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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
 
Homilies/Reflections

The Lord is our joy
By FR JULIUS OLAITAN

3rd Week of Advent B

 

THE LORD IS OUR JOY

 

My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the midst of so many good things that people desire in life, joy and happiness are two things that are common and perhaps general.  Both the poor and the rich are in need of these two things, and so on this third Sunday of Advent, we are called upon to rejoice, not just in anything, but in the Lord; who is the source of our salvation and redemption.  May the joy of the Lord remain our strength, through Christ our Lord  Amen.

 

 

First Reading  (Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11)

Isaiah in the last week’s reading, had promised the people of Israel, an early return to their homeland. God himself will be their guide on their journey, and that they will be met on arrival in Jerusalem by cries of joy and welcome.  That will also be the beginning of a happy life. Indeed, the people regained their freedom, Cyrus conquered Babylon and simply allowed all foreigners who had been held captive to return to their homeland.  They were indeed surprised when they got back home to no reception as prophesied.  Rather, they met a cold and hostile environment.  The returnees soon overcame this but were faced with other problems like housing and farmland.  They were getting poorer by the day.  They became discouraged and once again began to grumble, what has happened? What had happened to all the promises we heard in Babylon?

 

The prophet today reminds the people of the kindness and mercy of God which should make them rejoice.  Isaiah presents himself as the one sent to the discouraged people, to bring them hope and courage.  He is sent to, “Bring good tidings to the poor, bind up hearts that are broken, proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison and to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

 

Were the promises of the prophet finally fulfilled?  Though there were some changes in the behaviour of the people, the injustices continued and the corruption of leaders and the arrogant behaviour of the rich did not go away completely.  But the fact was that, the poor began to have an  assurance that they will someday be free from oppression, the day when the Lord will achieve his promise of liberty, joy and happiness.  They believed that this will come with the revelation of the messiah.

 

If we look at our own nation today, do we find some similarities? The poor who are not satisfied like the people of Israel grumble and complain, they question God since they cannot question their government.  Worse still is that there are some rich ones in the community, who use their wealth, to fan trouble.  They are ever ready and willing to cause unrest in the society.  They use their money to buy arms and give to the hungry children of the poor, to fight their neighbours to distract them from facing the issues of development which they have failed to address.  For how long? That is why we sing ‘Come Lord Jesus, the light is dying, the night keeps crying.’

 

In the second part of the reading the prophet began to celebrate the love  of God, for he knows the Lord will act, it may only take some time.  Will God not act in our own situation too?  He will, just wait and see.

 

Second Reading  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)

Paul called on Christians to rejoice always.  If we appreciate God in our lives, there is the need to be happy at all times, never allowing anybody to dampen our spirit, we need to be prayerful also at all times knowing that through it we have an access to our Father in heaven and above all else we must give thanks to God in all things even when we are faced by troubles and trials.

 

Gospel (John 1: 6-8, 19-28)

The Gospel for the second week running presents John as a model.  The question to John is: who are you? The Christ, Elijah or the Prophet? To all of these he answered NO.  He prefers to be known as prophesied, “the voice that cries out in the wilderness, prepare a way for the Lord.”  John did not even accept himself as the Elijah, yet he fulfils the prophetic role of Elijah in preparing the way for the Messiah and Jesus told his disciples that Elijah came in John the Baptist. John maintains some secrecy about his person and what role he had been given to perform, while in prison he will send his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the One who was to come, or there was the need to wait for another. The answer of Jesus was that the prophesy of Isaiah on restoration of sight to the blind; hearing to the deaf; and speech to the dumb being accomplished through his ministry and blessed is anyone who does not lose faith in him. John has no personal interest in himself, he simply puts himself at the disposal of God who has sent him to proclaim His message to the people.

 

 

In John we see a great example of humility. There are so many people today in our society who refuse to accept their roles or identity. They want to be the other person and the other. When they fail, they still find it hard to yield their positions because their intention in the first place is not that of service but to rule the people and to acquire fame and wealth for themselves.  ‘I am not He.’  I am just here to prepare the way for the one who will lead you back to the right path and I will introduce him to you at the right time.  If only we realise that we are limited as human beings in a lot of things.  We may be able to help create a better world. 

 

A second question to John is, “Why are you baptising?” In humility again he told them clearly, “I baptise with water, but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” There are two traditions before John in which baptism took place. One was in the Qumran community to which John himself may have been associated. It was a ritual bathing by which people cleanse themselves of spiritual impurity. In the other tradition is the proselyte baptism of Gentile converts to Judaism—an initiation formulae that included an acceptance of three things: circumcision as the mark of the covenant people; the offer of a sacrifice of atonement; and to undergo baptism by immersion in water to signify the cleansing from all pollution. Demanding baptism of Jews is a recognition that even the chosen people of God needed true repentance and renewal of life as they wait for the Messiah.  

 

We see a clear example of John’s baptism in Acts 19:1-3. While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the interior and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers ?”” “No, they answered, “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”“Into what, then, were you baptized?” Paul asked. “The baptism of John,” they replied.… John baptised with water for the purpose of repentance but the baptism of Jesus is the one that opens us to the life in the Spirit—a life that is eternal. The Church’s call to us to rejoice must be seen in the light of doing the will of God for there is our true joy and happiness.

 

 

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!


 
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