Third Sunday of Advent (A)

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

3rd Sunday of Advent- on the Gospel

Isaiah 35:1-6,10 James 5:7-10 Matthew 11:2-11

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Blessed Is Anyone Who Takes No Offense at Me

Have you ever seen someone take offense at the Lord? I have. A certain lady who spent her time working for the Lord — visiting the sick and the bedridden, helping the elderly and the handicapped — was diagnosed of a knee problem needing surgery. The surgery was not a success and so left her in constant pain and unable to walk. It seemed the Lord had ignored the prayers of this woman and her friends for a successful surgery. This was a woman who considered herself a personal friend of Jesus. And was she disappointed? Her otherwise cheerful disposition turned into sadness and gloom. One day she pulled herself together and shared with her confessor what was going on in her soul. The confessor suggested that she go into prayer and ask her friend Jesus why he has treated her this way. And she did. The following day the priest met her and saw peace written all over her face in spite of her pain. “Do you know what he said to me?” she began. “As I was looking at the crucified Jesus and telling him about my bad knee, he said to me, ‘Mine is worse.’”

“And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Matt 11:6)

Does John the Baptist in today’s gospel find himself in a similar situation? John has spent all his life in the Judean desert in anticipation of the Messiah who was to come. He has prepared the way for the Messiah by calling the people to a baptism of repentance. Now he is languishing in prison because he denounced the sins of Herod Antipas. In the meantime Jesus begins his public work as the Messiah. He doesn’t go to visit John in prison or send him a word of encouragement. John hears that he is performing miracles. Why doesn’t he use his miraculous powers to set John free and vindicate him? Doesn’t prophecy say that one of the signs of the Messiah is that he will set prisoners free? Naturally John would expect to be one of the first beneficiaries. After all it was he who baptized Jesus in the first place. Some reciprocal benevolence would certainly be in order. So John sends messengers to Jesus to remind him. Jesus’ message back to John was, “Yes I am indeed the Messiah. But please do not take offence at me if all your expectations are not met.” Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.

What is going on here? Wrong expectations. Popular theology in biblical times held that prosperity was a sign that God was with someone and adversity a sign that God was not with them. The author of Job questioned this theology by telling the story of Job who was a man of God and yet he met with adversity. But that theology has survived and is still with us today in spite of the teachings and personal example of Jesus.

In Jesus we see that the sure signs of God’s presence are not primarily material but spiritual. It is true that in the ministry of Jesus “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised” (Matt 11:5), yet these miracles can be seen as “signs” of an inner spiritual blessing. What does it profit a person ultimately to receive the use of physical eyes and feet if they continue to be spiritually blind and lame? No. The vital signs of God’s presence are spiritual — spiritual enlightenment (blind see, deaf hear) and empowerment (lame walk, dead raised). Of course these have inevitable salutary effects on the physical plane, but these are secondary.

Once there was a blind man who became a preacher. He drew crowds to his preaching because, even though he was still physically blind, he would often begin his preaching by declaring, “I was blind but now I see.”

In advent we are like John waiting for the coming of the Lord. What are our expectations? Today’s gospel reminds us that we need to entertain expectations that are in accordance with the Lord’s priorities. Without discounting the physical and the material we are reminded that the primary domain of God’s saving work among us is the spiritual. Ultimately this has saving effects on the material and social order, but God’s salvation is primarily spiritual.

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3rd Sunday of Advent- on the Epistle

Isaiah 35:1-6,10 James 5:7-10 Matthew 11:2-11

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Be Patient … Until the Coming of the Lord

An Igbo proverb says, “Hunger, when you know that food is coming, does not kill you.” The early Christians were a suffering people. Because of their faith in Christ, their own people, the Jews, disowned them. Because they would not worship the Roman deities, the Roman authorities accused them of heresy and treason and hunted them down, dead or alive. For the early Christians life was insecure and bereft of joy. And because they knew they were innocent, they longed for justice and vindication. Naturally, some of them would bow to social pressure and renounce the faith to save their neck. In today’s second reading, James urges them to be patient and courageous in the face of danger and suffering. The reason he gives them is: because the Lord is coming.

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7-8)

James points to nature to illustrate his point that patience is necessary. The farmer suffers in sowing the seed. The same farmer will rejoice in harvesting the crop. Between these two moments, however, there is a long period of waiting. In ancient times, the period between sowing and harvesting is also a time of famine, since food was in short supply. Yet the farmer happily suffers this famine in the hope that harvest time will soon be here and food will be plentiful again.

Now, what does it mean to be patient? To be patient is to understand that my present suffering is meaningful and necessary. It is as meaningful and necessary as the suffering of the farmer waiting for the harvest. The justification for the suffering is in the good-times that will come in the future. The glory of the Lord does not come to us on credit, have it now and pay later. It comes to us prepaid. We pay for it beforehand. Now is the time to pay for it, and our present suffering is the currency. People who do not understand this go about asking themselves, “Why Me? What have I done to deserve this?” Worse still they blame someone else for their suffering. James warns his fellow Christians to avoid the blame-game, to avoid trading complaints against one another as if their present suffering was something unnecessary. Believers who indulge in the blame-game betray their lack of faith in divine providence, and so make themselves liable to judgment.

Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! (James 5:9)

James reminds such grumpy Christians that the Lord is very near, “the Judge is standing at the doors.” It is the Lord who will judge everyone, the sincere believer as well as the insincere, and give to everyone what they truly deserve. He reminds those Christians who grumble against one another as being the cause of their suffering to focus on the glory of the Lord which is coming and not on their worldly comfort and social status which is disappearing.

Is the message of James relevant to our church today? Very much so. More than ever, we have many Christians who are grumbling against one another and blaming them for the ills that have befallen the church. Conservatives blame liberals and liberals blame conservatives, heterosexuals blame homosexuals and homosexuals blame heterosexuals, traditionalists blame charismatics and charismatics blame traditionalists, feminists blame patriarchals and patriarchals blame feminists. Advent is a time to remind ourselves that the Judge is very near, at the very doors. He it is who will judge and give to everyone what they deserve. As servants of the Lord we have a natural tendency to separate the weeds from the wheat. But we must endeavour to heed the explicit injunction of the Master: “Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30). Let both of them grow together! Shall we?

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The Third Sunday of Advent [Gaudete Sunday] (A)

Liturgical Color: Rose

Themes & Motives: rejoice, joy, preparation, coming, glory, splendor, John the Baptist

Introit:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5)

Opening Prayer:
Lord God,
may we, your people,
who look forward to the birthday of Christ
experience the joy of salvation
and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lectionary Readings:

  • Isaiah 35:1-6,10 [They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. /v.2]
  • Psalm 146:6-7 / 8-9 / 9-10 [R. Lord, come and save us. /based on Isaiah 35:4]
  • James 5:7-10 [You too be patient; for the coming of the Lord is at hand. /v.8]
  • Gospel Verse: Isaiah 61:1 [The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he sent me to bring Good News to the poor]
  • Matthew 11:2-11 [“Are you the Coming One?”/v.3]

Offertory Antiphon: **
Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you.
Verses of Psalm 25 can also be sung between repetitions of the antiphon.

Prayer over the Gifts:
Lord,
may the gift we offer in faith and love
be a continual sacrifice in your honor
and truly become our eucharist and our salvation.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Preface for Advent I: [The Two Comings of Christ]
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When he humbled himself to come among us as a man,
he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago
and opened for us the way to salvation.

Now we watch for the day,
hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours
when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:

Holy, holy, holy Lord…

Communion Antiphon:
Say to the anxious: be strong and fear not, our God will come to save us. (based on Isaiah 35:4)

Prayer after Communion:
God of mercy,
may this eucharist bring us your divine help,
free us from our sins,
and prepare us for the birthday of our Savior,
who is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

Solemn Blessing:
You believe that the Son of God once came to us;
you look for him to come again.
May his coming bring you the light of his holiness
and his blessing bring you freedom. Amen.

May God make you steadfast in faith,
joyful in hope, and untiring in love
all the days of your life. Amen.

You rejoice that our Redeemer came to live with us as man.
When he comes again in glory,
may he reward you with endless life. Amen

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3rd Sunday Advent – Cycle A

Homily # 1

Point/Focus:  Our joy is not dependent only on the defeat of a terrible political enemy but on the presence and promise of one who defeats the enemy within and allows to embrace a kingdom wider than the boarders of nation or neighborhood.

I.   This may be a truly useless homily or, at least, a slightly untimely one.

A.      The words are written and, perhaps somewhat foolishly, on the events occurring some weeks before the third Sunday of Advent.

B.      They are written as the news of Taliban defeat seems too good to be true, when surrender seems imminent.

C.     Many have not only gone out to the desert of today’s readings, rather, many have lived there for years and now are truly dancing in the streets as music and movies, once forbidden, fill their ears and eyes and reflect joy.

D.     Is a new day?  Is the enemy gone?  Have those once crippled by fear now walk upright, those once imprisoned in their own houses now walk free?

E.      Experts in our own government are less optimistic knowing that perhaps the enemy is only regrouping or, if it is a defeat, what shall we say of those of will now lead these people?  What has happened now that the 3rd Sunday is upon us?

II.                    Yet, perhaps it doesn’t matter for the people who dwell in the desert.  As a Catholic priest who has lived there fore some 30 years remind us, the people of Afghanistan have seen it all before.

A.      They have known the invasion of the Russians and the terrible abuse of the people of  the land.   They have known the help of the West in defeating the Russians and also the quick departure of the West once it was over.

B.      They have known the tortuous rule of their own neighborhood war lords taking advantage of their own people for the sake of the profit of a few.

C.     They have know now the signs of hope in the possible defeat of the Taliban and rejoice that some normalcy will return but still wonder if things in the long run will be any different, who and what will fill the gap of power?

III.   So, “what did you go out to the desert to see,” Jesus asks of the crowd and of us?

A.      Did you go to see a reed blowing in the wind, an powerful speaker who recites the current political rhetoric that will make of us winners?

B.      Did you go out to see one clad in the purple of power and celebrity status, one who promises a Messiah who will defeat our enemies and restore our normal way of life?

C.     Yet, is this wild man in the desert, this John the Baptist, the one greater than any one ever born of woman, still so little compared to any who are born into the kingdom of God because the one to come now makes all things new, a radical change is occurring, not a return to normalcy.

D.     Yes, where there was the blindness of fear and prejudice, new light has appeared;  where people stumbled over unforgiven past faults and hurts, people now walk upright in true healing of mind and heart; those who were ostracized as lepers because of some difference of color, creed, sexual or economic status,  receive the welcome touch of friendship…good news has indeed been preached to the poor!

IV.                What will we go out to see in the crib under the tree?

A.  An innocent and sweet child who gently reveals God’s sweet and protective love on the dark and stormy nights of our lives….perhaps that is sufficient.

B.      Or, do go to see a child, although young, still wise enough to defeat our pompous enemies or our fear of death…that too may be enough.

C.     Or, do we prepare to welcome the One who dares to join divinity to our humanity so that all may be radically new, different from any expectation or political victory?

D.     We rejoice because he comes small enough to invade the smallest of hearts and powerful enough to overcome all divisions, all blindness and says of those who follow him: they are greater than John who preached in the desert.

E.      For he comes not to defeat only the evil in our enemy but the evil and fear in our hearts that keeps clinging to false and terribly small kingdoms.

V.                  So, how has the news changed these past few weeks?

A.  Have we been able to walk with less fear, cheer over the defeat of distant evil instead of crying over the death of so many so near by?  One hopes so!

B.      Have we rejoiced because we could fly our flags with great pride and gratitude.. that alone might be a blessing.

C.     Or is our hope and our joy much deeper, founded in Him whom John announced, who has come among us and called us as his own and now nourishes us as his disciples with words of forgiveness, mandates of serving others and food to make us his own Body and witnesses to his kingdom, one reaching beyond tribal boarders or urban skylines?

Homily # 2

Christmas is the time for giving gifts.  We spend hours trying to figure out who should get what.  Then more hours are spent as we shop  for the gifts and, finally, we have to wrap them.  All in all it is a very time consuming process.

Of course, there’s another side of Christmas … receiving gifts!  Most of us don’t spend as much time on this aspect of Christmas.  Our “thank you’s” are sincere but it only takes a moment or two for us to express our appreciation.  As matter of fact, we must be careful not to spend too much time “thanking” one person more than another person for the gift we have received.

The Christmas season is so “commercial” now that we lose much of the real meaning.  The stores have been advertising Christmas merchandise for weeks.  No one seems to consider the religious aspect of the holiday but the national focus seems to be on whether or not Christmas sales this year will be higher than last year.        That has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas.  Celebrating the real Christmas means recalling the greatest gift ever given to the human race  ..  the birth of the Son of God ….. and in giving thanksgiving for that gift.  Would there be meaning of our lives if that event had never occurred?   That’s why it is well for us to pause as we frantically prepare for the holiday and spend some time in thanking God for the many blessings we have received.  His gifts re not tied with ribbon and they can’t be purchased with a  Master Card.  As a matter of fact the price He paid is much too high to be considered in terms of dollars and cents.

One of the greatest gifts we have received from God is His son.  We probably rarely consider thanking those responsible for His birth.  Think about Joseph for a moment. This is a man who finds out his fiancée, Mary, is expecting a child prior to their marriage.  He knows he’s not the father of this child.  However, when he is told the circumstances of this situation, he agrees to marry Mary and agrees to raise the boy, Jesus Christ.

Have we ever taken the time to thank Joseph for the gift he has given all of us …. the gift of being the man who raised, cared for and protected Our Lord.  We often pray to Mary but we seldom think of Joseph.  He certainly deserves his title of  “patron of Fathers.”

Of course, Mary had a bit of a problem also.  When she said, “let it be done to me according to thy word” she had no guarantee of her future.   She had to consider the possibility that Joseph might not marry her.  How, then, would she support a child?

Using hindsight we know that these problems were resolved and, with God’s grace, Mary and Joseph did protect and raise the Child Jesus.  However, it is well that we pause in our hectic preparation for the holidays to consider the difficulties others experienced in preparing for what we now consider a peaceful holiday, a holiday that should include our thanking God for the greatest gift ever given to mankind, His son Jesus Christ.

Also, the recent world events should remind us of how many material blessings and gifts from God  we enjoy every day of our lives.   When the war erupted in  Afghanistan I was shocked to learn how the Taliban leaders treated their subjects, their “fellow citizens”.

Consider for a moment that you are a woman in Afghanistan, either young or old.  As you go shopping at the Mall  for clothes during the Christmas season you might consider the treatment received by these women.  They had to cover their entire body with only a small opening in the cloth for their eyes.  A young girl or a woman in America may worry about the style and color of a particular outfit.  If it’s not exactly right she may be embarrassed while attending a Yuletide party.  Consider, though, that if a Muslim woman isn’t dressed correctly, she can be executed.   Wow!  That’s more drastic than worrying about clashing colors or out of date styles.  We also learned that the male Afghanis could be executed if their beards were not of the proper length.

I mention this to highlight how much has been given to each of us.   What we have has been given as a gift, a gift from God.    We had no control of where we would be born .  Why was I born in the United States and not in other parts of the world where poverty, disease and tyranny are prevalent?  None of us have an answer to that question.  It is not with guilt that we contemplate our good fortune.   What has been given to us is a true “gift”.

And so, I believe that we should pause in our hectic pace of buying gifts, sending cards and preparing for the physical enjoyments of this season.  We should pause and consider that we did not merit our good fortune.   A loving God has bestowed abundant blessings upon us and He expects us to enjoy those blessings and to share them during this time of “peace and goodwill toward others”.   We must pause and reflect upon the source of our many blessings.  In today’s responsorial psalm we read the words of Mary:

My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord
my spirit finds joy in God my savior.
God who is mighty has done great things for me.
HOLY IS HIS NAME!

We should all expess that same sentiment but I think it is important for the young people here to consider the words of Mary.  As a group you have been given more material blessings than any other generation in history.  The blessings do not come without a price because you also face more temptation than any other group of young people in history.  It is important that you pause and give thanks to your God.  It is equally important that you take time to consider what your parents and grandparents have done for you.  You, too, should give serious reflection to the conditions that exist in other parts of the world and thank those who have given you so much.

On Christmas day, when Jesus came into the world, He was totally dependant upon other people.  He blessed Mary and Joseph by having them with Him in Heaven.  You should follow his example and bless and thank those who have cared so lovingly for you.  There’s no better way for you to say, “Merry Christmas”.

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Sermon for The Third Sunday of Advent – Year A
Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:1-10
“The Blind See” – by Fr. Jerry Fuller

READING:  Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:1-10

SERMON :  “The Blind See”

Father Jerry Fuller

a-ad03-2001jf

Each year for the Third Sunday of Advent it is our tradition to have

a Christmas Pageant Service with the Sunday School leading much of

the Service.  We follow it with one text of the day and a brief

homily.  Such a service is found for this day on our “Year A

Sermons”.

The following is a Sermon by the late Rev. Fr. Jerry Fuller, o.m.i.

(padre@TRI-LAKES.NET) of St. William’s Church in Gainesville, MO.

Fr. Jerry shared this sermon with the PRCL-List in December 7th 2001

and gave permission for it to be posted here on December 9th 2001.

It is our prayer that you will find it helpful.  If using elements

of the following in your preaching for Advent 3A, please acknowledge

Fr. Jerry’s contribution in your printed text or notes.

“The Blind See”

Barbara Bartocci was searching for the perfect birthday card for her

husband a few years ago.  She came across a promising one.  On the outside

it read: “Sweetheart, you’re the answer to my prayers.”

Then she turned to the inside, which was inscribed like this: “You’re not

what I prayed for exactly, but apparently you’re the answer.” [i]

For thousands of years, the Jewish people had been praying for a Messiah, a

deliverer who would conquer their enemies and establish a kingdom of

righteousness and might.  Their deliverer would be powerful, a warrior and

a king, and through his power the Jews would again reign in peace and

prosperity.

Then along comes Jesus, a poor carpenter with questionable friends.  He

claims to be the long-awaited Messiah who has come to set up a very

different kind of kingdom.  And so we can forgive even Jesus’ strongest

supporters for asking, “You’re the answer to our prayers? Really?” [ii]

St. John the Baptist had also been praying for and preparing for the

Messiah his whole life.  John had been doing this with a harsh criticism of

the ruling religious establishment and a stern call to penance for the

people.

John’s idea of Jesus was, then, one of a warrior type, someone as we said

above who would, like John, preach fire and brimstone.  John had even said

the coming Messiah would baptize his hearers with the “Holy Spirit and

fire.”

In today’s gospel John is in prison.  Herod had put John in prison for

criticizing him for marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias.  She hated John

even more than her illegitimate husband hated John.

John probably knew his days were numbered.  He was hearing of the conduct

of Jesus, whom he had thought was the Messiah, in preparation for whom he

had given his life.  He had heard, though, that this Messiah, far from

preaching hellfire and brimstone, was doing works of mercy.  John was

confused.  He sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one to

come.

We sometimes have a hard time seeing Jesus in others.  Jesus said he was in

the least of his.  But we have our ideas of whom Jesus should be in, and so

we judge some people worthy of our alms and mercy, and others worthy of

hellfire and damnation.  It’s not easy to see Jesus in our enemy.

It’s like a woman named Marlene Nance who wrote in to Decision Magazine

sometime back.  One day, Nance’s little daughter, Emma, was playing with

her paper dolls.  These were special paper dolls.  They were all Bible

characters.  Suddenly Emma realized that the Jesus character was missing.

Marlene and Emma looked all over the house, but they couldn’t find Jesus

anywhere.

Later that afternoon, Emma came running to her mother with some good news.

She had found Jesus!  He was in one of her Daddy’s magazine.  Emma proudly

held out her new Jesus.  Marlene gasped as she took the picture from Emma’s

hands.  It was a picture of a tall, bearded homeless man dressed in rags.

Because of his long hair and beard, he did resemble Emma’s paper-doll

Jesus.

As Marlene reflected on Jesus’ own words about the poor and powerless, she

agreed that her little girl had found Jesus. [iii]

This story was told before our present crisis in Afghanistan.  What if

little Emma had come running to her mother with a similar picture of a

tall, bearded man with large, lustrous, brown eyes and a handsomely

chiselled face and full lips.  What if she had found a picture of Osama bin

Laden and showed it to her mother, happy that she had found Jesus?

That scenario boggles our mind for it confronts us with an avalanche of

Jesus’ sayings, not least of which is his “Whatever you do to one of these,

the least of mine, you do to me” and “Love your enemies, pray for those who

persecute you and maltreat you” (Mt. 5:44-47).

In response to John’s question, Jesus could simply have said, “Yes, I am

the one.”  He doesn’t do that, but neither does he evade the question.

Jesus does what he so frequently does when asked a question – he throws it

back on the questioner.  This greatest psychologist of all times shows his

understanding of human nature most clearly here.  Anyone who has counselled

knows that there is no easy answer to hopes and doubts.

A psychiatrist once told a story about himself when he had first begun his

practice.  A patient said to him, quite frankly, that she was sure he saw

what her problems were with clarity. She asked him to tell her what they

were and save her a lot of money by cutting short her therapy.  He was so

new to the profession that he did as she asked, at which point she flounced

out of his office, saying, “Well, if that’s what you think of me, I

certainly don’t want to work with you!”

The answer, to be lasting and valid for the questioner, must always come

from inside the questioner, even if Jesus himself is the person answering.

The possibility of salvation for Israel and for us today perhaps seems

remote because we look for the wrong kind of salvation.  Perhaps we all

want a child’s kind of Saviour – a parent who will make things “all better”

without effort on our part.

Or perhaps we want a flashier, more global kind of Saviour, as those did in

Israel who wanted a warrior to throw off the Roman occupation.

Jesus’ answer is different.  Really to hear it, we need to let the answer

to the world’s ills be thrown back to us, as Jesus threw the answer back to

John.

Look and see what a difference it can make in your own life to try the slow

way of change, of taking personal responsibility and living out the

Saviour’s way of life.  We may not be able to perform Jesus’ miracles in

the way he did, but we can work to bring about the prophet’s visions of a

better world, where those in need are ministered to and the good news of a

loving God is made known by word and action.

This is a slower way; its results take time and work. It requires the

patience the epistle of James talks about – the patience of the farmer, who

waits for the crop to grow.  A farmer would be silly to pull up the plants

to see how the roots are doing.  The slow way requires that same patience

of each of us.  James also tells us what we are to do while we wait for the

precious crop – strengthen our hearts for the coming of the Lord, and not

grumble against one another. [iv]

A man came upon a number of cocoons from which moths were emerging.  He

picked up one of the cocoons and saw through the membrane that a living

moth moved.  Noticing that his warm breath upon the cocoon accelerated the

emergence of the moth, the man continued to blow gently upon the cocoon.

The membrane quickly opened, the struggling moth came forth, but not in the

way that the man expected.  The creature’s wings only partially unfolded

while it struggled helplessly.  The man learned that it was foolish to

forcefully take in hand matters which had best wait upon subtle and hidden

powers beyond the powers of one’s own will.

Jesus answered John as God answers us, not as John expected Jesus to answer

him.

So it is in our prayers and our expectations.  We come to Jesus with our

agenda, and he gives us the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus sent John’s disciples back to John with the very quote from Isaiah we

read in the first reading.  Jesus knew John would understand, for John was

the greatest prophet, together with Isaiah, in the Old Testament.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus never directly answered John’s

question: “Are you the expected One or shall we look for someone else?”  He

never gave a  straight “yes” or “no.”  Jesus could have pointed to hundreds

of Biblical prophecies that his life had fulfilled.  He could have

performed some dazzling miracle that would have instantly silenced all of

John’s doubts.  Instead, Jesus announced, “Go and tell John the things

which you hear and see: The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are

cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the

gospel preached to them.”

Why did Jesus choose these particular things to prove his Lordship?  What

does this tell us about his priorities?

These miracles all seem to involve restoration and compassion. Just as they

are today, the deaf, the blind, and the lame were kept outside the

mainstream of society.  They were often forced to beg to support

themselves. Others viewed their disability as a punishment from God.

Lepers were outcasts, unclean, cut off from all social or religious

acceptance.  Jesus didn’t just hear these people – he restored their place

in society.  And Jesus’ restorative powers were never on greater display

than when he brought a dead person back to life.

These answers demonstrate Jesus’ compassion for the least and the lowest.

They remind us that Jesus came for the hurting, helpless, overlooked people

of society.

That’s always a good thing to remember at this time of the year when our

greed and materialism are given free rein.  Don’t confuse our society’s

celebration of Christmas with the character of Jesus.  The two are as

different as day and night.

Lieutenant Gerald Coffee spent seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

During his second Christmas in that rotten hellhole of a camp he made an

amazing discovery.  He ha been stripped of everything by which he measured

his identity: rank, uniform, family, money. And yet, alone in a cramped

three by seven foot cell, he began to understand the meaning of Christmas.

Removed from all commercial distractions, he was able to focus on the

simplicity of Christ’s birth. Although he was lonely and afraid, he

realized that this Christmas could be his most meaningful, because now,

more than ever before, he understood the event.

We can assume that John the Baptist discovered the same thing.  As he sat

in his prison cell, stripped of all the things we think are necessary for

life, he discovered the one most important thing: hope. John glimpsed the

hope that the Messiah had come to set up an eternal kingdom, a kingdom of

justice and mercy, compassion and healing. A kingdom that was for all

people.

No, it wasn’t exactly what the people were praying for.  It was so much

more than that.

During this Christmas season, may we all discover the same hope.

[i] “The unexpected answer” by Barbara Bartocci, Reader’s Digest,

Sept. 1984, pp. 87-88.

[ii] “The unexpected Jesus,” Dynamic Preaching 16 (4): 61-2 (Seven

Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville TN 37922) October,

November, December 2001.

[iii] “Mommy, Jesus is missing!” by Marlene Nance, Decision

Magazine, December 2000, p. 36.

[iv] Jean Dalby Clift, “Pastoral implications,” Lectionary

Homiletics 13 (1): 18-19 (Lectionary Homiletics, Inc., 13540 East

Boundary Road, Building 2, Suite 105, Midlothian, VA 23112) December

2001.

copyright – sermon by Fr. Jerry Fuller 2001

page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild – Spirit Networks, 2001 – 2006

please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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Moments
Ignorance and indifference

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Inquirer
Last updated 03:49:00 12/16/2007

MANILA, Philippines–THE STORY IS TOLD ABOUT A PRIEST WHO started his homily by saying: “Today, I’m going to talk about ignorance and indifference. Anybody has an idea what these are all about?”

A grumpy parishioner blurted out: “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

And the priest said: “That is precisely what I want to talk about today!”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 11, 2-11), we hear of John and his disciples who wanted to know, and who cared enough to want to know, whether Jesus was the one “who is to come,” or whether they should look for another. They were earnest in their search for the truth and zealous in their search for the good and for God. Is truth a value to you? Is goodness of importance in your life? Does God really matter in your life at all?

* * *

“I don’t know and I don’t care.” The meaning of ignorance and indifference comes out more clearly in Tagalog: Hindi ko alam, at wala akong pakialam! This seems to be the attitude that is fast spreading in our present-day society and culture, especially toward values, religion and God.

* * *

It all boils down to values. For some whose value in life is money, truth is just a mere commodity that can be trampled on and manipulated. For some whose primary concern (and value) is money, goodness and godliness are foolishness and plain stupidity. When truth, goodness and God are thrown out, expect morality also to be minimal, if not, zero in a person’s life. Then we have moral bankruptcy. The problem is worse when a morally bankrupt person becomes a leader, surrounded, supported, protected and perpetuated by people made of the same stuff.

* * *

“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” This question underlines the basic right of people to know the truth, and their basic right to choose. Let us exercise these rights. Let us protest when these rights are trampled upon. Let us make sure that we are not fooled, manipulated, used and abused by a few powerful, influential, rich and greedy men and women whose basic value and concern are to make more money, lots and lots of money.

* * *

Excuse my naivete for asking again: How much money does one need to have in this life? How much money does one must have before one says “Enough”? What are the parameters in one’s acquisition for riches and wealth? And the bottom-line question is: For whom, for what?

* * *

Last Dec. 12 which was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I had a “captive” audience in a mass I celebrated at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa. The occasion was organized by the chaplain, Msgr. Robert Olaguer, who has been assigned there for the past 17 years, one week, and seven days already. We were escorted by Monsignor Olaguer’s PSG (Pastoral Security Group). Fatima Soriano touched the hearts of the inmates with her message and songs of hope. Happy to have met a good and dedicated pastor of 19,000 inmates, and happy for the realization that prison is not so much in what is outside us, but in what is inside us.

* * *

I would like to acknowledge the likes of Mayor Joel Payumo who show appreciation for our hardworking teachers. The mayor organized an annual Teacher’s Day and recollection in Dinalupihan, Bataan. Yes, there are a lot of simple, dedicated public servants who continue to serve our people in very hidden ways. Another such public servant is Mayor Marcelo Navarro Jr. of Bani, Pangasinan, who cares for the environment, and who is bringing quality education to the grass roots. May we have more public servants like them, and less of public servants like you-know-who.

* * *

Think about it: A trash can is just an unnoticed and insignificant item for most of us, but for the street children, it is itself a source of life from where one can find the next meal. This Christmas, please be very responsive to the many poor and hungry people around us.

* * *

By the way, many of us have our Christmas wishes. Fine. But please don’t forget to ask also the Birthday Celebrator His birthday wish. Is there anything He is asking from you and me? A bad habit that needs to be given up? A relationship that needs to be healed? A person to love more? Someone to forgive? A blessing to be shared, perhaps? Yes, let’s ask Him, after all, it’s His birthday, remember?

* * *

It’s nine days before Christmas. Think about it: It’s Christmas once again, and we are still alive. It means you and I still have a mission in life. Let us not waste our lives pursuing worldly riches and comforts. Let no one be hurt as we pass by this earth.

* * *

Think about this too: There were people who were with us last Christmas, and are no longer with us this Christmas. And, there are people who are with us this Christmas who may not be with us anymore next Christmas.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me not to be ignorant and indifferent especially when it comes to love. Amen.

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Giving joy, hope this season

Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

The Third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday.”

Gaudete means to rejoice, to be joyful. With the coming of Christ the Messiah, the Sunday tells us to be “joyful in hope.”

When we talk of joy, it does not mean we should be laughing or joking all the time.

* * *

It means that even if we encounter problems, failures and adversities, we don’t allow them to defeat us. We don’t despair but rather find ways to solve them.

For instance, a young man who came from an impoverished family, struggled to study in college and took up computer science.

* * *

He didn’t wallow in self-pity or blamed his parents but work hard to have a small computer shop. Through diligence and perseverance, he was able to add to his sole computer unit to two, then three as his modest profits increased.

Now he has a modestly successful computer business.

* * *

The coming of our Lord brought joy and hope to our world. Not only did He save humankind from sin but concretely gave hope to people by healing the sick, giving the blind new sight, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead to life, and proclaiming the Good News to the poor” (Mt 11:4-5).

The Messiah they were expecting was not a military ruler, one who would use force, or an economic czar but a gentle, loving redeemer.

* * *

From the nature of Christ’s mission flows the nature of our Christian religion.

In a Catholic school wherein a group of social concern students were discussing about what apostolate they would do, some included regular visitation of the local prisoners.

* * *

However, one of them vigorously objected, saying, “Why visit them? They deserve to be there and suffer for the consequences of their crimes.”

One of them replied, “We do not think that way. We live by a Christian attitude.”

And the Christian attitude demands of us acts of charity and compassion.

* * *

Note that when Jesus’ forerunner John the Baptist was asked by the people: “What must we do?”

John puts in concrete terms what Jesus said: Be generous; share your goods with others; be fair; be just; be charitable.

The Baptist’s words couldn’t be more relevant than today when so many people are suffering.

* * *

Yes, let us be thankful to the Lord for our material blessings, good health or for sparing our family from the calamities, but that’s not enough. As Christians, we should translate our gratitude into alleviating the misery of our suffering countrymen.

There are companies and renewal communities this season who bring cheers to indigents and depressed places. Great. God rewards them a hundredfold. We hope we can have more of these.

* * *

ASK YOURSELF: Am I doing something this season to give hope and cheers to people who’re less fortunate than I, like some indigent relatives, helpers and workers?

Do I resolve to reconcile with someone I’m not in talking terms? Likewise, do I resolve to reconcile with God through the Sacrament of Confession?

* * *

As we move closer to Christmas, the real challenge is not so much putting the Christmas spirit of joy and hope into words, but rather putting action into our words.

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ANG SORBETERO NG PASKO: Reflection for 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A – December 16, 2007

Sa lahat ng Simbahan ngayong Linggo ay sisindihan ang kandilang kulay “pink” ng Korona ng Adbiyento.  Sumasagisag sa kaligayahang ating nadarama dahil papalapit na ang pagdiriwang ng Pasko.  Ang tawag sa pagdiriwang natin ngayon ay “Gaudete Sunday”.  Ibig sabihin ay “Magsaya!” Ano nga ba ang nagbibigay sa atin ng kaligayahan tuwing Pasko?  May isang sorbetero na lubos na kinagigigiliwan ng mga bata dahil sa kanyang masarap na ice cream.  Ngunit higit sa ice cream ay ang kanyang pagkamasayahin, magaling siyang mag-entertain sa mga batang kanyang suki!  Minsan sinabi n’ya sa kanila: “Alam n’yo bang ako’y magikero?  Kayang kong gawin ang lahat ng nais n’yo! ” Sabi ng mga bata: “Sige nga po… bigyan n’yo nga kami ng maraming-maraming ice cream na hindi nauubos?”  Nalungkot ang sorbetero.  Sa isang iglap ay naglaho s’ya at nakita ng mga bata ang napakaraming supply ng ice cream sa kanilang harapan.  Masayang-masaya sila!  Nakalimutan ang sorbetero.  Ngunit pagkatapos ng ilang araw ay nalungkot muli sila… parang may kulang!  Hanggang isang araw ay may nakita silang matandang lalaki na malungkot na nakaupo sa daan.  “Bakit po kayo malungkot?  Sino po kayo?”  Biglang may nilabas sa kanyang bulsa ang lalaki, isang maliit na “bell” at pinatunog ito.  Laking pagkatuwa ng mga bata.  Nagbalik sa kanila ang sorbetero! At doon nila naunawaan na ang nagpapasaya sa kanila ay hindi ang ice cream kundi ang sorbetero! Si Jesus ang sorbetero ng Pasko! Akala natin ang mga ice cream ang nagpapasaya sa Pasko!  Masarap na Noche Buena, bagong sapatos at damit, regalo, Christmas party, dekorasyon… Pero lahat ng ito ay parang ice cream na matutunaw! Ang tunay na nagbibigay ng kaligayahan sa Pasko ay ang sorbetero… si Hesus! Siya ang “reason of the season!” May Pasko sapagkat may Diyos na nagmahal sa atin ng  lubos at ibinigay Niya ang Kanyang bugtong na Anak upang iligtas tayo sa pakakaalipin sa kasalanan! Nakakalungkot sapagkat  marami sa atin ang nakakalimot sa pagtanggap sa Kanya.  Naiiwan tayo sa ice cream!  Ngayong “Gaudete Sunday”, hinihikayat tayong pag-isipan kung ano ba ang nagpapaligaya sa atin sa Pasko.  Ilang araw na lang Pasko na… baka nasa ice cream ka pa…

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Word Alive

Joyful despite trials

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

December 10, 2010, 11:08pm

MANILA, Philippines – The message of this 3rd Sunday of Advent, called “Gaudete Sunday,” is joy. Gaudete means “rejoice,” “be joyful.”

That is why the liturgical color of 3rd Advent is pink. Gaudete Sunday tells us to be “joyful in hope” because the Messiah has already redeemed us.

* * *

One might ask: “How can I be joyful when I have serious problems?”

Christian hope means that even if you’ve failed or are feeling hopeless, you don’t allow your problems to defeat you. Hope repels despair, which sometimes results in suicide or escaping from reality through the use of dangerous drugs or alcohol. Do your best and God will do the rest.

* * *

Another message of this Sunday’s gospel is that Christianity demands of us concrete acts of love. When Jesus was asked by one of the followers of John the Baptist, who was imprisoned by King Herod: “Are you the real Messiah?”

Jesus’ reply was: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see; the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor” (Mt 11, 4-5).

* * *

The reply expresses the concrete, tangible signs whereby people will be able to recognize the true Messiah. This is the messianic fulfillment of the prophecy made by Isaiah contained in the first reading (Is 35,6). As followers of Christ, we have the same mission.

* * *

I once took a bus bound for Laoag. In Carmen, Pangasinan, an old, feeble woman boarded the bus, dragging a lot of personal belongings. Hardly had she settled down, when the conductor handed her a ticket. When the woman handed her money, the conductor said, “Lola, that’s not enough; remember this is an aircon bus.”

To which the poor lady replied: “But that’s all I have, young man.” “Then I’ll let you off at the next bus stop because I’ll be charged for the balance,” he curtly said.

* * *

When the bus stopped at Urdaneta, Pangasinan, the poor woman struggled to go down with her belongings.

Just as she was passing down the aisle, one of the passengers, sitting a row away from me, asked what was the problem. The conductor told him about her problem.

To which the man promptly said: “Ako na ang bahala sa balanse (I’ll take care of the balance). Pabalikin mo na siya (Let her return to her seat).”

* * *

I was deeply inspired by the gesture of that good man. However, I felt guilty because, as a priest, I should have been the first to come to her rescue.

I felt like that priest who passed by the half-dead man in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I slid down my seat to cover my embarrassed face. “Oh well, doing good is not only for priests and religious, but also for lay people!” I justified myself.

* * *

A good deed may not be like what that benevolent passenger did. It could be sympathetic listening to a troubled officemate or relative, a sincere praise, a compliment or a kind word, a material help (with no strings attached), condoling with a bereaved family. For a needy bereaved relative, a more practical help might be financial instead of flowers.

* * *

As we move closer to Christmas, let us reach out to our less fortunate brethren. For it is through our works of healing, consoling, uplifting the troubled that we show that we are authentic Christ’s followers.

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Moments
On fire

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:24:00 12/11/2010

Filed Under: Christmas, Religion & Belief

THE STORY is told about a group of firemen who responded and put out the fire in a church. The parish priest found out that the chief fireman was a Catholic, and asked him: “How come I do not see you in church?” His response: “Father, I come to church only if the church is on fire.”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 11, 2-11) Jesus acknowledges John the Baptist as a prophet on fire. John the Baptist teaches us to burn with zeal, and to have passion for the Kingdom of God. Are our hearts on fire as Christmas Day draws near? Are we so burdened by our daily cares, and so engrossed with our material and external preparations, but are so empty and lethargic deep inside?

* * *

Does Christmas still excite you? To us adults, the fire of Christmas, I suppose, is not that radiant anymore as it is to children. But perhaps the question we should raise is: “Does Christmas still incite you?” In other words, does Christmas still move and motivate you, and still give meaning to you? Christmas should incite us to go back to our hearts, there to find God, and to lead us toward greater loving in the here and now.

* * *

Insight will incite us! If we take time to really listen and ponder on the Christmas story, we will really be led to gratitude, conversion and loving action. Please find time to savor “the greatest love story ever told,” and in the silence, in prayerful moments, feel the glow of Christmas once more. In the thick of grind-sparks and flashbulbs, don’t miss the candle glow, especially this Christmas. Take time to reflect, pray and listen.

* * *

Are you a “reed swayed by the wind,” or “someone dressed in fine clothing”? The Lord reminds us today to be persons of substance, and not just of form. We must be strong and firm in our beliefs and convictions. Let us not be for external consumption only. And may our celebration and preparation for Christmas be likewise filled with substance, not just form.

* * *

Fifty-nine-year-old Joop Van Raay, was able to make it all the way from Holland for the funeral of his 99-year-old uncle Fr. Wim Van Kuijk, SVD last December 6. He told us how his missionary uncle was a source of inspiration for his generation. But, alas, he said, the same could not be said anymore of Joop’s children and their generation, for whom, the Church is no longer “on fire.”

* * *

Speaking of fire, for the first time in my 30 years as a priest, I experienced a holocaust moment during a Mass. During the offertory procession at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a bag full of hosts in cellophane wrapper placed beside a lighted candle on the altar caught fire, calling to mind the biblical burnt offerings of old. After it was put out, I asked the congregation what the message might be for us. We all concluded that it was a reminder for the Inquirer to continue to burn with passion, and to remain ablaze with its mission to give “balanced news, and fearless views.”

* * *

May the Inquirer, a de facto truth commission all these years, continue to address burning issues of our time. Inquirer, go for the gold! Thank you, too, Inquirer for helping bring the Healing Eucharist every Sunday all over the world via television through the Filipino Channel (TFC).

* * *

December 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the unborn. May our Blessed Mother guide us in whatever stand we take regarding the Reproductive Health bill that is now pending in Congress. Ask Mama, she will tell you what is wrong and right.

* * *

December 16 marks the beginning of the traditional nine-day novena dawn Masses. Let us offer this beautiful Filipino Christmas devotion for peace in our hearts, in our families, in our country and in the whole world.

* * *

Please make sure that your Christmas preparations revolve around the Nativity scene, not on the activity scene. For those always on the go, go slow. Christmas is not about going fast and doing much. Christmas is about going to the heart and doing everything with love.

* * *

As we prepare for Christmas, I wish you all a heart that is light, a face that is bright, and hands that are not closed tight.

See Today’s Readings:  Cycle A

Back to: Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)

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