We live in a world where there is a lot of crave for happiness and security and popularity and fame. To be considered successful in our world, one must show affluence, popularity, brute strength and connection. Unfortunately, we tend to worship the wrong types of heroes, because we have an identity crisis and can hardly understand appreciate the mission we have been saddled with. Prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist in today’s liturgy are very clear about their mission, and this is very much connected to the fact that they understood precisely who they were and hence, what they are called to be and do. Both of them saw themselves as servants, stewards, messengers and witnesses. St. Theresa of Avila believes it is important to know ourselves because “All our trials and disturbances come from not understanding ourselves.” An ancient philosopher once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living”. According to the Philosopher Plato “The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge.”
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say Rejoice!!! The Prophet Isaiah says, “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.” Is 61!
We too have been given the spirit of God. God has done it—and is doing these things—for us: our response should be to live righteously, joyfully and hopefully as those who have been given sight, set free from bondage, received the LORD’s favour. But just as the Spirit anointed the messenger (the prophet first, and then Jesus) to announce this to those in sin, so the Spirit has anointed us as John tells us, making us a kingdom of priests as Peter reminds us, so that we too can proclaim good news to the world. This we do while waiting for the culmination of God’s program for the ages, which will see that great day of vengeance when He comes to set everything right and make all things new.
As God’s servants and by virtue of our Baptism we have been appointed and anointed by God’s Spirit to proclaim God’s message (Isa. 61:1a). We are anointed by God. We are anointed by God to proclaim good news. The proclamation of the Word of God is capable of transforming and should transform our lives and the lives of those who believe and who we come across (Cf. Isa. 61 1b-3).
The good news is that there is hope for the hopeless. The good news is that there is liberty from bondage. The good news is that there is grace for the debtor. The good news is that there is joy in place of sorrow. The good news is that God’s program of redemption fits us for service (Isa. 61:4-11). The good news is that we have been blessed with reconciliation and forgiveness. The good news is that we have been made a kingdom of priests to serve our God. The good news is that we have every reason to praise God.
As God’s servants what are we called to do?
We are called to be preachers, to execute the office of the prophet. How disposed are you to bringing the good news to the poor and to everyone around you? In other to preach the Word, we need to know the Word. Nemo dat quod non habet. St. Jerome says, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. During this season of grace we need to spend more time studying the word of God, and sharing it with others.
We are called to be healers. To bring God’s healing and comfort to those who are infirmed in body, mind and soul. Those whose hearts are broken by sin, those who have known the misfortune of mortal sin and are in need of spiritual and psychological healing. Those who are truly humbled under the sense of guilt and dread of wrath, are furnished in the gospel of Christ with that which will make them easy and silence their fears. Those only who have experienced the pains of a penitential contrition may expect the pleasure of divine cordials and consolations.
We are called to be a deliverer. He shall proclaim liberty to the captives (as Cyrus did to the Jews in captivity) and the opening of the prison to those that were bound. Whereas, by the guilt of sin, we are bound over to the justice of God, are his lawful captives, sold for sin till payment be made of that great debt, Christ lets us know that he has made satisfaction to divine justice for that debt. And whereas, by the dominion of sin in us, we are bound under the power of Satan, sold under sin, Christ lets us know that he has conquered Satan, has destroyed him that had the power of death and his works, and provided for us grace sufficient to enable us to shake off the yoke of sin and to loose ourselves from those bands of our neck. The Son is ready by his Spirit to make us free; and then we shall be free indeed, not only discharged from the miseries of captivity, but advanced to all the immunities and dignities of citizens.
Paul, in the second reading, advises us to “rejoice always” by leading blameless, holy and thankful lives guided by the Holy Spirit, because Christ is faithful to his promise that he will come again to reward us. The selection we read today contains Paul's practical suggestions for anyone trying to be a follower of God: "Do not stifle the spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test everything; retain what is good. Avoid any semblance of evil." He also commands us to "rejoice always and pray without ceasing.” We are to give thanks in all circumstances because that is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. We, who believe in Jesus and have been united with him in his death and Resurrection, should be in a constant state of rejoicing; giving thanks to God for all that He has done for us in Jesus.
The Gospel from Saint John today brings us back to Saint John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a central focus of the Gospel last Sunday and once again is here for us to consider. We should note that John the Baptist is not at all concerned about being considered great or important. His one concern is to point to Jesus Christ: the One who is to come, whose sandal strap he is unworthy to untie. He fully understood who he was and his mission on earth.
The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask John one profound question, which is “Who are you?”(John1:20) John began by stating who he was not. He boldly said, “I am not the Christ.”(John 1:21) John knew there were all kinds of misconceptions in the town and villages about who he was. Apparently, some people already thought that he was the Messiah or Elijah who came back for a second time. The people went further to ask him: “What do you say about yourself” (v.22) and he said to them: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (v.23)
Nobody wants to be a voice, a messenger or a steward to another. On the contrary, most people prefer to be founders, leaders, general overseers and to be the ones totally in-charge and giving out orders and instructions. We are in a world where obsession with self-projection, personality cult and chronic individualism are entrenched deeply in the consciousness of people. We can also serve as messengers of the Light like John the Baptist and stewards of Good News like the Prophet Isaiah. Thus, in this season of advent are called to light up a candle and not be the cause of darkness. We can be messengers of God. The greatest among us must be the one who serves.
Saint John the Baptist is a saint of joy because he points always to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. We also can become people of joy when our lives point to Jesus our Lord. We don’t have to be perfect but we do have to keep pointing the way of the Lord to our brothers and sisters. Just as in the life of John the Baptist, the more we decrease, the more the Lord may increase. It is a challenge for us to live in such a way that we are always witness to the presence of God and God’s love. We need to lead others to God and not away from God. Our every interaction and relationship must pass the litmus test of how close it brings us and others to God.
Today, we need more witnesses, less teachers, less preachers even! While we need a lot of education as far as our faith is concerned, and we need a lot of enlightenment from reliable pastors, the world is wanting in people who will testify to the Way, the Truth, and the Life who is Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Christians should enflesh the teachings of Jesus, profess the truths he proclaimed and witness to, and live the life He lived. The world is tired of preachers, what the world desires are witnesses. Christians had been criticized about not living what Jesus taught. Christianity is seen as a good religion. Unfortunately, the same praise does not apply to Christians. We need to be the first to show that Jesus was right.
We should be glad and rejoice also because, like John the Baptizer, we, too, are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the Light of the world. We are to reflect Jesus’ Light in our lives so that we may radiate it and illuminate the dark lives of others around us. The joyful message of today’s liturgy is clear. The salvation we await with rejoicing will liberate both the individual and the community, and its special focus will be the poor and lowly, not the rich and powerful.
PRAYER - Lord Jesus, make me a herald of your word of truth and grace. Help me to be a faithful witness of the joy of the Gospel and to point others to you as John did through his testimony. AMEN!!!