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Homily for the third Sunday of advent, year A

09 Dec 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

the-baptistIn our first reading this morning, we hear the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah’s coming; he calls on the wilderness and the drylands to exult; he calls on the wasteland to rejoice and bloom because our God is coming. That is the reason for the season, the advent season—a call to rejoice and prepare for the coming of the saviour.

John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Lord and calls on every one of us to prepare our hearts to receive him. This same John who preached with all his energy about the coming of the Messiah ended up in prison, and while he was there, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus a surprising question: Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else? This question suggests that John doubted Jesus Christ, and many of us here may be surprised too that John could ask such a question. Many have argued about whether John actually doubted Jesus or not, but John himself says I myself did not know him. Still, for this, I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel…I saw the Spirit descend as a Dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God (Jn. 1:31-34). John, therefore, recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. The Father gave him a sign to help him recognize the Messiah when he comes, and John saw the sign, and he was convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. John even knows that he himself was going to go down while Jesus would increase (Jn. 3:30), so his imprisonment by Herod was not a surprise to him because he knew he was going to go down and that Jesus would rise. But the question some of us may be asking silently even as we are seated here is; if John recognized Jesus as the Messiah who was to come, then why did he send his disciples to ask him if he is the one they’ve been waiting for.

Many scripture scholars are convinced that John did not doubt Jesus, but probably his disciples did. The disciples may have visited John in prison and questioned the identity of Jesus; they may have wondered why the “so-called” powerful Messiah John preached about was not doing anything to release John from prison. So, they may have asked John; are you sure he is the Messiah? And in response, John may have sent them to Jesus to ask the question and hear the answer for themselves. This may sound different from your thinking, but the truth remains that John preached the coming of the Messiah with all confidence; his own disciples heard him preached about this many times and believed truly that the Messiah was coming, but when the Messiah came, many failed to recognize him. And that is the problem with so many today; we easily talk about preparation for Christmas, advent season, but not so many people recognize him or ‘see’ him in our lives at Christmas.

If at the end of the advent season, after all the preparations to celebrate Christmas, and Christ is not born afresh in our hearts, then we would be like John’s disciples who asked; “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?”

It may argue that John himself doubted Jesus Christ and not his disciples, there may be different opinions about this, but the fact remains that John made it into heaven; at least  Jesus said so. He says John would be in heaven even though the least in heaven will be greater than John. If John made it into heaven, then we ask, how? Was it by doubting God or by trusting God? Doubt we know cannot lead anyone to heaven; what leads to heaven is a living faith in Christ Jesus, faith in action. If John made it into heaven, then he had faith in Christ. So, his problem may not have been doubting but impatience. John in prison had heard what Jesus was doing, how he was setting people free from the hands of the enemies, how he manifested his glory and power through healing and deliverance. John probably expected Jesus to come to the prison with the same power and authority to set him free from his captors, he probably waited and waited, but Jesus failed to show up. He had to send a message to Jesus to ask if he has to wait for someone else to save him. Sometimes, we find ourselves in this situation; we see many Christians jumping from one Church to another not because they do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but because they have become impatient with Jesus. That is why James tells us in our second reading this morning to be patient. He says, Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of the farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the springs of rains! You, too, have to be patient; do not lose heart because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Make his path straight; therefore, cover the valley and level every mountain in your lives.
John knew that the Messiah was coming to save the world, but he did not know how he would do that. His idea of the Messiah was completely different from what Jesus turned out to be. John preached in the wilderness that the Messiah was coming, retribution was coming, and that the Messiah was coming with a vengeance, with his ax to cut down every tree that refuses to bear fruit. John’s message was that of violence and vengeance, but when Jesus came, he preached reconciliation and peace. So, Jesus is the prince of peace; let us, therefore, take advantage of this season to prepare properly, not in doubt but in faith, to embrace the peace of Christ at Christmas and in the coming year.

  • waristhis Reply

    Amen. Patience indeed is a virtue.