. Pink is the colour of joy! There are 4 Sundays in Advent and we are already in the 3m Sunday of Advent. We are more than half way through to Christmas and that is why we rejoice!

 

Finally, the Church has chosen the second reading of today from l Thessalonians for this time of Advent to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas! The spirit of this second reading is summed up in the caption of today’s second reading: “May you all be kept safe and blameless in body, mind and spirit for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”!

During this time of Advent, the Church asks us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas by prayer, by going to mass on Sunday and weekdays, by going to confession (penitential services in the parishes), by penance (although Advent is not a penitential season, the Church in the Diocese of Kota Kinabalu tells us not to get married during Advent), by going carolling (proclaiming the good news), by becoming Santa Claus (St. Nicholas in Dutch) to the poor, the sick, the aged, the children, the weak, the handicapped, etc.! St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra in Lycia in Asia Minor, who lived in the 3″’ century! He was noted for his charity to the poor! Besides being Santa Claus to the poor, we must also become Santa Claus to one another, i.e. we must also buy presents for one another! We may not be materially poor, but we may be emotionally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually poor!

 

A Happy Advent to all of you! Amen!