Homily for the third Sunday of Advent - Year B - Jn. 1:6-8,19-28


by

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 

" There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.


" And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" And he answered, "No." They said to him then, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, `Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said." Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. "





Homily:


" There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. "


The gospel for the third Sunday of Advent is taken from the prologue of Saint John, the first chapter of his gospel. Saint John presents Christ as the true Light that enlightens the conscience of man, which has been darkened by the shadows of sin: "The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world." (Jn. 1:9) John the Baptist was not the light: he was a witness to the light, he was the one sent by God to render testimony to the light of Christ. For the Light of God is too strong and dazzling to be received directly by most people without any preliminary preparation. It was necessary for an intermediary to intervene, in order to prepare the men and women of the world to receive the Light of Christ, the divine light which enlightens consciences by means of faith: "He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him."


This Light of God is something we have all received at one point or another: it is what makes us true believers. Though we do not understand precisely how it came to us, we know that it came through the intermediary of people who spoke to us of God and of his Church: our parents, our friends, our teachers, etc. The light of Christ found witnesses for itself, such as John the Baptist, in order that we, today, might also be faithful witnesses to the Light which shines upon every man who comes into the world. Let us thank the Lord for having placed in our path such witnesses to Christ! If this Light of God has already come to us, but we have not yet welcomed it as we should have, then let us no longer hesitate to do so; let us not wait until this Light manifests itself in our life in a brutal fashion, as it did in the case of Saint Paul, on the road to Damascus: "Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' " (Acts 9:3-4)


" And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Christ.' And they asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the prophet?' And he answered, 'No.' They said to him then, 'Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?' He said, 'I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord," as the prophet Isaiah said.' "


There are people whose true identity we cannot fathom, for these people do not resemble us. These are people who are out of the ordinary, impossible to categorize. They have a personality that is so strong and distinct that we have trouble placing them in any of the usual categories of behaviors or characteristics. Some of these people are proud and lascivious madmen, and others are so infatuated with avarice and cupidity that it seems that they've made a pact with the devil! But there are also those who are not like these perverts: there are also saints, like John the Baptist. If the saints seem so strange and yet so personal, it is not because of their sanctity, which does not of itself render people original and astonishing. Rather, it is because, due to their own mission, their sanctity is called to manifest itself beyond their own selves: their entire person, body and soul, must manifest to the entire world the sanctity of God that is in them!


John the Baptist is not Christ. Nor is he Elijah. However, he resembles them, while fully remaining himself. This is the paradox of sanctity! It is precisely by being himself in a unique and unparalleled way that John the Baptist resembles Christ, Elijah, and all the holy people who preceded him. For Christ is God, and all who are in Christ are one with Him: they are therefore unique, as God, in Christ, is unique. He who is truly holy in Christ resembles Christ as well as all the Saints, while, paradoxically, remaining unique and without equal in this world.


" Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, 'Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?' John answered them, 'I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.' This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. "


" Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, 'Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?' " This is indeed the great question for those who are sent by God: what right do they have to do this or the other? The authority of those sent by God comes from God himself, and not from men who are powerful in this world, even if they are men of the Church. When the powerful of this world listen to the Voice of God, they can easily recognize the authority of those sent by God. Otherwise, they reject it, as they rejected that of John the Baptist, who was beheaded, in prison, for having reproached Herod for his licentious lifestyle. In this, John the Baptist followed in the footsteps of a long line of martyrs for the Will of God who lived under the Old Covenant. And he inaugurated the inexhaustible list of martyrs of the New Law, which includes the names of so many, and stretches into the present; it includes, among others, the unforgettable Joan of Arc, who was betrayed by churchmen of her time...


May Mary, the Most Blessed Mother of God, teach us to be true witnesses to the Light of God, thus accomplishing the Will of God, who calls us to carry on his Son's Mission in the world!




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