Dec 14, 2013

3rd Sunday of Advent: "There he is!"

"The blind regain their sight, the lame walk . . ."

Is 35: 1-6a, 10
2 Jas 5: 7-10
Mt 11: 2-11

Have you ever recalled famous people you may have seen or met such as a President, a Pope, a living Saint, a movie star, a royal couple, a politician or even an infamous criminal?  Most likely you either cried out to someone close to you, “There he (she) is!” or someone called to you, “Look, there they are!”

My earliest recollection of seeing a famous person goes back to when I was just a small boy. My family had taken a trip to the east coast and we found ourselves standing near the White House in Washington, D.C. My father and I happened to be standing together peering through the fencing around the perimeter of the President’s home.  My Dad noticed someone standing far in the distance on the green lawn of the famous mansion with a golf club in hand and putting on a green. 

He said to me, as I looked up to him, “Do you know who that is?” I didn’t of course.  Then, with his arm outstretched and finger pointed he said, “That’s President Eisenhower.” The President was known to practice his putting in public.  I had nothing to go on; only the word of my father that this man was indeed the President of the United States.  I trusted that he was based on the word of my father.    

As we draw close to the Christmas season, our first reading from Isaiah the prophet and the Gospel from Matthew are calling to us – “There he is!” As I did with my father, we have only the word of John the Baptist last Sunday to go on. More fully, this Sunday the word of Jesus himself verifies John’s inquiry, “Are you the one?” by an indication of the signs he was working for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized: “. . .the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them . . .”

Such signs were meant to be proof of the Messiah’s presence; that God has come to visit his people; to make all things new in Christ. As I trusted my Father, so too John’s likely suspicions were confirmed by the word brought back to him in prison – that the one he had baptized was indeed the Christ.   

What other “signs” verify this famous person we have come to know as the Christ? The prophet Isaiah poetically speaks of a springtime event: “. . . the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers . . .” In God all things are made new and this person to come, this Christ, will reshape the relationship between God and humanity in a way that it is new and fresh.  A new perspective on whom God had indeed chosen as his people will bud forth like a new springtime.

The military general, the political figure imagined was not to come with a mission of force and fear.  The Messiah was on a mission of mercy, healing and wholeness.  In that way, all people can feel welcome and included in the salvation that God has brought through his son, whose birth we commemorate in just a week and a half.  This is indeed good news and cause for rejoicing on this Guadate Sunday.

In our parishes and Catholic institutions we see the healing ministry of Jesus continued – hospitals, missions of mercy in war torn and damaged countries, education, and the explosion of ministries of service in our parishes.  We’re not just do gooders. We are ambassadors of the healing and merciful mission of Christ, which is ultimately the mission of the Church.  How much more clearly could our Pope Francis make this evident for us?

Pause for a moment and wonder if indeed someone has pointed this fact out to you and how did you react? You and I are included in this family of Jesus; we stand in his company through our baptism and we feed on his presence in the Eucharist as food for our journey. 

Again, recently Pope Francis stated: “The Eucharist is not food for the perfect but food for the weak.” As we process forward to receive this “medicinal bread” are we in danger of being just too casual about it?  Why not bring our blindness, our uncleanness, our deafness, and our sometimes lackluster attitudes to be healed and renewed by Christ?

In that way, and authentically in that way, we can rightly say to others – “There he is!” Let us pray to fall more deeply in love with Christ, our Lord. 
 O God, who see how your people
faithfully await the feast of our Lord’s Nativity,
enable us, we pray,
to attain the joys of so great a salvation
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
(Collect of 3rd Advent)