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Third Sunday Of Advent (Gaudete Sunday), Year A, By Rev. Fr. Lucas Binnah Junior, C.S.Sp

Rev Fr Lucas Binnah Junior

Homilies & Reflections

Third Sunday Of Advent (Gaudete Sunday), Year A, By Rev. Fr. Lucas Binnah Junior, C.S.Sp

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet
confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright and the determined choice to praise
God in every situation – Rick Warren

First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6a.10/Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 146:6c-7.8-9a.9bc-10 ( Is. 35:4) Second Reading: James 5:7-10 /Gospel Acclamation: cf. Luke 4:18/Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Theme: Give Us Joy To Balance Our Affliction (PSALM 90:15)

Like a single thread that completes a chain loop, so also does the theme of joy run throughout today’s readings to offer us a complete menu for our existence. In simple terms, God is giving us joy to make us joyful! We are told: Gaudete, meaning rejoice in Latin! We are assured: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice! Indeed, the Lord is near” (Phil.4:4). Joy in Hebrew is שמחה) Simcha) and in Greek, χαρα (Chara) derived from the Greek root, charis (grace), which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Thus, joy is produced by the grace of God. It is divine in origin, not human-based. So, we read, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).

We begin with the first reading, where the Prophet Isaiah assures the Israelites that God himself will come and save them. He says: “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you…everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away’” (Is. 35:3-4, 10b). This is a great message of hope; words of encouragement we must endeavour to ponder! It is quite revealing that the pericope from which the first reading is taken, is made up of only seven verses, yet, the words ‘rejoice’ and ‘joy’ appear six (6) times. This is to emphasise how important joy is in our human existence and how God wants us to live in it. Joy is a feeling of inner gladness and delight based on spiritual realities and independent of whatever happens. It is an emotion of great happiness especially of a spiritual and elevated kind.

In this regard, we should not allow anything to take away our joy. There is something special about joy, namely, that it is a fruit of patient endurance! Hence, St. James in the second reading, encourages us to imitate the patience of the farmer. The farmer prepares and cultivates the land. He sows seeds and plants crops. He waits patiently in expectation of harvest time. Herein lies the element of faith, the faith which believes and hopes for things not seen. He depends on nature, on providence, for the rain, sunshine and wind. Even if it delays, he does not give in to despair. We also have been preparing for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas. Our expectation is based on everlasting promises of God, and so James tells us: “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (Jms. 5:8). With him comes joy and peace.

Sometimes, we can grow impatient in waiting. A dust of doubt may settle on our minds. Our zeal may flag and our light grow dim especially when there is a delay. In moments of trial, we feel like giving up on God and on ourselves. All these happened in the life of no less a person than John the Baptist. He is the one who focused the attention of the whole of Israel on Jesus. He says: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). He is arrested and put in prison. All his life, the open environment of the wilderness has been his home. Now, he is confined and this brings him discomfort. In his incarceration, he yearns for rescue. He knows and believes Jesus is the Messiah, yet, perhaps, he entertains doubts in his moment of suffering thinking Jesus is too slow. Or could it be that he grew impatient as he looked up to Jesus to avenge him? So, Jesus sends him a message: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offence at me” (Mt. 11:4- 6). With the works of Jesus enumerated for John, Jesus is reminding him that he is still the Messiah who made those promises at the start of his public ministry (cf. Lk. 4:18-19; Is. 61:1-2). He is doing exactly what the Messiah is supposed to do, and that what John witnessed about him [Jesus] is still valid and true. We too are exhorted: “Let a man never be discouraged in the Church or in any other walk of life, if the dream he has dreamed and for which he has toiled is never worked out before the end of the day” (W. Barclay). Again, Barclay says that: “John preached the gospel of divine holiness with divine destruction; Jesus preached the gospel of divine holiness with divine love. So, Jesus says to John, ‘Maybe I am not doing the things you expected me to do. But the powers of evil are being defeated not by irresistible power, but by unanswerable love.’” Let us not take offence. God is still at work! He sleeps not nor slumbers. He keeps guard over us! (Ps. 121:4-5).

Sometimes, we think that when we live a good life, no problem will come our way. That is a big lie! We must remember that the Cross is at the centre of Christianity! Without it, there is no crown. Be that as it may, that should not lead us to opt for sin. We wait for Christ not in sin, but in holiness. Sin snuffs out our joy and blocks our blessing. Righteousness not only gives joy; it also affords us with the peace even in the midst of the storm. When we prepare ourselves in holiness, we will not be ashamed but joyful in welcoming Christ at Christmas. In our world today, many other things apart from sin, seek to steal away our joy: un-cooperating and cheating spouses, irresponsible parenting, wayward children, domestic abuse, racial abuse, personal crisis, economic crisis, disappointments, failures, joblessness, poverty and corruption, bad habits and addictions, diseases and sicknesses, sufferings and pains, indecent politics and bad governance. These are the things which make us blind, lame, cripple and ‘dead’ sometimes. Yet, the first reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel assure us that God has the power to free us from all of them. Once upon a time, the stars complained to God: why have you surrounded us with darkness, and God said, ‘that you might shine brightly!’ In the midst of all these challenges, we still can find the greatest joy!

Furthermore, to have joy, we must create and foster good relationships with one another. Mutual help, support and encouragement; forgiveness and respect in our homes, workplace, communities and societies engender joy all around us. In the light of this, St. James encourages us: “Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold the judge is standing at the doors” (Jms. 5:9). In the Responsorial Psalm, we hear about the great attributes of God, one who upholds the orphan and the widow, but thwarts the path of the wicked (cf. Ps. 146:9). Are we making things difficult for people around us? Do we genuinely offer help to those who need our attention? Many people are on the path of vengeance and violence. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “If eye for an eye, the whole world would go blind. The question is, how right is our relationship with others? How can I nurture and sustain the joy God gives me today and always? The best preparation which brings unquenchable joy is to live close to Christ every day and make others encounter Christ’s love. God is still working not according to human standards, but his own eternal plan. Let us allow God to be God, trust in him always, and our joy will never fade. So, let us pause for a while today and accept the joy God’s word brings to us, remembering that the joy of the Lord is our strength (cf. Neh. 8:10). Take a moment to smile, laugh and de-stress yourself. Take a moment to breathe deeply. Take a moment to feel God’s presence, enjoying his loving embrace. May God restore all our joy and put smiles on our faces. Happy Gaudete Sunday! In spite of all the difficulties, let us remember to pray: #Give-Us-Joy-To-Balance-Our-Affliction#

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