Homily for the third Sunday of advent, year A.

Today is the third Sunday of advent, and it is traditionally called ‘gaudete’. The word ‘gaudate’ is a Latin word that translate the opening word for our entrance antiphon this morning; “rejoice”. On this Sunday the Church calls her children to rejoice, to rejoice not because Christ is coming but because he has come.

I am so happy and proud to be a Catholic, not simply because the Catholic Church is the first Church on earth but also because of its organization. The Church is so liturgically organized to lead her children through the mysteries of Christ each year. In this season of advent, our gospel passages in the last two Sundays talked about preparation for the coming of the Lord; today’s passage says he has come, and next Sunday passage will be how he came. This arrangement is not by accident, but intentional to lead us through the mystery of the incarnation and his continues presence in our midst.

The prophet Isaiah says; The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord. Isaiah did not say that the spirit of the Lord will be given to him, he did not say that he will be anointed, neither did he say he will be sent. He rather said that the spirit has been given, he has been anointed and he has been sent. That reflects the message of today; rejoice, gaudate. Rejoice not because Christ is coming, but because he has come; he will not be given, but he has been given. So, St. Paul tells us in our second reading this morning to Be happy all the time; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.

John came, sent by God to bear witness to his presence, and while witnessing, the Jews sent their priests and Levites from Jerusalem to question him. They wanted to know exactly who John was, what he was doing and with which authority. But John refused to tell them his name, he simply declared that he is a voice that cries in the wilderness as Isaiah the prophet prophesied. And when they questioned him further about his baptism, he said; I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.

John tells the Jewish priests and Levites that he who is coming is here already, in their midst unknown to them. The season of advent is not the time for us to wait for Christ to be born, for he will not be born a second time. The season of advent is not just about preparation for Christmas, it is another opportunity the Church offers her children to purify themselves once again and embrace Christ who is in our midst already. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves again of who we are in Christ Jesus.

John did not confuse his identity, he knew who he was. For you, John the Baptist may have been a prophet, and so did many people considered him. But when the priests and Levites asked him, are you a prophet? He answered no. They became confused because, John said he was not the Christ, not Elijah and not a prophet. Who was he then? He was simply a voice that cries in the wilderness: make a straight way for the Lord. He humbled himself before Christ, in humility he surrendered to the authority of Christ Jesus. That is what is expected of us today, to surrender to Christ in humility as we celebrate Christmas.

John did not call himself John, but a voice. As the Church calls us to rejoice today, let us like John the Baptist look beyond our given names, our tribes and colour to see ourselves as witnesses to Christ in the world. We can actually not be true witnesses if we have not witnessed anything, we must know Christ personally to be his witnesses, and that is why John tells us this morning that he is in our midst.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us embrace Christ with our whole life to make our celebration full.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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