BY: Fr. Ben Agbo


HOMILY: * Is 35 : 1 – 10, James 5 : 7 – 10, Matt 11 : 2 – 11.

Advent is a season of deep spirituality when we learn to wait patiently for the coming of the Messiah. At the 1st Sunday of Advent the readings warned us to stay awake and be spiritually vigilant. The 2nd Sunday warned us against the danger of complacent repentance and uses the Baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire imagery to encourage us towards radical repentance. Today we are reminded to be both patient with God and with our neighbour in order to be found worthy at His coming.
The words of Isaiah the Prophet says : ‘Strengthen all weary hands and steady all trembling knees and say to the faint-hearted “Courage, Do not be afraid!’. The same words were addressed to Peter while walking on the sea, Matt 14 : 28. The promise is in verse 5 : ‘Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame will walk…’. Other miracles will follow. When you pass the audition test of faith and hope, then miracles will follow, cf Abraham and Job.

We must learn to be very patient with both God and our neighbours. Today’s 2nd reading warns us to be patient with God like a farmer waits for harvest time and also be patient with our neighbours and never degenerate into judgmental criticisms except for fraternal correction, Matt 18 : 15 f.
In the gospel we find a pedagogical display of question and answer from John the Baptist to Jesus. John the Baptist’s question was born out of frustration : ‘Are you he who is to come or shall we wait for another?’ Have you ever felt like John the Baptist before? Have you ever hoped and boasted in expectation of divine miracles only to be disappointed at the end? Jesus’ reply corrects John the Baptist’s doubts and reminds him and us that the Messiah has come and is working miracles… Whether he answers our own prayers or not. The Word of God says : HAPPY THE MAN WHO DOES NOT LOSE FAITH IN ME!

We shall observe 3 things about John the Baptist :
(i) His greatness ; His birth was miraculous. He pin – pointed the Messiah right from his mother’s womb. He was the VOICE not the WORD.
(ii) His mission ; He was destined to be the light to lighten up evil things and make way easier for the Messiah.
(iii) His limitations ; He was not perfect. He was not actually holy but he was very spiritual. Spirituality is slightly different from holiness. One could be very ascetic – dealing with the flesh squarely and having his spirit alife. But holiness has to do with a sublime perfection in virtues that align one in perfect resonance with the love of God and neighbour.
John the Baptist did not have the privilege of learning the message of the Cross, 1Cor 1 : 12 – 19. Pastor David Ogbueli said something I cannot forget to quote here now that ‘The power of Christianity is hidden in the Cross. You cannot talk about grace without talking about Christ and you cannot talk about Christ without talking about the Cross’ (The Transforming Power of Grace, P. 81). He was only a sign post and died before seeing the cross of Jesus.
According to William Barclay, ‘The holiness of God he knew, the Justice of God he declared but the love of God in all its fulness he could never know. Therefore, a humble Christian is greater than he (the great Prophet)’.
It is dangerous for a dying man to have doubts (Just like it is dangerous for a seminarian approaching ordination to begin to lose faith). Biblical exegetes who have sympathy for John the Baptist gave him the benefit of doubt that he only wanted a confirmation of his hope in the Messiah.
Jesus praised him as the greatest Prophet ( ‘A man who has God’s wisdom in his mind, God’s truth on his lips and God’s courage in his heart’ – Barclay). But no one could call John’s message a gospel (good news) : His’ was basically a threat of destruction at the face of a fiery God. Preachers of the gospel should watch against this caveat : Preaching the love of God is superior to preaching the fear of God! Zechariah 12 : 10 prophesied the era of the Messiah when ‘they will look upon him whom they have pierced’. John was a sign post that pointed us to a greatness (Jesus the lamb of God) into which he himself did not enter. Christ is the sign reality (symbol) or the sacrament of God. The man who loves like Christ (agape) will never be disappointed with God or his neighbour.

As Christmas draws near, let us begin to arrange to carry home bags of rice and gifts, not bags of trouble and animosity. Let’s make our Christmas journey a missionary journey – a journey of love and reconciliation ; a moment of reunion, sharing and expression of charity.
We must be patient with God and the people of God because ‘love is patient and kind.. It does not take offense’, 1 Cor 13 : 4. When we face disappointing situations like the death of a loved one, the failure in a business, the delay in God’s answer to our prayers, let us not be quick to ask like John the Baptist did : ‘Are you he who is to come or shall we wait for another?’.
* Song : How marvellous, how wonderful and my songs shall ever be! How marvellous, how wonderful is my savour’s love for me!

Happy Sunday dear friends!

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