Third Sunday of Advent A

How Would We Recognize Christ Who Has No Face But Yours and Mine?

Joke: During a fire at a convent, a group of nuns are trapped on the third floor. Thinking quickly, they took off their habits, tied them together and used them as a rope to climb down from the window. After safely reaching the ground, a reporter asks, “Weren’t you worried that the habits would have ripped as you were climbing down? They look old and worn.” “Of course not!” said one of the nuns. “Don’t you know how hard it is to break an old habit?”

Today, the Church continues getting brighter with the three advent candles being lit up, not only to help us see our old habits, but also to signify the increasing level of light that brightens our hearts in waiting for the coming of the Lord. In all of today’s readings, perhaps, the Church helps us in answering the questions: What are we looking for in the day the Lord comes? How do we recognize him when he comes?

In today’s first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, describes God who is the loving God with mercy and compassion towards his people that when he comes, he will “strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared, the lame leap like a stag, [and] the tongue of the dumb will sing.” Have these all been fulfilled when the Lord Jesus came? The Lord Jesus fulfilled all of these, but have the Jews recognized that he is the Lord Jesus Christ? No. The moment he was born, there were not many people who recognized him except for the shepherds and the three wise men. Why did they miss it? Perhaps, they missed it because Christ was born in a manger opposite with what they had learned and expected that he would come in glory and power. The day Christ was born, the sick people were still sick. The poor and the oppressed were still poor and oppressed. The dumb, the deaf, and the blind were still disable to speak, to hear, and to see until the short three years of his ministry that he released their tongues to speak, opened their ears to hear and their eyes to see.

What things were fulfilled that were exactly reported in today’s Gospel? Matthew retold the story of John the Baptist when he heard the works of Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question: “Are you the one who is to come?” John was long waiting for the Messiah to come that was why he asked that question. To fulfill the desire and the long waiting for the Messiah, Jesus told John’s disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” All of these healing actions that Jesus did, the Jews still didn’t recognize him as the Messiah, the Savior, even though they already missed the day He came as a baby lying helplessly in the manger. Their hardened hearts and pride blocked their minds from understanding and their eyes from recognizing that He is the Messiah. To those hardened hearts and sinful prides, Jesus raised a series of three questions to help them understand and believe: First question: “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” What is a reed? A tall, slender-leaved plant of the grass family which symbolized a weak person, according to Webber Dictionary. In other words, did people go out to search for a lifeless and unattractive being that only found its place in the desert? Isn’t that desert what is deep down in our being, all these lifeless and unattractive beings like lying, cheating, stealing, verbally abuse, and many other crooked ways of life that we harbor within us? Have we gone out of ourselves to see these? Second question: “What did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? [But] those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.” In other words, they get so attractive to the earthly materials that somehow blocked their view to recognize the Messiah, the Son of God present in their midst. If we honest ourselves, how many times have we allowed all these earthly materials and desires blocked our vision that we might have to end our relationship, children become strayed, brother and sister hate each other, community is divided, and many more problems occurred? Jesus then raised third question which was more crucial than the first two: “Why did you go out? To see a prophet? Among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Humility is what helps us recognize the face of Christ the Savior. Through this series of three questions, Jesus invites us to humble ourselves to acknowledge the need for God. We are invited to depend on the Lord who so loved us to bring us into the existence. The love of creating us in his image and likeness is important, but it’s more important that He sent His only Begotten Son to us to save us when we distorted the image and likeness of God in us. The question then, how are we able to recognize the Son when he comes again?

To answer this question, Saint James, whose writing is filled with sound teaching and responsible moral behavior, that in today’s second reading, teaches us, “Be patient … Make your hearts firm … Do not complain.” Does it sound familiar to us? What happens when we run out of patience? Haven’t we gotten angry easily, complaining about this and that? When we run out of patience, haven’t we gotten hooked into the sins of pornography, drinking in excess, verbally abusing our loved ones, cheating and lying, stealing and doubting, and many other bad behaviors? We might not be able to recognize our loved ones need us when we run out of patience. We might not be able to recognize that our spouse needs help financially, physically, spiritually or emotionally. We might not be able to recognize the love of our spouse when our hearts become numb because of our old bad habits. Running out of patience, we might not be able to recognize our children’s need when we are so busy to focus on our own individual needs; we might not be able to recognize our children’s need for guidance when they are in need. With all these unrecognized issues and many others, how would we recognize the Lord when he comes? May this increasing light of this third week of Advent lights up in our hearts the light of Christ to be able to recognize others’ needs so to go out of ourselves to help them, especially our loved ones. May this increasing light brightens up our minds, hearts, and souls to clean up what is crooked, cheating, lying, uncharitable, unkind, unloving, hatred, resentment, and many other negative attitudes, so that when the Lord comes, we are able to recognize him and welcome him into our hearts. In coming into our hearts, he will bring true peace and joy to us, so that we are able to share with others that peace and joy, especially to our loved ones. The decision is yours.


Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen

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