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Third Sunday,Advent 99,A.Mt:11:2-11

3rd Sunday of Advent-’99

Recent TV images of earthquakes, cyclones and other natural disasters have given us an idea of the immense suffering endured by thousands of people in different parts of the world. We have also seen how much the tiniest of helps in the matter of shelter and food are appreciated by the victims of such colossal disasters. To the suffering any help is of great significance and makes them greatly comforted and strengthened.

It is in a similar context of devastation and helplessness experienced by the Israelites in their exile in Babylon that the prophet sends his message of hope and comfort, telling them that God has anointed him for the special task of bringing healing to the suffering , freedom to the captives, freedom to the captives and dignity and honor to those who are persecuted and calumniated.

The words of the prophet send a fresh breeze of comfort and strength in the hearts of his people hurt by the harsh experiences in exile and by the deprivation of their most cherished access to their temple. The power and the impact of the words of the prophet and his telescopic vision of the future do come to our minds when we find the same words being echoed by Jesus to describe His ministry.

It is no more to a small nation caught in exile and suffering that Jesus addresses those words but to all humanity down through the centuries. To all born in the human race, Jesus announces that He is the Savior who has come to offer them freedom, healing and blessings from God.

Jesus thus reverses the values of the world—it is not the wealthy, the powerful and the successful who are going to be strong but the poor , the humble and suffering because they have Him with them.

This gospel of joy, of freedom, of healing is being proclaimed to each one of us to day. Hence in the midst of our suffering and problems ,we can retain our inner peace and confidence and speak for ourselves the words the prophet has used for the Israelites: I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.”

This feeling of confidence and hope is further strengthened by the words of John the Baptist we heard in today’s Gospel. He was asked whether he was the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet. He said very emphatically: “No.” In spite of all the greatness associated with him ,he was humble enough to acknowledge that he was a lonely voice, a shadow and a forerunner. The power of the Spirit is with the real Light, with Jesus, who is coming after him.

This is the moment for us to move into the world of Light from the world of shadows. How can we testify to the Light, How can we be the children of God? John the Baptist offers us the way by asking us to repent of our sins. If it is our selfishness, arrogance, anger, hatred or pride is the cause of our alienation from God as well as our brethren, this is the moment for us to undergo internal conversion , for a change of heart.

In so many Christian families, there is only a semblance of unity and love. Many live without the Spirit of the Lord in their hearts. It is material accomplishments and conveniences that matter to them. In our neighborhoods and work places, we don’t experience compassion, understanding or the willingness to help or reach out to one another. Efficiency and organization are code words for selfishness and ruthless ambitions.

We make a lot of noise about the new millenium and the Jubilee and try to engage in all kinds of celebrations. But we forget that the real jubilee takes place not in the external fanfare that we make but in our hearts. When we are helpful to a stranger asking for directions, kind to the homeless and see them as our brethren , when we are sensitive to the needs of our colleagues or subordinates, when we reach out and forgive the members of our family or neighbors, when we visit the elderly and help the handicapped , the real celebration of the jubilee is taking place. It is then like John the Baptist, we can testify to the eternal Light which will never allow us to walk in darkness.

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