December 15, 2013 – 3rd Sunday of Advent "A"
Is 35,1-6a.10 ; Jc 5,7-10 ; Mt 11,2-11
Ananda Matha Ashram, Kerala, India
H O M I L Y
(Solemn monastic profession of Sister Lucy)
The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as the “Sunday of Joy” (Gaudete Sunday); and the first reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, is an invitation to exult with joy because of all that the Lord is going to do for his people. It is therefore a wonderful day for a solemn profession, in which we celebrate the fact that God has consecrated a person to His service and also the fact that the same person has accepted to consecrate herself to Him in response. Our reason for rejoicing, however, are much greater than what happens to any of us. We all rejoice because Jesus has brought salvation – not only to us but – to the whole people.
When John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him: "Are you the one who is to come or have we to wait for another one?", is John struggling with a moment of darkness and doubt, or, as some pious commentators say, does he simply want to use this means to transfer his disciples to Jesus? The text of the Gospel does not permit us to give a clear answer to that question. In reality, that explanation is not important, because what is at the centre of this narrative is not John with his question but Jesus with his answer.
This is one of the most beautiful pages of the Gospel. The real question is: "When God enters human history, what are the authentic signs of his action? If the kingdom of God has really arrived, what are its authentic manifestations?"
In Jesus's time as in our time, there were several religious manifestations that could legitimately be considered as signs of the presence of God's kingdom: there was the Temple; first of all, there was the Law, the sacrifices, the official worship, the prayers, the fasting, the precepts of the Sabbath, etc.
What is remarkable in Jesus' response is that he does not mention any of these traditional signs of God's presence, as manifestations of the kingdom. He sees such manifestations in events that apparently do not have a religious dimension, profane events that are not mentioned in books of theology.
First of all, we must be attentive to his first words: "Go and tell John what you have heard and seen. What did they hear and see? That people began to be freed from old forms of servitude and were restored to their human dignity. Blind saw again, cripple walked, lepers were healed, deft heard, dead were risen, and the good news was announced to the poor . . . "
Jesus does not make a discourse about liberation. He simply enumerates facts, tangible human realities. He translates in concrete facts what he considers to be the clearest expressions of God's will, of God's kingdom, of the kingdom of human dignity to which every human being has a right.
Where is God's kingdom? One has to be blind not to see it. Where human persons move from less human to more human conditions, there is God's action, there is his Kingdom. All the rest is literature. To hear and to see, says Jesus. If I want to know what type of a Christian I am, the first thing I must do is to see whether my actions help the persons around me to become gradually more liberated from any form of lack of freedom, whether internal or external, from any subtle -- or even not so subtle -- form of oppression.
As Christians, that is, as disciples of Christ, we are called to proclaim the good news. There is no true news, however, without facts. News without a fact is false news, a lie. We have the responsibility to make the Kingdom of God present in today's world, wherever we are. If we proclaim it with words without realizing it with actions, we are liars. This is what Jesus means when he says: "Blessed the one who will not be scandalized about me."
Finally, the last sentence of Jesus: "The most little one in the kingdom of heavens is greater than he" was interpreted by Jesus himself during the Last Supper, shortly before his death, when he invited his disciples not to seek honours, privileges, prestige or power. Only the little ones, the humble ones bring about the Kingdom of God and enter it.
Of course, we know that there is only one human being, smaller than John, and for that reason greater that he was. It is she who could sing: "My soul glorifies the Lord . . . because he has looked upon the humility of his servant."
Mary's example reminds us that if we want to bring freedom to the world, we must bear it first of all in our own existence, becoming "little ones," renouncing our desires for fame, honour, prestige or power.
Dear sister Lucy, Jesus has manifested the presence of his Kingdom in your own life in many ways. One of them is that he has called you to this small monastic community. Not everything has been easy in your long journey in and with that community. There have been moments of sadness, but deep down you always had the joy of hearing a call and, with God’s grace, of being able to answer that call. By joining this way of life you have become a poor, in many ways. And by accepting this fact, through your monastic consecration, you proclaim that the Good News has been announced to the poor and, therefore that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
I therefore invite you to proclaim that Good News, by pronouncing your monastic vows in the hands of your abbess.