Joy from a Solid Relationship with God

3rd Sunday of Advent. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama at St. John Mary Vianney Parish, Trademore, Lugbe. December, 13, 2020

Readings: Is 61:1-2, 10-11; Ps 1:46-50, 53-54; 1 Thess 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

Joy is the central message of our readings today, a joy that comes from a solid relationship with God and His abiding presence in our lives. Mid-way into our journey of Advent, the Church in Philippians 4:4 calls us to “rejoice in the Lord”, because God is about to fulfil His promise to us. There is a clear distinction between joy and pleasure. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength”. Worldly pleasures never guarantee happiness, but resting and trusting in the Lord does.

The first reading is about prophet Isaiah who received from God the mission to announce hope to the broken hearted; joyful news to the afflicted, liberty to captives, etc. (cf. Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus declared in Luke 4:16 that He was the fulfillment of this prophecy, and thereby set for Christians the social agenda for each generation.

The background to Isaiah 61 is the “Year of Jubilee” described in Leviticus 25 during which, all debts were cancelled, lands were returned to the original owners, slaves were set free, and everybody was given a new beginning. This is the “Jubilee experience” that Christmas brings. At Christmas, Christ comes as our Saviour, to set us free from bondage and our spiritual debt to the Lord; empowering us to share in His divinity and to become sons and daughters of God.

The second reading stresses: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Your reason for coming here is to pray. I have come to pray with you and for you, and to ask God to bless the work of your hands, your families, and all you do for the Church. I will also confer the sacrament of confirmation on some of you. Since I arrived, I have been blessing people. During the procession, I was blessing you; before reading the Gospel, I blessed the priest. When the priest said, “A reading from the holy Gospel according to John”, you all blessed yourselves on the forehead, lips and heart, and after the Gospel was read, I used the word of God to bless you. I will bless you when the offertory gifts are brought. I will bless and consecrate the bread and wine; bless you at the end of Mass and bless you as I go back in procession, and you acknowledge the blessings by making the sign of the Cross. May these blessings today bear abundant fruits in your lives.

But as your chief shepherd, I also need blessing and confirmation from you. How can you bless and confirm the Archbishop you may ask? Pray for me and my work and reassure me of your unwavering support. Since your patron is also the patron Saint of priests, kindly pray for us priests to be genuine priests of God, wholeheartedly serving God among you, not as part-time priests, pursuing material things, but living out what we preach.

The Gospel reading shows how John the Baptist’s popularity grew amazingly that some priests and Levites were sent to ask him: “Who are you?” John revealed his identity as a humble forerunner of Christ. In our world today there is so much madness about power, fame and economic prosperity. John the Baptist stands as a true model of a humble leader who serves. How I wish our politicians who do the most uncharitable things to one another in the struggle for power will understand that political power is about truthful and selfless service.

Pope Francis, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed December 8, 2020 until December 8, 2021 as the “Year of St. Joseph”, to honour St. Joseph the husband of Mary and to project him as a great model of humility and service. In his apostolic letter entitled Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), he describes Joseph as a beloved, tender, courageous, obedient and hardworking father who represents the many doctors, nurses, storekeepers, cleaners, caregivers, transport workers, security personnel, parents, volunteers and many others who render essential services in the most discreet and unnoticed ways.

St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist challenge us today to be selfless, truthful and kind. We all have the duty to reflect Christ to those who are hungry, naked, rejected and neglected and to help them to experience Christ’s joy at Christmas.

As Christmas knocks, we say, “Come, Lord, do not delay”. Come to set us free. We await your healing presence. On our part, we must clear the pathway of our hearts. In our world weighed down by unbelief and sin, let us serve the Lord with sincerity of heart, meditate on His word and obey Him and return to His ways. The Lord who comes will renew our strength, and as Isaiah 40:31 says, “You will run and not grow weary…walk and never tire”.

Through our Blessed Mother’s intercession, may you the parish priest, Fr. John Oluoma, and all your parishioners of St. John Mary Vianney Parish, Trademore, Lugbe, enjoy God’s abundant blessings, this season and always.

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