Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent year A 2013
The other day my heart felt like being crushed upon seeing in the Philippine News a footage of a father holding a dead-body of his 2-year old son sitting outside the gate of the House of Charity in Manila. The story was that his son was admitted into the hospital due to vomiting, diarrhoea and high fever. But his son didn’t survive. He died. Knowing that he couldn’t pay the hospital bills and feeling afraid that the hospital might not release the body of his son he sneaked out of the hospital carrying his dead son’s body. That evening he went straight to one Charitable Institution asking help for a decent burial of his son. But he was denied immediate assistance by one of the nuns there. Rather he was told that they could only help him in the morning. So he just sat there outside the gate, leaning against the concrete fence while holding in his arms his dead son wrapped with a red cloth. The father was willing to wait even for the whole night, all because he wanted to have his son buried properly and decently. Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait all night. While sitting there, someone noticed him and reported his situation on the radio. People came to help him and was assured that the city government would shoulder all the funeral expenses. (www.abs-cbnnews.manila)
You might wonder why am I sharing with you this sad story when on this third Sunday of Advent, we are called to rejoice? Please bear with me, because this real life story has a strong bearing with what we are about to celebrate-the Christmas. There is a strong message of Christmas that is expressed in the story mentioned above. And this message is worth rejoicing. And what is this message?
The message is that, God loves us so much that He would do all that it takes and no matter how much it costs him. Such is his love for us that he would do even the seemingly unthinkable, the unreal (in the eyes of the world), and even the ridiculous thing just to get the message across- that he loved us so much. If the father in the story didn’t mind carrying the dead body of his son in order to give him a decent funeral his son deserves, God also didn’t mind carrying us and taking us out of the darkness of our sins, not in order to give us a decent burial but to give us new life, not to give us a decent send-off or parting but to make sharers of his glory. If the father in the story did the unthinkable, God in his great love for us also did the unthinkable- i.e. he emptied himself (of his glory and majesty as the God of all Creation) and assumed the nature of one of his creations.
Such is his love for us. But sometimes we may say: ‘I don’t really experience in my life God loves me in a more real and personal way.’ Sometimes we may doubt God’s presence and involvement in our lives. This is a valid human sentiment, and it’s true. It is certainly true of John the Baptist. In our gospel today, we heard of him sending his disciples to inquire from Jesus if Jesus ‘is the one who is to come, or [they have] to wait for someone else?’ John the Baptist has in a way expressed an element of doubt there, even if earlier, when he first saw Jesus coming towards him, he claimed with such certainty ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’[Jn 1:29]. One lesson we can learn from John. He didn’t let his ‘doubt’ overcome his faith. He was put into prison and that would have been one reason for him to despair. But no. He made the effort to come to Jesus once more and because of this he was given an assurance that Jesus really is the Messiah who is not a political figure but as the Messiah who came to save the poor, and care for the needy. It’s not mentioned in the gospels what was John’s reaction about the answer Jesus gave to his inquiry, but most certainly John stood up his ground- as only a –herald of the messiah, as someone who prepares the way of the Lord. And he died true to his vocation and mission.
We may doubt our faith at times, but like John the Baptist, let us make the effort to come to Jesus, get close to him, and be his personal friend. Only in and through Jesus that we can come to experience the God whose love is so abundant that it overcomes all even our sins. Only in Jesus, that we experience that real and personal relationship with God.
And this realization that God loves us in a more special and personal way is worth rejoicing. When God falls in love, he loves us like there is no other one there to love. As we have heard in the gospel, “the blind see again, the lame walked again, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf could hear, the dead are brought back to life.” This just goes to show that in his love, he not only knows what each one of us needs and deserves, but he really gives it to us. In his love, He doesn’t look at us just as part of a crowd of followers but an individual who is special and unique made in his own image and likeness, just as an artist claims that every piece of art has a certain reflection of his/herself.
To realize (in a more personal way) the love of God for us, as Fr Pat O’Sullivan suggests, is to ‘get in touch with our own unique relationship with the Father.’ And this can be done by asking ourselves: ‘What do I admire most in Jesus? What attracts me most in him? What attracts me most in Jesus is what he is inviting me to be; it is the truest way to experience, and to live out of, my unique relationship with his Father…what attracts me most in Jesus is then the way for me to follow, so that I may experience, more and more, my unique relationship with the Father.’ (Fr Pat O’Sullivan S.J. Sure beats selling cardigans, pp.3-4)
So as we go on with our preparation for Christmas and for the coming of the Lord, let us examine our hearts and see what practical steps are we doing to respond to God’s love for us, and what are we doing to develop that unique and personal relationship with Him?