Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent Identity Crisis

HOMILY FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT (Gaudete Sunday), December 11, 2016:

An “identity crisis” is defined as “a period of distress when a person seeks a clearer sense of self and an acceptable role in society.” Now, although this term didn’t become part of our vocabulary until the 1950s, it’s apparent that today’s Gospel focuses precisely on an identity crisis.

“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” John the Baptist is having an identity crisis, but not about himself, instead it is about Jesus. John wants to know just who Jesus is. John has heard about the works that Jesus has done and wants to find out His true identity. John’s confusion comes because he was expecting something very different in Jesus. We heard it in last week’s where John identified Jesus in very severe and strict terms. John painted a picture of Jesus with a “winnowing fan in his hand,” cleaning up the threshing floor after the harvest, gathering the good wheat into his barn but burning the useless chaff with unquenchable fire. John’s preconceived idea of Jesus was that of a threatening judge and a fiery prophet whose aim is to clean house, shelter the good and get rid of the bad and useless.

But then John starts to hear about Jesus’ actions, what Jesus was doing, what His mission and His message were. And suddenly John had an identity crisis. So he asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Jesus promptly sets the record straight. Jesus had come into the world not to destroy but to save, not to burn but to bless, not to condemn but to commend, not to hurt but to heal – to heal the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf and even the dead. And best of all, Jesus came to give good news to the poor, the very people who only knew the bad, the worse and the worst news.

My friends, with the Advent Season more than half over, with Christmas ever closer, it is time for us to deal with our identity crisis. And like John the Baptist, our identity crisis is focused not on ourselves, not on who we are but rather on Jesus and who He is. Who is this Jesus whose birth we will all too soon celebrate? What do we expect Jesus to be? How do we identify Him? Is He mysterious, unapproachable, judgmental and fearsome, still carrying a winnowing fan and is ready to clean up and clear out the useless, powerless, helpless chaff that we think we are?

Or is this Jesus the loving, forgiving, compassionate, gentle one who still is willing and able to heal the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf and raise the dead, all those whom society considers as so much chaff; who is willing to heal us? Most of all, do we see ourselves as among those Jesus still proclaims the good news that says we are good because God loves us and not that God loves us only when we are good?

During these remaining days of Advent, I encourage you to consider seriously how you identify Jesus. Who exactly is Jesus to you and for you? Is He angry, judge, mystery man, a model impossible to imitate, a faint figure far away and long ago? Or is He your best friend, sharer of all your ups and downs, inspirer to better and greater deeds, healer of heart and mind, immensely compassionate, intensely lovable and loving?

As we clearly identify Jesus once again in our lives, we are also solving any personal identity crisis we may have. For when we know who Jesus is, then we know who we are most clearly. For we become what we receive! We are His body; His is our head. We are His presence in the world today. If the blind are to see, the lame walk, lepers cleansed, the deaf to hear, and the dead raised, it will be because we continue to participate in doing His work in the world with Him! If the poor are to hear and experience the good news then we must be part of bringing it to them. After all, if we don’t bring them the good news, who will?

Let our prayers these Advent days convince us that indeed Jesus is the one who is to come, there is no other. Jesus is the one we earnestly desire to be closer to us, dwell with us and within us, feed us with His own body and blood, lead us to the glory he has prepared and reserved just for us!

Because Jesus is coming and is in fact already here in our midst at this Eucharistic table, we know for sure that we don’t have to look for another Savior, as John the Baptist asked. Jesus is enough for us. Jesus is all we need. Jesus is the good news that we need to hear; He is the good news that we need to proclaim over and over again – Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

May the Lord give you peace!

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