Third Sunday of Advent (Cycle B)

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St John the Baptist answering the Pharisees - by VERONESE, Paolo - from Galleria Borghese, Rome .  .  . 

The extraordinary beauty of the Venetian fabrics already to be found in the work of Palma Vecchio is brought to unrivaled perfection by Paolo Veronese. In this depiction which heralds the coming of Christ (dimly seen at John's right hand), the figures are wrapped in magnificent oriental silk robes and three are wearing turbans. Their differing reactions to the answers are reflected in their facial expressions. The skillful composition of the painting creates a balance between the weight of the group of figures on the right and the perspective on the left.

 

Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; 1Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

 

Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11

I exult for joy in the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for He has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, So will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

 

1Thessalonians 5:16-24

May you all be kept blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not stifle the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test everything; retain what is good. Avoid any semblance of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness. May you be preserved whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He Who calls us is trustworthy, therefore He will do it.

 

John 1:6-8, 19-28

There was a man named John sent by God, who came as a witness to testify to the light, so that through him all men might believe -- but only to testify to the light, for he himself was not the light.

The testimony John gave when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask "Who are you?" was the absolute statement, "I am not the Messiah." They questioned him further, "Who, then? Elijah?" "I am not Elijah," he answered. "Are you the prophet?" "No," he replied.

Finally they said to him: "Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. What do you have to say for yourself?" He said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, "I am 'a voice in the desert, crying out: make straight the way of the Lord!"'

Those whom the Pharisees had sent proceeded to question him further: "If you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet, why do you baptize?" John answered them: "I baptize with water. There is One among you Whom you do not recognize -- the One Who is to come after me -- the strap of Whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten." This happened in Bethany, across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

 

Third Sunday of Advent (Cycle B)

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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In my younger days I used to watch a television show called "What's My Line?" A mystery guest would answer questions posed by a panel of celebrities who would try to guess what the mystery guest's occupation was, to what the guest's life was dedicated. Their questions would only receive terse "yes" or " no" responses from the guest.

Today's gospel account has John the Baptist answering questions from the experts who are trying to find out just who he is and what he is all about. Who or what does he represent? To Whom or to what is he dedicated? They, of course, fail - and so he tells them simply: "I am a voice ".

Suppose some folks asked you what you are all about? To whom is your life dedicated? To what is your life dedicated? What part do you play in the great scheme of things?

We would all end up being identified as representing something; we are all a voice for something, even though we speak no words at all. Our actions speak louder than our words. Our actions "voice" what we're all about.

Advent is the time of the coming of God into our humanity, into your personal lives, and into mine too. It is that mysterious time of the year when we recognize the tension between what already IS and what is yet to be; between what we ARE and what we CAN BE; between what has been accomplished and what remains unfinished in our enterprise of living.

My mother once told me: "Happiness is something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for." If you and I can live lives dedicated to making the lives of others a little bit better than they once were, if we can find our selves in the center of what is transcendent in life, giving love to the loveless, and being loved in return, and if we can live each day fully in the Presence of Christ, or rather with His Presence reaching and touching others through us, that is no small thing to have happened to any man or woman.

Hopefully, if we were the "Mystery Guest" on some television show we could be identified as Christians, specifically as Catholic Christians. But would there be enough evidence available for people to identify us and know what we are all about as Christians without our having to vocally tell them?

There are things that should identify who we are and what we are as Catholics:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)We are known for attending Mass every Sunday, and perhaps even known to go to daily Masses from time to time.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)We are known to be moral persons, respected for having high standards of ethics, morality and character. There should be plenty of evidence by which others could identify us as persons of principle and goodness in the way we conduct our affairs, our businesses, and in the way we treat others. People should be able to take us at our word, without really needing a contract to enforce our agreements and commitments.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)We are known to be prayerful persons. I don't mean that we ostentatiously pray in public so that we will be seen, but rather that being prayerful persons we have a certain aura about us - an atmosphere surrounding us of serenity and peace - a spirit of peace and calmness that people recognize as coming only from being a deeply prayerful person.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)We have an attitude, a habit of being that is kind, gentle, respectful, sensitive to others, compassionate and caring toward others. We have an attitude that can been seen in the eyes of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, a face that reveals the presence of the heart of Christ, a smile and a tone of voice that can only come from being close to Christ.

Today's Gospel account has John the Baptist answering questions from the religious experts from Jerusalem who are trying to find out just who he is and what he is all about. Who or what does he represent? To Whom or to what is he dedicated? He tells them quite simply: "I am a voice".

Suppose some folks asked you "What's your line?" To Whom is your life dedicated? To what is your life dedicated? What part do you play in the great scheme of things? Would they succeed or fail in identifying what, or rather Whom, you stand for?

 

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