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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

3rd Sunday Advent B

What is it with all those negatives in today’s Gospel passage? I am not the light. I am not the Messiah. I am not Elijah. I am not the prophet? It has to do with the difficulties that the Church experienced in the beginning. John the Baptist had attracted much attention. He had a following. He was sent from God. The clothes he wore; the food he ate. He baptized with water. He had made waves. His activity was quite visible.

Compare that with the activity of Jesus: less visible, more subtle, attracting less attention. As a result some wondered: who is the real Messiah? Whom should we follow? Against this background the Gospel makes it quite clear that Jesus, not John the Baptist, is the long expected Saviour. Yes, John is important, but then as one who testifies to Jesus as the light. In a later painting by Gr ünewald John the Baptist is pictured with an unusually large index finger. That is John the Baptist all right. He is important, he is great because he points to, he bears witness to Jesus.

Jesus is the one in whom we see the in-breaking of God`s reign in our world. It is captured in the first reading: the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and release to prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord`s favour. That has everything to do with the in-breaking of God`s reign. And that clearly happens in and through Jesus.

Living in the 21 st century we are not faced with the dilemma: whom to give our allegiance to? Jesus or John the Baptist? We don’t bother much with John the Baptist (except then with Jean-Baptist as part of Quebec identity which is not the same as John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus). That is unfortunate, because there is much in John the Baptist that would serve us well, especially when we pay attention to two lines of John the Baptist:

  • “Make straight the way of the Lord.” What is there in me, what is there in our parish community that needs to be corrected, if we really want to make room for the Lord Jesus?


  • There is a question that John the Baptist wrestled with, when later on he sees Jesus at work and when Jesus turns out so very different from the way John had imagined him to be: “Are you for real? Are you the one who is to come or do we have to wait for another one?” What an honest question! But it is also the sort of question that we should not run away from. I might be inclined to re-phrase that question: What do I want this Jesus for? Do I only accept him, welcome him when he serves my purposes? Am I only willing to settle for a domesticated Jesus, a made-to-measure Jesus? Am I also prepared to welcome a Jesus who challenges me, who makes demands on me? That can be a good question to struggle with in the Advent season.

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