3rd Sunday of Advent “B” – Fr. Rick Sherman
December 13, 2020
Is. 61:1-2A, 10-11; Ps. LK 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54.; 1 THES 5:16-24; JN 1:6-8, 19-28
I am not the light
I am not the Christ
I am not the prophet (Elijah)
When asked who he was, John the Baptist first assured his inquirers of who he was NOT. Perhaps that is why he had to spend so much time in the wilderness, quite possibly most of the time in some degree of solitude. Lots of time and space in quiet and isolation really helps one to delve more deeply into one’s inner life; into one’s Truth; one’s place of deepest knowing; the place where I AM. All of the facades and masks and pretentions that can become our second nature tend to break down in the quiet of the wilderness. This type of wilderness experience will prepare us for reality and the rest of our lives. We have a new center; a new foundation. Actually, it is the center and foundation that has already been there; since our very conception in the womb.
John finally identifies himself as “…the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” It’s notable that John does not make up his own identity; he doesn’t create his own reality or force himself into his own historical circumstance. His identity and destiny came from God … in the context of the history of salvation… which is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. With this historically-based and God-given identity he lived his life on a strong foundation with a real sense of purpose … even though he doesn’t know the next 10 steps. He knows that he is a man of God, sent by God to do God’s work in the world. John is able to bear up under much suffering and mystery because he has this deep sense of identity.
We have ourselves been going through a type of wilderness experience the past few months. As if life is not complicated enough as it is, now we seem to have even more unknowns and less direction. Perhaps God has given us this period to better know OUR true selves and our real purpose on planet earth and in history. As importantly, maybe this experience has helped us to know who we are NOT. What fantasies or false selves have we possibly needed to let go of? What false securities? The journey into our true selves as individuals, as families and churches and nations can be very scary and truly humbling. But this journey can also be very cleansing and liberating and invigorating. We will be most happy and most at peace when we are most lined up with God’s plan and God’s order.
Today, as mentioned earlier, is Gaudete Sunday. We have lit the rose candle to indicate the time of rejoicing is near. Gaudette means REJOICE! As it happens, it appears that some essential personnel in the US may be receiving the Covid-19 vaccine as early as this weekend. REJOICE!! We actually received some real precipitation this weekend. REJOICE!! Utah beat Colorado! REJOICE!! Arizona State beat Arizona! REJOICE!!! Everything is going to be OK and back to normal real soon!!! Buzzzer!
Well, probably not right away. This time in the wilderness has prepared us for much more than we could ever hope for … if we continue to stay focused on God’s plan for us.
The second reading today from Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians reminds us: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.”
And a few lines later: “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.” (!). This promise is worth the protracted period of mystery and suffering we may have to endure. God sometimes needs to hit our personal and social ‘off switches’ in order to do His work on our deep inner selves. To probe through our false selves to the real us. (See the bulletin for references to the ‘journey into the heart’ – or on the website, Messages from Fr. Rick).
The first reading today from the prophet Isaiah refers to the period just at the end of Israel’s 70-year exile in the Babylonian desert. This long protracted period was necessary for Israel to rediscover and reclaim their true identity and place in God’s plan of salvation. Going back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple, their city and their civilization would not be easy or quick. But now they could rebuild with a stronger foundation which would last until the Messiah came. This is the reason the prophet could proclaim a time of rejoicing even in the face of such challenges. With God again at the center of their hearts, they know they could accomplish all that the God had created them to be.
On this Gaudette Sunday we can know that even if we don’t really return to what we used to think was normal, we will inherit more than we could have ever hoped for. This is God’s promise.
John the Baptist knew that he was not worthy to untie the sandals of the one who was coming after him. Even on this day of rejoicing we should keep praying fervently that we may recognize the one who is coming and know that He mightier than us.