Homily for the third Sunday of Advent  -  Year A  -  Mt. 11:2-11




"Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, «Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?»  And Jesus answered them, «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 offense at me.»

"As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: «What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind?  Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings' houses.  Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is he of whom it is written, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee."  Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.»"



Homily:


"Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, «Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?»"

John the Baptist had been put in jail by Herod:  he did not tolerate John the Baptist's constant reproaches of his licentious life with Herodias, his brother's wife.  But this didn't stop John from carrying out his mission as the precursor of Christ:  he made sure to stay informed about what was going on, and he was kept up-to-date concerning religious current events.  So, after having been informed about Jesus, he sent some of his disciples to question the one who was already so often talked about:  he wanted to know what answer Jesus would give if he was asked whether he was the Messiah.

John the Baptist was familiar with this situation:  he had already been asked whether or not he himself was the Messiah, the great Prophet who was to come into the world.  Even after John the Baptist answered that he was not the Christ (cf. John 1:20), some of the Jews asked him:  "'Are you the prophet?'  And he answered, 'No.'" (John 1:21)  No, John the Baptist was not the awaited Messiah.  And yet, if they asked this question, was it not because he resembled him very much, so much so that the people wondered whether this holy man, this mysterious person, might not be the Christ?  Indeed, John the Baptist was very close to the Messiah, for he was his direct witness, it was he who was called to baptize him in the waters of the Jordan.

Why did John the Baptist resemble the Messiah so much?  Because John the Baptist was there to bear witness to the Messiah, the Light come into the world:  "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." (John 1:6-8)  Now, how could John the Baptist have recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, if he had not borne a resemblance to the Messiah in himself, a resemblance which he could thus intimately know, since it was in him?

John the Baptist was the witness of the Light come into this world.  The Father, he who sent his Son, was also the witness of the Messiah:  the Father and John the Baptist are two witnesses of Christ, one from Heaven, the other from the earth.  Jesus himself spoke openly of these two testimonies, when he said to the Jews:  "If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true;  there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me is true.  You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth." (John 5:31-33)

But to the testimonies of John and the Father, there must be added a third testimony, that of the works which Jesus performed:  "The testimony which I have is greater than that of John:  the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish." (John 5:36) "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves." (John 14:10-11).  That's why Jesus answers John the Baptist's question in this way:  "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."  The works which Jesus performed testify that he is the awaited Messiah!

"«Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.»"

John the Baptist came before Christ.  The believers in Christ come after him.  John the Baptist belongs to the Old Covenant, while Christians belong to the New Covenant.  Therefore, he who has been admitted to the kingdom of the Heaven, the kingdom of the New Covenant, benefits from a certain advantage, one that is completely free and about which he cannot pride himself.  God allowed certain men and women to belong to the Old Covenant, and others to the New Covenant.  But all this is a gift from God: all this is free!

Let us therefore receive, with faith, Jesus in the Eucharist:  let us testify to the coming of the Messiah like John the Baptist did, let us try to resemble him, let us try to become similar to Christ, like John the Baptist!  May Mary, who conceived within herself the Son of God become a man, help us on our way as we bear witness to the Messiah of God!


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