Third Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)
Beheading of Saint John the Baptist - by CARAVAGGIO
- from Saint John Museum, La Valletta . . . . .
This is one of Caravaggio's most extraordinary creations, for many it is his
greatest masterpiece. It is characterized by a magical balance of all the parts. It is no accident that the artist brings back into
the painting a precise reference to the setting, placing behind the figures, as a backdrop, the severe, sixteenth century architecture
of the prison building, at the window of which, in a stroke of genius, two figures silently witness the scene.
(click image to enlarge)
Isaiah 35:1-6,10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
God Himself will come and save us. The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of
Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened:
be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you. Then will the eyes of
the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing.
Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet
with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
You also must be patient; do not lose heart, the Lord's coming will be soon. Be patient, my brothers, until the
coming of the Lord. See how the farmer awaits the precious yield of the soil. He looks forward to it patiently while the soil receives the
winter and the spring rains. You too, must be patient. Steady your hearts, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble
against one another, my brothers, lest you be condemned. See! The Judge stands at the gate. As your models in suffering hardships and
in patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
John in prison heard about the works Christ performed, and sent a message through his disciples to ask Him,
"Are you 'He Who is to come' or do we look for another?" In reply, Jesus said to them: "Go back and report to John
what you hear and see: the blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life, and
the poor have the good news preached to them. Blest is the man who finds no stumbling block in Me."
As the messengers set off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out to the wasteland
to see -- a reed swaying in the wind? Tell me, what did you go out to see -- someone luxuriously dressed? Remember, those who dress
luxuriously are to be found in royal palaces. Why then did you go out -- to see a prophet? A prophet indeed, and something more! It is
about this man that Scripture says, 'I send My messenger ahead of You to prepare Your way before You.'
"I solemnly assure you, history has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptizer. Yet the least
born into the kingdom of God is greater than he."
Third Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
"Are You the One Who is to come, or do we look for another?"
As you live out life as a Christian, trying to make the life of
Jesus a reality in your own life, many are going to be observing you. At certain key moments, somebody is going to be looking to
you for help, hope maybe you'll be their salvation, their way out.
Very indirectly, perhaps very quietly, or perhaps quite directly, they might ask you:
ARE YOU THE ONE WHO CAN HELP ME . . . WHO CAN BRING ME SALVATION IN THIS MESS . . . OR DO I LOOK FOR ANOTHER?
You are a Christian. You openly and publicly bear the name of Christ . . .
and you do it for all to see. You identify yourself as a Catholic. You attend Mass . . .
receive the Sacraments. As a result people are going to look at you . . . to examine your actions . . . to
look into your life. And they will ask you certain questions.
You have been Baptized. You have been Confirmed. As we heard
John the Baptist declare in last Sunday's Gospel, he only Baptized with water, but the
One Who is to come would Baptize in the Fire of
the Holy Spirit.
Having been marked with the signs of Baptism
and Confirmation, and having been joined into Christ's Mystical Body
in Holy Communion, the Church now sends you into the world around us. With
Jesus, you are one who is sent. The word "Mass
" is derived from "missa" ,
mission, being sent.
And so as a Baptized and Confirmed Christian, as a representative
of Christ, openly living the Christian life, you will encounter people who will
be looking at you and your life and asking: "Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for
another?" Is your Faith real, is your
Faith true and right, or do we look to another?
John the Baptist asked that question of Jesus because he wasn't so sure about
Jesus. Oh, he had heard reports about Christ. He'd heard rumors about
His miracles, miracles that were done quietly, privately, only for a few
individuals and without any dazzling, public display. John had even baptized Jesus with a
Baptism of repentance, an ancient Jewish religious practice that was
not uncommon. John the Baptist had done that at the beginning of Christ's public life. John was quite sure
about Jesus at that point, telling everyone that he, John, wasn't even worthy to carry
Jesus' sandals. But now? Well . . . he just wasn't so sure anymore. You see Jesus
hadn't as yet liberated the Jews from the yoke of the Romans and their
occupying army. Jesus hadn't vindicated the Jews in front of the whole world, and so John wasn't so sure
that Jesus really was the Messiah, the Savior,
Well, Jesus sent a reply back to John via John's own messengers. Tell him,
Jesus replied, what you see and hear: the blind see once again, the
crippled can now walk, hopeless lepers have skin that is clean once again,
people that couldn't hear can now hear and speak again, dead men are raised back into living again, and men
and women who were without hope now hear good news. And
happy are they who are not disappointed in Me!
What, we must now ask, will be the message others receive about your life and mine? What kind of things are happening in your
life and mine that will give men and women hope? What will answer their insistent call to you:
"Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?"
Each one of us here should be able to give the answer that Jesus gave. People that know us
should be able to see, to have a vision and see what the meaning and purpose of human life is all about. They can dream the dreams that
we dream. There is light in our lives, a light that shines in the
darkness, a light that points to hope, the
hope of eventual victory . . . the hope of the triumph
of good over evil . . . the hope of
peace . . . a light that reveals the presence of salvation
in our lives. The blind, the spiritually blind, in other words, ought to be
able to see God's presence in humanity because of us.
Then there are the crippled. Others can see in us, or ought to see, a person who is actively
doing something about the downtrodden in our world. We have, for instance, the Alternative Christmas Tree
in the back of our church. Through it we are not giving money to some cause or some organized charity.
And please don't misunderstand me - many of those things are noble, very worthy and wonderful organizations. Here, however, we have an
opportunity to directly respond to folks nearby as ones who, in Christ, are sent.
The lepers? All around us there are persons whose skins crawl with self-hatred.
There are those who have been ostracized by others, cast away and left to
shift for themselves. They are the lonely, the socially underdeveloped, the
so-called freaks, and so on. Do we regard them as lepers and refuse to even
get near them, or even breathe the air that they breathe? "
Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another, O Christian?"
And there are the deaf . . . those who can't communicate . . .
those who listen but do not hear. There are those who
don't understand Christianity . . . or Jesus . . . who
have never really heard about Jesus Christ . . . who haven't studied
His personality . . . His character . . . and who would like to. Can you and
I be an answer to their prayers?
And we are sent, finally, to raise the dead back to life again. I
suppose for us it means going to those in our lives who are exhausted, worn out,
dead tired, and giving them the energy of our love . . . giving them the power
of our love, our enthusiasm. It means spending a lot of time and energy on them . . . our own time and lots
of our precious energy . . . helping them to break out of their shell and bring them back into life again. It means giving them
hope . . . something to live for . . . a life full of beauty,
wonder, awe, goodness, and all of those things
that make life really worth living. It means giving good news to those who are near
death and have nothing but bad news because they have
And so, Christian, as Christmas comes to you once again -
Happy are those who are not disappointed in you. You are the one sent by
God into those lives so that they need not look for another!