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JOHN: RESILIENCE, PAIN AND JOY. A reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sun, 15 Dec 2019

 Readings: Is 35:1-6, 10; Jms 5: 7-10; Mt 11: 2-11.

There is always a rich sentiment of joy – a robust joy and gladness which characterize the third Sunday of Advent. Like Pope Francis would write for us in Laudato, we reckon this Sunday in the Church’s traditional liturgy as Gaudete Sunday.” That is an envisionment of the rejoicing or gladness we have that Jesus’ birth is nearer now as Advent reaches the third week.

Capturing the joy and rejoicing of the third week of Advent, our first reading from prophet Isaiah evokes exultation from all nature. Our second reading from St Paul exhorts rejoicing from all humanity. The Gospel proclaims blessing, asking that we spread the joy which we witness from God’s presence. “Go and tell John,” declares the Lord Jesus, “what you hear and see.” The similarities are striking between the prophecy in Isaiah and fulfillment in Jesus. For, what Isaiah proclaims, Jesus fulfills in the Gospel in the historical experience of the people.

Today, our world and our history are upon us in ways, and manners never thought of before. Who among us could have believed that we will come to the present point where our government - our sons and daughters misgovern us and oppress us in many unthinkable ways. How could it have been possible that our priests, grandparents, and parents are variously abducted from their duty posts, homes, or workplaces and gone forever? Or who could believe these things we see and hear these days about “unidentified gunmen” who entrench fear in the land, charge the by-ways and highways, and open fire on defenseless travelers? When shall we have our Gaudete Sunday as a lived reality or real-time experience of our days?

True gladness comes with creation returning to their divine purposes. This is the vision evoked in Isaiah, but rare as we see the hardship, suffering, and pain in the life of John. Yet, John lived in hope and died a faithful martyr for Christ. May our land yield better fruits, and the flowers grow and blossom again. May the blindness of refusing truth and rejecting instruction give way to the comeliness with which we pride our people? Would that our lame would walk again, our odd lives renew and our blind eyes see. When shall true solidarity, mutual respect, and love flourish once again among us? For these are the signs of the Advent of Christ.

For the many decades of the Church’s missionary presence in Igboland, the third Sunday of Advent continues to point to Jesus Christ as the answer. As Isaiah, Paul, and the other countless chains of Christian witnesses encourage us by the record of their faith-lives, so too, the many sons and daughters of our land tell our story. Recall how many priests who, like John, have paid the supreme price this year. Their lives of joy and pain also share in this mission of Christ among us. This Advent is therefore, our opportunity to be the hands, legs and voice of the prophetic reawakening and apostolic witness. This Advent should mark our resolve to return, now to Christ, with longing hearts so that in return for all our sorrows, God may give us joy.

We can only be the good news to others if our own hands are firmer on the grip, and our hearts are stronger in the faith we profess. We can share in Christ’s gift of joy by refusing to lose our composure in the face of hardships. As surely as we learn from John, the life of faith is hardly an easy one. Right now, we too could be asking the same questions – whether God has gone silent on our worries and hopes?  However, may our hopes be rather seen to conquer our fears, so that like John, we could focus on the larger joy and bigger glory of abiding in God’s will.

Even as we celebrate our rejoicing Sunday surrounded by rumors of uncertainties in the land, may we never sway back and forth as reeds of the marshland. May we remain focused on God’s unfailing promises of redemption. Today, John the Baptist has given us this same example.



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