Reflections on the Readings
Third Sunday of Advent - December 13, 2009 Year C
By Dennis Hankins
...But one mightier than I is coming. (John the Baptist)
On this third Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of Joy. Exactly what is it that we are joyful about today? Since it is still Advent, we might call it joyful expectation. We are in a season of anticipation, and the fulfillment of our joy is soon to come. Much like the anticipation that a woman experiences, who is great with child. The time of birth is near; the child within her will soon be the child who nurses at her breast.
So we rejoice in the Lord, because He is near. Although mightier than John the Baptist, this might, this power of the Lord did not diminish the ministry of John the Baptist. Rather, it fulfilled it. The Baptizer anticipated how he might respond in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. Finally, he explained, "I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals." Such is John's humility in the presence of the fulness of Joy.
May we reflect for a moment, on what 'one mightier than I' means for us? For example, it is important to consider the question 'what would Jesus do?' Taking that thought in a different direction, we should also think about 'who would Jesus be?'
Is our joy based on a weak and anemic understanding of who Jesus is? Or do our thoughts soar with the notion that Jesus' coming is with strength; one who will guard our hearts and our minds in his love. (see Philippians)
John the Baptist, a man's man, a burly sort of guy, makes his lunch out of honey and locusts, sleeping out under the stars of heaven. In the desert, alone with God, his mission in life takes shape and form. The vision of a world filled with God's joy, a world renewed in his love fills his spirit. (see Zephaniah) For John, his life would find fulfillment in who Jesus is. Thus, he did not feel diminished, but fulfilled. Saying, "I must decrease, but he must increase," focuses on what John the Baptist should be, not on what he should do. And focused he was, for he was a voice crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
The light of our joy gives direction to what manner of persons we ought to be. St. Paul today exclaims, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice!" Why? Because it helps us to be the kind of person we ought to be. Because if we will be who we should be, our kindness will be known to all. That's what the Apostle Paul says any way.
Do not be anxious, nor devolve to living by greed, hoarding our extra coats, nor buying more than we need. That's what John the Baptist tells us today. Rather, we should be found rejoicing in the one in whose coming we shall celebrate soon! He is mighty to save. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, helping us to be his face of kindness, his strength of forgiveness, his heart of purity.
"The One who is coming is mightier than I," said the Baptizer. This he proclaimed with great joy. It must be our joy as well, for soon we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he truly is. This is our hope, this is the light of the joy we walk in today. And this holy light guides us to its source: Jesus. For we shall gaze upon him, whose coming urges us to be less of ourselves and more like him.
Shine on 'O great light of joy. Bring us to the fount of all joy, even Jesus. Shine, Jesus, shine through me. From my face, my words, my eyes, my hands, be the light of my life, a light through me for the whole world. Amen.