REJOICE HE IS NEAR! BUT NOT YET HERE: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

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    My grandmother was one of the most interesting human beings I had so far encountered in life. She was such a humane and awesomely accommodating person. Her door was always open to anyone anytime, any day. As a little child, the best place to visit during holidays was her house. She had welcoming hands, comforting smiles, soothing voice, and a giving heart. She never spanked me or anyone I knew of. Whenever anyone of us (her numerous grandchildren who would always visit from various places) becomes insubordinate or mischievous she would wait till evening to analyze the person’s behavior by means of a story with a corresponding moral lesson.

       My grandmother, Mrs. Janet died when I was just twelve years old (I always wished she lived longer) but most of her stories remain ever relevant till date. She told me a story of how they would wait for their mothers to return from some market place that was miles away from their home. According to her, anyone who intended to go to that market would normally leave very early in the morning by foot in order to make it early to this particular market that only operates every eight days. Towards evening, children whose mothers went to the market would wait at one particular spot along the way to welcome them as they come back. According to her, it used to be a very long and frightening waiting. Children become jubilant and get extremely excited when they see their mothers returning. As some mothers arrive they would encourage the children whose mothers had not arrived to cheer up and rejoice because they would soon come back. Some would even formulate their consoling words like this: “I saw your mother buying akara (bean cake) and agidi (corn-flour pudding)for you, so be happy and rejoice she is on her way coming back!” With these and similar words the children who were expecting their mothers to come back would put smiles on their faces with joy at the news that their mothers were indeed coming back and with gifts. My grandmother would also add that some mothers who had stubborn and disobedient children never came back because of the bad attitudes of those children; hence such children would have to live without a mother! The moral lesson would now be that children should behave well so that their mothers would come back from the market place.

      Today being the 3rd Sunday of advent we hear the loud voice of prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18a) telling the Israelites to rejoice and exult because of the reversal of their hard times and the arrival of their King in their midst. St. Paul writing to the Philippians (4:4-7) asked them to rejoice because the Lord is at hand. This is much like in my grandmother’s story where the children waiting for the arrival of their mothers from the market place were asked to rejoice because they were already close coming home and they are coming with gifts.

      On this 3rd Sunday of Advent we are called to rejoice because we can see the signs indicating the fact that the one we have been preparing and waiting for is indeed very close to us. It is like anticipating a heavy rain by means of the gathering of thick clouds. It is like seeing smoke rising up into the sky which indicates the presence of fire.

        While the first and second readings today expressly tell us to rejoice and exult because the coming of the messiah is near, the gospel reading today (Luke 3:10-18) tells us that he is not yet here. We are thus expected to be doing something before he comes. This means that something must bring about his coming; some things must stand in the gap between now and the time he comes. Those things are contained in the dialogue between John the Baptist and the multitude. In Luke (3:10) The multitude asked John: “what then shall we do?”. The multitude here represents all of us who are preparing and waiting for the coming of the Lord; the multitude represents the human race for whose sake the saviour is coming. We obviously need to be active in our faith, hope and charity before the Lord comes. This can be found in the responses given by John to the multitude. He said: “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food let him do likewise”. Tax collectors came and he gave them the direction to fill the gap (do not collect more that you should). Soldiers came, he also gave them spiritual counsel to fill the gap (do not rob people). The coming of all these people from different backgrounds and professions is an indication of the fact that we all will be judged from our employment or duty. The way and manner you carry out your career or employment will determine your assessment before God. If politicians had come to John, he would have told them play by the rules and fulfill your promises. If people in business had come to John, he would have told them not to exploit people and be fair in their dealings. If married people had come to John, he would have told them live by their marriage vows and let love rule their families. If lawyers had come to him he would have told them to uphold justice and not to distort the truth. If doctors had come to him, he would have told them to preserve lives and not to encourage the destruction of life through abortion. If Priests had gone to John, he would have told them to bring people closer to God through the word and sacraments and not to scare them through selfish interests. We can name as many professions as possible and the possible responses from John the Baptist.

         The saviour is near but not yet here! The world seems to be inattentive to this. It is very unfortunate that Christmas which is supposed to be a religious celebration has turned out to be a platform for commerce and consumerism. People are so much concerned about external preparation and decorations than the needful inner spiritual preparation and waiting. John the Baptist was gracious enough to let us know the way and manner we are expected to prepare and wait. In his words our preparation and waiting should involve not only faith and hope in the coming of the messiah but also charity concretized in our alms giving especially to those who are helpless.

         Actually nobody seems to understand the language of waiting as everyone seems to be in a hurry for the day to come by. For many people like the stubborn children in my grandmother’s story Jesus Christ may not come anywhere close to them because there is no place prepared for him. It thus follows that for him to come, a place should be prepared for him. As we rejoice on account of the fact that his coming is near, let us not forget also that he is coming into our hearts not in Bethlehem anymore. This song composed by Isaac Watt (1719) captures the message of today:

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Have a happy Sunday and a joyful week as we light the 3rd candle.

Fr. Bonnie.

One Comment on “REJOICE HE IS NEAR! BUT NOT YET HERE: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

  1. Pingback: REJOICE HE IS NEAR! BUT NOT YET HERE: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD « frbonnie

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