Fr. Paul MacNeil
December 11 - Deacon Gunther
This 3rd Sunday of Advent is meant to remind us of the joy that the world experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy that we faithful have reached the midpoint of Advent.
And the calendar year 2022 is almost over, with only 3-weeks to go.
Another reminder that the year is almost over is when Time Magazine picks their Person of the Year for the cover of their magazine. Their criterion for this special honour is who had the biggest impact on our world in the past 12 months? But before I share with you the name of the person on the cover of Time this year, I’d like to share some trivia did you know there were 3 Popes that have been named Time Person of the Year? They were Pope St. John XXIII in 1962, Pope St. John Paul II in 1994, and our current Pope Francis in 2013.
So, who would you have picked for 2022 to be on the cover of Time? Well just this week Time Magazine picked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the spirit of Ukraine as 2022’s “Person of the Year” saying he inspired Ukrainians and won global accolades for his courage in resisting a devastating invasion. Time wrote “Zelenskiy’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious. It spread through Ukraine’s political leadership in the first days of the invasion as everyone realized the president had stuck around.”
Now if Time magazine had existed during the time of Jesus, we know who Jesus would have voted for. He clearly tells us in today’s Gospel when he says: “Truly I tell you … among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist”.
Why would that have been? Considering that in just last week’s Gospel we heard about John the Baptist spending time out in the wilderness.
Then suddenly today we find him in prison locked up by King Herod. John … stuck around.
Let’s take a brief refresh of his life. He was the son of Zachary a priest who was told by an Angel that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit. John was a cousin of Jesus. As a Prophet John preached a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many as he prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. John baptized Christ in the Jordan then told his own disciples to follow Jesus. Then he stepped back out of the limelight continuing to live a humble life as a disciple of Jesus. He was imprisoned and eventually beheaded by King Herod giving his life becoming a martyr. Like Time Magazine’s 2018 group of Journalists some of whom lost their lives by “Guarding the Truth”.
John the Baptist had a big impact on the world by dedicating his life to prepare the way for Christ. Pointing others to Jesus the Messiah where they found healing and good news. We too can impact the world by believing in Jesus sharing him with others living a humble life.
By doing those things it makes each of you a Person of the Year a disciple in the eyes of God.
But there is also something heartbreaking about this Gospel passage. John having doubts and losing patience when he doesn’t see results right away. It’s a very human condition that I’m sure we can all relate to.
While in prison John the Baptist hears rumors about the deeds of the Christ. John … who has spent his life preparing the way of the Lord is not even present to witness the great deeds and miracles of the man he has been promoting. Instead, he hears about Jesus’s works from others putting doubts into his mind. John becomes impatient and sends his disciples to Jesus to ask the question: “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?”
This Gospel illustrates the importance of having patience and faith. Jesus sends reassurance to the imprisoned John who then hears first hand of great healing and the Good News being proclaimed. Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah in our first reading: “The blind receive their sight the lame walk the lepers are cleansed the deaf hear the dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them.”
But these words now challenge John’s preconceived idea of the Messiah. John now appears to be a bit disappointed because following the Jewish tradition John believed the Messiah would be a powerful figure who would forcefully overthrow the Romans and establish the Kingdom of God. So, you can see that even prophets have to have great faith and not just believe when they see it with their own eyes. Even prophets struggle to understand God’s will. When we doubt, when we struggle, when we wonder, when we question, we are in good company.
John’s story of his confinement reminds me of the many different ways people can be imprisoned. Even when not locked up. They may not be able to hear the Good News. It could be people living with chronic pain. Those forced into slavery. Those living with uncontrollable addictions. Those living in abusive relationships. Those who live in countries with systems of oppression or war.
I also remember the inmates that are locked up in our Detention Centre, who are not yet able to hold their new born baby. Who could not attend their daughters high school graduation. Who cannot visit their sick or dying mother. Who missed the funeral of their grandfather. They are forced to have patience, forced to wait.
John challenges me to ask: “What-ever my circumstances, how does God call me to live with the freedom I have?” How are we preparing for Christ coming into our lives this Advent? With 2 weeks left before Christmas how are we spending our time and energy? Are we a loving giving compassionate accepting and joyful people?
Remember John’s question? “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?” My friends let it also be our question this Advent. “Are we the one to come forward or are we waiting for someone else to be God’s disciple?”
Ask the question often during this wonderful season. Not to answer it, not to solve it, but to learn how to wait, how to discern, and to wonder. So as to hear God’s amazing answer when it does come.
May God Bless you!