Tag Archives: 3rd Sunday of Advent

3rd Sunday of Advent A: I Am Not The Christ

Audio homily here:

There’s something about John the Baptist that makes us uneasy. It’s not just the way he dresses or what he eats that disturbs us. He’s in the desert, after all, where you can’t keep up appearances or eat what you want. No, I think what makes us uneasy about John is his unflinching commitment to God. He’s loyal to the mission God gives him, no matter what, even if he has to die for it.

Our reading today from Matthew’s gospel begins in a prison where John’s waiting for death. He was put there by Herod Antipas, the ruler in Galilee, because John had criticized him and Herodias his new wife. It’s a ridiculous story, if you remember it. Criticizing powerful people can cost you your life. But John wasn’t afraid to do that; he spoke the truth no matter who was offended.

Even as he faces death, John doesn’t think of himself. He urges his disciples to look to Jesus and transfer their loyalties to him. “When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”

The film director, Martin Scorcese produced a movie recently based on a novel by the Japanese writer Shusaku Endo called “Silence.” The film and the novel explore the true story of the Jesuit martyrs in 17th century Japan who were put to death by crucifixion along with thousands of Japanese Christians. The story is filled with the doubts and questions they experience in their terrible ordeal. The Jesuit has to deal, above all, with his own pride and self-assurance. The silence is the silence of God, whom the novelist says sits with his arms folded before the suffering of others.

In an interview Scorcese was asked if he thought American Catholics would be able to stand the test of martyrdom. Would we die for what we believe? He said he thought we are too conflicted. We live in a different world, a world fascinated with technology and its promise to solve everything.

I suppose that’s why John the Baptist and stories of martyrs make us uneasy. For some years John preached and baptized in the desert region near the River Jordan. The Messiah is coming, he said. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Prepare the way of the Lord. God is coming to judge us all.

Many responded and believed what he said. Some thought that he himself was the Messiah, but John said no he was not. He wasn’t worthy to tie the sandals of the One who was to come. He was just a voice in the wilderness, he said.

Just a voice, John says. In a commentary, St. Augustine says that  “John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.”

John’s “voice” passes away. He no longer baptizes at the Jordan River. He cedes to the Word who will always speak. He cedes to the Word, and so should we.

Our voice passes away; something of ourselves has to go– some of the things we hold dear, the friends who surround us, institutions that upheld us.  Our way must give way to God’s way. Whether we know it or not we’re all facing martyrdom in different forms. We think so little of this.

Listen again to Augustine:  “What does prepare the way mean, if not be humble in your thoughts? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

“If he had said, ‘I am the Christ,’ you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

“He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.”

Is that how we should look on ourselves too? We were given a lighted candle at our Baptism, symbol of the life God gives us in this world. We were given a voice, some talents to use. It’s up to us let our light shine, to speak as we can, to use our talents as best we can in the time we have here.

Jesus Christ, the Light, Sun of Justice, has come into the world. “I am not the Christ,” we say with John, “He is greater than I.”

A Voice That Passes Away

Spring Lake even

John the Baptist is a voice that passes away, according to St. Augustine:  “John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.”

John’s “voice” passes away. He no longer baptizes at the Jordan River. He cedes to the Word, and so should we. Our voice passes away; something of ourselves has to go– some of the things we hold dear, the friends who surround us,  the institutions that have upheld us.  Our way must give way to  God’s way.

We think so little of this.

Listen again to Augustine:  “What does prepare the way mean, if not be humble in your thoughts? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

“If he had said, “I am the Christ,” you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

“He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.”

3rd Sunday of Advent: Who are You?

To listen to the audio of today’s homily, please select play on the audio bar below:

According to today’s gospel, Jewish officials and Pharisees from Jerusalem sent representatives to John the Baptist as he was baptizing in the Jordan River near Jericho asking “Who are you?” “Are you the Messiah, Elijah, the Prophet?” “Why are you baptizing?”

John the Baptist is an interesting figure in the gospels. He’s a strong figure who knew who he was and who he was not and wasn’t afraid to be the person God wanted him to be. “I’m not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet,” John answers. “I am the voice crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord. ’”

John knew who he was. He could have said he was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Zechariah, John’s father, was a priest in the temple of Jerusalem who surely expected his son to follow him as a priest. That was an important religious role in Judaism which was handed down from father to son.

But John chose a different course. God led him another way. He didn’t follow his father into the temple as a priest. We don’t know when, but John went down to the Jordan Valley where the road ascended to Jerusalem, and preached and baptized the crowds going up to Jerusalem to the temple of the Lord. The clothes he wore, his style of life set him apart from everyone else.

John doesn’t seem to care how he looked or what people thought of him. He certainly didn’t choose an easy place to be, a desert place. There’s a strength and determination in John that later Jesus himself praised.

John was what God called him to be, and he wasn’t afraid to speak the truth. He had a voice for God, even if he sounds at times like a drill sergeant getting people ready for the battle of the last days. He said unpopular things to powerful people and faced the consequences. Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee and Perea, arrested him and put him to death.

Jesus admired John the Baptist for being who he was.

It’s so important to be who we are and who God calls us to be, isn’t it? I suppose that’s one of the graces of our Advent season. It reminds us that Jesus Christ came into this world for a reason, but we are reminded too that we came into this world for a reason. We have our unique gifts and should recognize them. We have been given a voice to speak as God would have us speak, and we should use it.

Who are you? Why are you doing the things you’re doing? Those are wonderful questions. “Who am I? And what am I doing with my life?”

3rd Sunday of Advent

Readings are here.

Knowing who you are is one of the most important tasks we have in this life.

Here’s a homily on John the Baptist  by St. Augustine. He had to distinguish himself from Jesus, the Messiah.

John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever…

Because it is hard to distinguish word from voice, even John himself was thought to be the Christ. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offence to the word.

I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. And the question came: Who are you, then? He replied: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: “I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him.”

What does prepare the way mean, if not “pray well”? What does prepare the way mean, if not “be humble in your thoughts”? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

If he had said, “I am the Christ,” you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.