Homily December 11th 2022, Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35, 1-6A.10
James 5, 7-10
Matthew 11, 2-11
Welcome to you all,
In this growing light we see more details of the future that we are waiting for. Christmas celebration is not just about a nice romantic celebration, a comfortable feeling with your friends and family, an intimate atmosphere, where the darkness of the season is put aside by the glimmering lights of the Christmas tree and the candles on your dinner table. These elements are nice and important, but they do not carry the essence of the expectation of the Kingdom of God that we are cherishing in our hearts.
The critical interrogation today by the disciples of John he Baptist to Jesus is inspired by a deep crisis. The Baptist is in prison and facing the possibility of capital punishment. It is despair calling for enlightenment. “Are you the one?” Jesus responds, but He is not justifying his actions and his life. He points at what really is happening with the blind, the paralyzed, the lepers and even the dead: vitality is replacing despair and death. That is also the calling of Christians who bring the name of Jesus into this world. Is their proclamation accompanied by deeds of vitality? Do they bring concrete initiatives of charity and justice? Let us reflect on our personal life and choices.
Brothers and sisters, friends of the Lord.
It happens when you are waiting for the bus: the weather is bad, it is a dark December evening. You are hungry. You want to get home where you find a warm dinner table, a place to relax and to leave behind all anxieties of your daily life, your work, the problems of society. Then the bus or the train has a delay. They announce that they cannot tell you when the bus or train is coming due to an accident. In those situations people often start talking to one another. They spend the waiting time exchanging elements of their personal backgrounds. In my experience it can lead to some extraordinary encounters. I remember one evening many years age stuck in Luxemburg: we had to leave the train and find a hotel. As four students we had to find a cheap solution. We shared dinner and a hotel bedroom. We spent an interesting evening and exchanged our dreams and hopes for the future. I never saw these people from different continents again, but I remember this encounter very well. We were strangers but because of our situation we got acquainted and trusted one another.
When the ordinary is suspended and people find themselves stuck in a extraordinary situation of waiting, they feel more or less insecure. It is possible – not automatically, but definitively it can happen – that people open themselves and search for companions. This helps them to be stronger and to endure the difficulties. Waiting gives the opportunity to see and create new possibilities. They are ignored when people live simply in haste or routine. Waiting can provide a beautiful experience that people can relate in friendship to one another in difficult times.
These four weeks of waiting, this period of advent is created by our catholic liturgical tradition. It is a kind of artificial delay of the train. Of course we know Christmas is coming. We understand that the light of the sun will return and the days will grow in strength and warmth. But we would like that this would come sooner. Especially those of you who are born and raised in warmer countries and used to more comfortable temperatures and more light, are longing for a change of season. We create this period of four weeks not to prolong our waiting or to create a tedious period of suffering, but to create the opportunity to exchange our hopes and to discover together the signs of a new era of joy. Gaudete, Rejoice, is the name of this third Sunday of advent. It is a way to counterbalance the dark messages of war, hostility, violence, inflation, depression and death that seem to dominate our society.
If we really relate to one another, if we really talk about the light that we want to spread to other people, the light will be spread and will grow stronger than darkness. The charitable initiatives of our own communities, our hospitality in our homes and families, the reaching out to other people. All these signs are not mentioned in the newspapers and do not make headlines in social media. We often forget these signs and we forget to share these messages with each other. That is what church community is about: to show each other these signs of light and charity, these moments of hope. Otherwise we resemble the imprisoned John the Baptist. In the biblical passage of today it is told that from the prison of king Herod, he sent his disciples with this urgent question: “Is your presence sign of a new era? Here in the darkness, I cannot understand the project of the Lord, I cannot see that this world will be saved.” We can feel ourselves as John the Baptist: imprisoned by the messages of despair. And what happens then? As James tells in his letter: this despair makes that people attack one another, they feel competition and see each other as enemies.
That is what happens in our world today: the peoples fight one another, they do not build an international companionship. We can respond in our lives by sharing together the experience of charity and vitality. We do not despair but we have the conviction that actions of charity and solidarity will change the world. They will bring the Kingdom. Let us be messengers of these signs, messengers of the growing light. Be yourself a token of hope and joy. Rejoice because God’s presence in our midst will feed us with his Bread. He will feed us with his Spirit. Then this world will not be lost and will not perish. God is coming and he calls us to become his instruments of salvation. I wish you all a fruitful and joyful time of waiting in the remainder of the Advent. Make the light grow on the advent wreath and in you heart. Amen