Mass of the Third Sunday of Advent
14 December 2014
St. Joseph’s Church, 8.30am
My dear friends,
The focus of the readings of this Sunday’s Mass is the Incarnate Jesus Christ. The First Reading reminds us that there were many prophets like Isaiah who had a part in the salvation of mankind. They played their own part in bringing the good news to the people who yearned to hear it in their time. Paul is busy in the second reading telling the Thessalonian’s that they should be happy and grateful for all of God’s gifts to them.
The Gospel Reading itself is like a duet, a common advent happening, between John the Baptist and Jesus himself. There is great excitement and great expectations with the arrival and preaching of John and we find him frantically trying to get it across that he is not the one. He insists that he just came to do the spring cleaning, to get things ready for the greater one who was coming. He is the light and it is he who will scatter the darkness and in bringing salvation to mankind help man and woman to see properly again.
In the Advent Readings there is great interplay between light and darkness. In the desert, the light of day can take its leave with spectacular speed. In our own climate we are more than familiar with the darkness of these times, which leaves the landscape in a poor state to show off its finery. Jesus is identified with the light, and with restoring it to our vision and to our lives. In his teaching, and in the example of his life, he brings to us all kinds of enrichment. It is an enrichment which we can share with others, and which brings peace and harmony to our minds, hearts and to our personal and family life.
I recently read of a young American woman who had just arrived in North Eastern Japan to teach English in a small school. Within her first fifteen minutes of driving in Japan for the first time she rear-ended a car driven by a pregnant Japanese woman, who had to be taken to the hospital. The American teacher, who had to communicate with police through a translator, was terrified. She returned to her apartment, awake all night haunted by countless “what ifs.”
The next morning, the teacher received a message from the woman. She wanted the teacher to know that she and her baby were fine, that she wanted no money, and that she felt very badly for the teacher who was new to the country and had to be so afraid and scared. The relieved teacher was in utter disbelief at such gracious and compassionate forgiveness.
Three months later, a more experienced and cautious teacher was driving to school when a fisherman collided into the side of her car. After the fisherman stammered an apology and offered money, she told him the story of her first accident. She refused to accept any money from him – to accept it would uproot the goodness she had experienced from the young mother three months before. Perhaps, the teacher later thought, this fisherman might someday be wronged through no fault of his own and pass on what she was able to give from what she received : the intangible gift of forgiveness.
The Gospel reading tells us that, “A man came, sent by God. His name was John. He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him.” The real Baptism was to come with Jesus Christ. He was the one to speak for the Father with the authority of being a Son. We could trust that what he brought was authentic. If we took on board his directions, inevitably, our way of living would change, our workplaces and our homes would be transformed. In living the values of our Baptism, the lives of our brothers and sisters would glow in grace, in God’s love. Instead of dragging each other down in our weakness, we could lift each other up in the strength of God’s grace. We could receive and give forgiveness, and be agents of peace and love. We would be enabled to transform our deserts into God’s vineyard of mercy and peace. At this point, the salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ would be fully in action and we would be playing the part in the process envisaged by God for us. As Isaiah put it “the earth makes fresh things grow”, and as Paul concludes “God has called you and he will not fail you”.
+Liam S. MacDaid
14 December 2014