3rd Sunday of Advent 

Isaiah 61:1-2     1 Thessalonians 5:16-24     John 1:6-8, 19-28

Advent W3Even though this is the Year of Mark, when we read from Saint Mark’s gospel on most Sundays of the year, today we read from the Gospel of Saint John.  Saint John was the Apostle who was closest to the Lord.  He was the one who knew him best, defended him and stood by him to the end.  So, when John speaks of the Lord it is always in deep theological terms.  When John speaks of John the Baptist, he shows him as very much subordinate to the Lord and the one to prepare the way. 

The three ‘no’s’ of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel always remind me of another person, very unlike the Baptist, who infamously said her three ‘no’s’ to peace, hope and joy!  John the Baptist’s ‘I am not the Christ … nor Elijah … nor the Prophet’ lead us to seek out the one whom he is heralding.  John’s mission was always ‘to decrease so that the Lord might increase’.  By definitely ruling himself out of the picture, he rouses the interest of all, in the one whom he is heralding.

On the seven occasions when Jesus identified Himself, his were very positive and hopeful declarations, and, of course, this identification had been prepared by John the Baptist.  Jesus declared himself: ‘I am the Christ’ … ‘I am the Light of the World’ … ’I and the Father are One’ … ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’ …  ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ … ‘I am the Vine’. The ‘Jewish authorities’ of the time had every reason to be curious about John the Baptist.  ‘What is he trying to say?’, ‘Who is he?’ And when he is asked out straight, his response is ‘I am only a witness to speak for the Light’. 

Twelve centuries later the same sort of questions were put to Saint Francis of Assisi.  Francis also had, in a sense, gone out into the wilderness and left behind the trappings of worldly security.  When robbers attacked him and asked ‘who are you?’ he replied ‘I am the herald of the Great King’. John the Baptist and Francis of Assisi were happy to identify themselves in terms of their relationship with Christ and their calling to herald Him as the Light of the World. That was their identity! All of us who have been baptised and identify ourselves as followers of Christ have the same calling.  Would the ‘Jewish authorities’ of our society be curious about us and what we stand for?                                                                                                                                          

The second reading today, from Saint Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, reminds us of the opportunity that is ours at this time to contemplate, to ponder and to wonder at the ‘coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’.  We will remember easily the first of Paul’s exhortations to us; ‘Be Happy’.  But there are seven others and they just as important; ‘Pray constantly’ … ‘for all things give thanks’… ‘’never try to supress the Spirit’ … ‘never treat the gift of prophesy with contempt’ … ‘think before you do anything’ … ‘hold on to what is good’ … ‘avoid every form of evil’. 

Advent is a good time for the renewal of our identity as Christians.  Saint Paul gives us the spiritual tools to live out that calling. 

Let us with Saint Paul, ‘Rejoice always in the Lord’