The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, from the latin, Rejoice! taken from Phil. 4:4-5 in the entrance antiphon “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, Rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” The rose colored vestment worn by the Priest, the altar draped in a marvelous and lovely hue of pink and in general, a sudden shift in the motif of the church’s environment are powerful symbolisms of sunrise depicting the coming of the Lord shortly, two weeks down the road.
For the past two weeks, we have heard John the Baptist’s previous message setting the tone for an impending destruction and terrifying winnowing process of judgment associated with the arrival of the Messiah which on the contrary, didn’t work as planned. This time he’s in prison for saying something Herod Antipas didn’t like to hear. It seems his career as a Prophet is coming to an end. In a lavish party, Salome would request for John the Baptizer’s head on a platter and that’s it for him.
By this time, Jesus may have already making waves and news about his miraculous works have already spread like wildfire. John’s disciples have certainly heard about him and thought he was an amazing fellow wanting to know who he was but couldn’t tell whether he was the man or not. Part of it was the fact that he didn’t look like the one John advertised. Instead of judgment and destruction, he demonstrated love and healing which appeared to be the most credible piece of evidence. He was humble and ordinary as anyone else and assumed a lowly status, unlike the mighty with all the entourage as expected.
While in prison, his disciples may have paid a visit to check how he was doing. Possibly, in the course of the conversation, this Jesus- fever thing, the so called Jesus sensation may have surfaced. So, to clear all doubts, John sent them to Jesus to get a word of approval if it was really him. As far as he was concerned, there was no doubt in his mind that Jesus was the Messiah. After all, he would never put himself in that position, behind bars and later, facing martyrdom, at the cost of his life for his faith if he weren’t convinced, 100% positive, so to speak, about the truth and consequence of the message.
Off they went to the rough and rugged terrains of the desert plains and without much ado, asked him, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?(Mt. 11:3)“ And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see, the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear and the dead are raised and the poor have the good news preached to them (Mt. 11: 4-5).” Tell him what you see, what you hear, what I’m doing, what’s happening, the deeds and the works are the most sublime evidence that the Messiah has come in your midst. They were desperate to hear a saving message. Maybe, they had some sort of addiction needing assistance from the outside. It’s just like the If someone’s life is in a mess, you don’t offer him/her. The idea of bail out.
The Holy Father Pope Francis was recently chosen by Time Magazine as the 2013 Person of the Year. According to reports, it has to be someone whose life had profound impact in the world. You have to be talked about. In the article, Pope Francis’s simplicity of life was exceptional. When Jesus mentioned to the crowds about the Prophets, Men of God dressed not in fine clothing but in camel’s hair, this is exactly what the Holy Father has shown. Though he ‘s got the most exalted throne and complex job on earth, he makes us think it’s easy by his lifestyle.
If there’s anyone who wants to know Jesus, an intellectual debate is not much needed. Give your life to him, and see what he can do for you and experience his saving and changing and transforming power in spirit, not in argument. As I’ve always reminded the RCIA students, we don’t want to give you the impression that following Christ is all about studying. “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me. (Mt. 11:6)” Don’t feel bad if I told you the truth.
When they left, he pressed on the crowds by asking, “Why did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? (Mt. 11:7)” If someone decides to drive a 100 miles on a given Sunday morning just to listen to an Evangelical preacher, it must be something. In the gospel, he wanted to make sure that they didn’t come to hear a people pleaser, someone who can easily be swayed by other’s opinions, someone gullible, someone who loves to say what the audience want to hear, an entertainer who stays at the surface. It may keep you awake for sometime but its substance doesn’t go far and deep. Maybe, they got tired of the entertainment industry that looks appealing and attractive to a certain degree but no depth. Amen.