YOU SHALL REJOICE AFTER YOUR SUFFERINGS!
HOMILY READINGS: First: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; Second: James 5:7-10; Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11
Human life is rife with vicissitudes that affect all aspects. However, the prevalence of challenges, misfortunes, sufferings, and failures that many people face in our modern societies, families, and individual lives has caused the majority of them to lose hope in life and even question the existence of God.
Meanwhile, on this Sunday Homily of third Advent, the Universal Church celebrates Gaudete Sunday (Joyous Sunday). It is a special day in which we are reminded of the joy in Christ’s redeeming work among us, which we will commemorate in a few days, on Christmas day. So, in order for us to genuinely experience the inner joy and peace promised to those who embrace Christ in their hearts, we are instructed to properly prepare ourselves for that day. Because in the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11), and with joy, we shall draw water from the Wells of Salvation (Isaiah 12:3), and certainly, the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
While waiting for heavenly emancipation, those who are facing great problems in life are urged to have patience by the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading. He assures them that the advent of the Messianic age would bring about a decisive victory over all illnesses or afflictions, whether they be physical or spiritual, and over all sorts of inhumane treatment and enslavement.
In the Gospel of this Homily of third Advent, Jesus Christ identifies John the Baptist as both a great prophet and the forerunner of the Messiah. Surprisingly, even after John had told his two followers that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and the Lamb of God (John 1:29-36), he was still skeptical when he learned about Christ’s miraculous deeds while he was incarcerated. He was actually expecting a kind of Messiah who would come as a judge and be hard on sinners. Consequently, he sent his followers to inquire of Jesus Christ: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we seek another?” Jesus answered them, “Go, tell John what you see and hear: the crippled walk, the blind receive their sight, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have Good News preached to them (Matthew 2:2-5).
Unfortunately, a lot of people who are passing through hardships in life are constantly uncertain or are living in doubt, much like John the Baptist. In reality, their faith and hope in God Almighty for liberation are actually quite infinitesimal. No amount of preaching seems to assuage them. Even when God is already accomplishing tremendous things in their lives, they may not notice or take cognizance of them. This is because they always expect God to be hard on, or even kill those who had caused them pains. Most times, the reverse seems almost.
Therefore, I bring the Good News of Christ to all of you today: “You shall rejoice after your sufferings,” because no condition is permanent. Certainly, every obstacle, suffering, setback, or sorrow you experience in life has an expiry date; they are ephemeral. Even though sorrow may persist all night, joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
In the second reading, St. James enjoins everyone to patiently wait for the Lord, for the Lord’s time, is always the best. However, he urges us to live in harmony, love, and patience with one another as we wait patiently for Him. We should not give up hope no matter where life’s vicissitudes lead us, since the Lord is always there to assist us at His own perfect time. So, we are urged to rejoice in God Almighty, to have confidence, faith, and hope, and to share the joy of Christ’s arrival with everyone.
Additionally, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish this by demonstrating our genuine love, charity, compassion, justice, tolerance, patience, kindness, forgiveness, etc. to others, even in the midst of our challenges. These attitudes and dispositions as well as going to Confessions frequently are the only fastest ways to gain inner (divine) joy and peace.
Finally my dear brethren, although it may seem like our sorrows are lasting a long time, when Jesus Christ comes into our circumstances, we will experience boundless joy, because the Almighty God loves and cares for us. Our problems in life are transient, and no circumstance is permanent. Therefore, in this Sunday Homily of third Advent and forthcoming Yuletide, when we cultivate the aforementioned attitudes as habits with the help of the Holy Spirit, then joyfully, we will draw spiritual nourishment from the Lord’s Wells of Salvation. This will aid us in obtaining eternal life on the last day.
May the Almighty God, through the Power of His Holy Spirit wipe away your tears and bring joy into your life this Yuletide and always, and also enable you to share the joy of Christ’s arrival with everyone, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.