Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Are you the one?" | An Advent Identity Crisis

HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT - Gaudete Sunday - December 12, 2010:
Almost everyone has heard of the popular psychological term “identity crisis.” An identity crisis is defined as “a period of psychological 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 this issue.

“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 this Jesus is. John has heard about the works of Jesus and he wants to find out the true identity of Jesus. We have to remember a bit of last Sunday’s Gospel in which John identified Jesus in rather severe, strict and strident 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 a genuine identity crisis. So he asks the identity question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Jesus promptly sets the record and the picture 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 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 just over 10 days away, 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 a mysterious, unapproachable, judgmental and fearsome figure who still carries 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? Most of all, do we see ourselves as poor enough to have Jesus proclaim the good news to us that says we are good because God loves us and not that God loves us only when we are good?

During these final 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-wounds, immensely compassionate, intensely lovable and loving?

As we clearly and sincerely identify Jesus we are also solving any personal identity crisis we may have. For when we know who Jesus is, then we begin to know who we are. 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 last days of Advent convince us that indeed Jesus is the one who is to come, there is no other. Jesus is the one we earnestly desire to come and 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 or Lord. Jesus is enough for us. Jesus is all we need. Jesus is the good news that we who are poor need to hear and then in turn proclaim over and over again – Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

May God give you peace!

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