Reflection: Third Sunday of Advent

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

 Mass is conducted in a mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

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[1st Reading – Is.35:1-6,10; Ps.145; 2nd Reading – James 5:7-10; Gospel – Mt.11:2-11]

In today’s Gospel, we are, once again, presented with the person of John the Baptist.  He is in prison.  What he was sent to do, he seems to have accomplished it!  Yet in prison, John continues to prepare the way for the one “who was to come” – this person is Jesus.  John had to make Jesus ‘known’.

In fact, John sends his own disciples to ask Jesus, ‘the Christ’, if he was the one to come or if they were to continue to wait …  John did so after he ‘heard what Christ was doing’.  For John, Jesus is the Christ. But since John could not himself give witness for Jesus because he was in prison, John sent his disciples to do so.  Jesus responds to John’s disciples by sending them back to give evidence of what they had heard and seen.  John continues his ‘purpose’ in life through his disciples, through whom he is still ‘preparing the way for Jesus’: John was the one who had to prepare the way for Christ without having witnessed any of the signs, John’s disciples were those who had direct contact and evidence of the Christ.  They were those who had seen and heard what “Christ was doing”.  And this was exactly what Jesus told them to tell John: “that the blind see again, that the lame walk, that lepers are cleansed, that the deaf hear, that the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor”.  Jesus closes his response by telling John’s disciples that “happy is the man who does not lose faith in the Christ”, that is in Jesus.  These were things that John’s disciples had experienced while being with Jesus – which John was unable to experience, given he was in prison.

At the same time Jesus gave evidence of John.  As soon as John’s messengers left, Jesus began to talk about John the Baptist.  He reminded his listeners what was written “in the scriptures” about John.  Jesus speaks about what John is not: he is not one who wears fine clothes… But then says what John is i.e. a prophet … “and much more than a prophet”.  Yet, although Jesus says that “of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen”, Jesus continues  that “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is”.  How strange for Jesus’ sudden change in tonality.  First Jesus praises John as a great man, but in the same phrase, he adds that the least of those ‘in the kingdom of heaven’ is greater than John.  John’s greatness stems from the fact that he was doing God’s will.  Those who are already in the kingdom of heaven, even the least of them, are already considered greater than John because they are already in the presence of God. They have been found worthy of the presence of God. John still had to pass through the passage of earthly to heavenly life.

John is presented as a model for us all.  We are all called to prepare the way of the Lord.  We are all asked to give evidence of Christ’s presence in our life, even if we have not had his ‘direct’ experience.  We are all asked to give evidence through what we have heard about him even if we are hindered because of some other things …  Let us accept this invitation to be his witnesses!

“Lord, through the ages you have always sent someone to prepare the way for your coming among us.  Help us to realise that we too are asked to prepare ourselves for your presence in us. Thank you Lord!”

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo http://www.stpatrickwaterloo.org.uk/ )

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