Sunday, December 15, 2013

Homily for Today

"The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." [Mt. 11:5] Today's celebration of the Third Sunday of Advent continues to prepare us for the coming of the Lord Jesus among us. During this special time of Advent, we are called to embrace a holy mind so that we may perceive for the benefit of our spiritual growth the true spiritual meaning of the Words of God that we have just heard.

The First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 35:1-6a, 10] echoed the anticipation of God's chosen people. The people believed that God would come and save them from their worldly suffering. To them, God's coming was perceived as a second Exodus.

In their perception of the coming of the promised Messiah, the people visualized a transformation of the physical world where the entire creation would rejoice. They envisioned blooming deserts that would manifest the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. [Is. 35:1-2]

They visualized a revived people under the leadership of an eternal King who would arrive to save them and avenge them. Once more the weak hands and feeble knees would be made strong. Those who are physically blind, they would see again. Those who are deaf, they would hear again. [Is. 35:5]

Today's First Reading and the Gospel of Matthew both mention that "the blind shall see." [Is. 29:18-9, 35:5-6, 61:1; Mt. 11:5; Lk. 7:22] Among the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold of the coming Messiah, there was one outstanding prophecy that would distinguish the promised Messiah from the false prophets. It was His ability to give sight to the blind.

That is why when John the Baptist was in prison and he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one to come or if they had to wait for another, Jesus answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight..." [Mt. 11:2-5] Because the people were worldly minded, Jesus provided physical miracles as a sign that the prophecies were being fulfilled through Him. At the same time, the meaning of the blind receiving their sight did not have just a physical meaning, but also a spiritual meaning. This spiritual insight would come to the people after the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Returning to the First Reading, God's people waited for a Redeemer who would bring them out of their exile, something similar to what was experienced in the Exodus from Egypt. What God was revealing to them was a different Exodus, salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Second Reading from the Letter of James [Jas 5:7-10] reminds us to be patient until the coming of the Lord. In those days, it was the common belief of the people that Jesus would return anytime, "anytime" meaning during the life of the generation that lived in the days of the Lord. [1 Thess. 2:19; 4:15; 2 Thess 2:1, etc.; Mt. 24:3; 2 Pet. 1:16, 3:4, 12; 1 Jn. 2:28] Awaiting the glorious return of the Lord Jesus, some of the faithful had sold everything they owned and gave the money away. Others had quit their jobs and sat around, just waiting.

Regarding this deception, St. Paul told them, "As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way: for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless on is revealed, the one destined for destruction..." [2 Thess. 2:1-3]

While we must be prepared for the coming of the Lord, at the same time, we must not allow ourselves to be deceived by false prophets. For "about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." [Mt. 24:36]

In the meantime, we must bear our crosses by persevering in our suffering, suffering through the ordinary trials of life and suffering through outrageous injustices such as the persecution of Christians. Both have their merits and bless us with graces according to our sufferings. No matter what we suffer, like the farmer who patiently awaits for the earth to produce the precious crops, we too must be extremely patient. May the Lord strengthen our hearts in holiness that we may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of Jesus with all His saints. [1 Thess. 3:13]

While awaiting the coming of the Lord, may our gentleness be known to everyone. For the Lord is near. [Phil. 4:5] May we not neglect to meet together, encourage one another, all the more as we see the Day approaching. [Heb. 10:25] "For yet 'in a very little while the one who is coming will come and will not delay.'" [Hab. 2:3; Heb. 10:37]

In the First Letter of John I read, "Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour." [1 Jn. 2:18] Who are the antichrists? Regarding the Antichrist deception, number 676 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:
"The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the 'intrinsically perverse' political form of a secular messianism."
In other words, when someone claims that Christ is returning to rule for a thousand years on earth, his claim is an Antichrist deception. The eternal Kingdom of God is not of this world. [Jn. 18:36]

The Second Reading reminds us not to grumble against one another, so that we may not be judged. For the Judge is standing at the doors. [Jas. 5:9] These words echo the Words of Jesus, "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." [Mt. 7:1-2]

While we frequently remember the saints and martyrs as our models of suffering and patience, we should not forget the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke in the Most Holy Name of the Lord and who were murdered because of it. [Jas. 5:10; Mt. 23:29-32; Acts 7:52]

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 11:2-11] related the event when John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus. No one is really sure as to why John the Baptist sent the messengers. Was he experiencing a moment of doubt while in prison? Was it because he too was waiting for a worldly kingdom and he was being impatient with Jesus who was taking forever to overthrow the Roman Empire? Surely, hearing in prison what the Messiah was doing, [Mt. 11:2] it must have been confusing for John the Baptist. After all, he had no reason to believe any different than the Jewish people who were awaiting a worldly kingdom.

Jesus was asked, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" [Mt. 11:3] To this He answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." [Mt. 11:4-5]

Let us take a moment to review the spiritual meaning of each part of this response.

(1) "The blind receive their sight." When Jesus spoke of the blind receiving their sight, He was speaking of their enlightment to spiritual matters. We learn this truth from the Holy Bible when the Apostles asked Jesus how come He spoke in parables. To this, Jesus answered, "To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables: in order that they may indeed look but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven." [Mk. 4:10-2] For those who have hardened their hearts, it is not meant for them to understand spiritual things.

(2) The lame walk. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." [Jn. 14:6-7] Without Jesus, we are lame. We fall in all our undertakings. We walk in the darkness. With Jesus, even though we may suffer for a while, we can still walk because we have a blessed hope.

(3) The lepers are cleansed. Leprosy is a symbol of the state of our souls when we live in sin. Covered with horrifying stains, we are not worthy of being in the presence of the Lord. But through the Sacrament of Confession, we can be cleansed. Did Jesus not say to His disciples, "'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" [Jn. 20:21-3]

(4) The deaf hear. As the blind see, the deaf hear. Those who have hardened their hearts, they do not hear anything. This is especially truthful of those who reject the grace of God, therefore sinning against the Holy Spirit. [Lk. 12:10] For them, it is not what God wants. It is what "I want!" They have placed their will above the Divine Will of God. Those who are sincere in their search of eternal life, they hear the voice of the Father in their hearts. And everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, they go to Jesus. [Jn. 6:45]

(5) The dead are raised. The dead are those who have no life in them. They walk the path of darkness. Jesus taught the way that one must follow to obtain the resurrection of life. It is through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." [Jn. 6:53]

(6) The poor have good news brought to them. The poor are the sincere who seek the truth, the way and the life through Jesus Christ. Jesus said to His disciples, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned." [Mk. 15:15-6] Therefore, the poor are also those who are baptized, the Sacrament of Baptism being their admission into the Body of Christ.

Jesus is the Good News, the Light of the world. "The true light, which enlighten everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God." [Jn. 1:9-13]

These were the teachings of Jesus. Those who embrace a spiritual mind, they understand these Words. They submit themselves to the Divine Will of the Lord in obedience and servitude. They are among the blind who have received their sight. For they know the promise of the Lord for those who persevere to the end. "See, I am coming soon; My reward is with Me, to repay according to everyone's work." [Rev. 22:12]

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