11 December 2016

Is Jesus the Savior you're looking for?

3rd Sunday of Advent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

What are we waiting for? Better yet: who are we waiting for? Of course, we're waiting for Christ. Born on Christmas and coming again at the end of the age. We wait for both his birth and his return. But waiting for his birth is the easier of the two b/c we know the day and time of his arrival as an infant from Mary. When will he come again? At the end of the age? We don't know. James says to us, “Be patient, brothers and sisters. . .see how the farmer waits. . .You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm. . .Do not complain. . .Take as an example of hardship and patience. . .the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Patience and hardship. The example of the prophets. That's what we're to do while we wait. Be patient. Endure hardship. Not exactly a cheery Advent message. But probably one we can all stand to hear. John the Baptist, perhaps a bit impatient himself, sends his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” And in his usual way, Jesus gives an unexpected answer: “Go and tell John what you hear and see. . .” Healing, raising the dead, freeing the possessed, preaching to the poor. Is Jesus the Messiah you're looking for? Or are you looking for, waiting for another?

Please don't take offense at the question! I know it's weird to ask a church filled with Catholics if they are looking for a Messiah other than Jesus! But hear me out. The history of the Church is littered with false Messiahs – self-appointed prophets, trendy gurus, and unsavory saviors. And even when no one in the Church is publicly chasing after a personality or a philosophy opposed to Christ, many are still privately putting something or someone on the altar of their heart. Someone or something other than Christ. Who or what are these idols? You've heard them listed all before, no doubt – money, stuff, power, sex, popularity, knowledge, all these things that can be good. . .but they can never be God. None of these can ever be the Messiah. Not your spouse, your children, your job, your friends; not your pastor, your Pope, or your President. None of these is the Christ. And the waiting of Advent, the patience and the endurance of hardship, graces us with all that we need to see and hear the Good News that Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem to the virgin, Mary, is our Savior and King. We are looking for and waiting for no other. Like John the Baptist, we have found and been found by the Only Begotten Son.

Having found him and been found by him, we turn again to our waiting for him to come again at the end of the age. Waiting around patiently and enduring the hardship of living in this world may not seem worth the wait. But if we truly believe that he will sit in judgment of our lives, separating the goats from the sheep, and taking to himself all who remain in his love, then the choice to endure is easy. Jesus asks those who went to listen to John: “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing?” He wants to know why they ran after the Baptist. What were they seeking? “Then why did you go out?” he asks, “To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” They went into the desert to seek out the one who would herald the Christ. Why? Because they know that the Christ will call the unrighteous to repentance and the unjust to justice. He will suffer and die for their sins and see them reconciled with the Father. And on the last day, he will sit as Judge to weigh their convictions and dole out abundant mercy to all who have confessed and turned to him. Whatever impatience makes us angry or anxious or depressed, and whatever hardship we must endure while waiting. . .we wait, and while we wait, we grow in holiness for that last day, that last day before the judgment seat.

The third Sunday of Advent is always called Gaudete Sunday, Rejoice Sunday! All this waiting can be a bit wearing, so the Church gives us one Sunday in the season to lift up our praise and thanksgiving to God for His sending us His Son. This week – make your daily prayer one of rejoicing, giving God thanks for the joy He has brought into your life. Name those blessings. Count the gifts. Raise each one up to Him and pledge its use to His greater glory. Moms and dads, teach your children to give God thanks for you, for their siblings, for their family and friends. Teach them true humility before their Maker, and they will see the spiritual dangers of pride and entitlement. And while we all wait, never forget: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save [us].”

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