Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

"Make Straight the Way of the Lord"
Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
December 11, 2011
Year B

A priest was praying his breviary on the small porch of his mission home in India. A passing Indian, not a Christian, paused to talk for a moment. During the conversation a holy card dropped from the priest's prayer book. The visitor picked it up, looked at it, and asked what it meant. It was Holman Hunt's picture of Christ standing outside a closed door. The priest explained that it was Jesus, the Lord of the world, and that he was waiting for someone to open the door from the inside so that he could enter. Briefly the priest explained that Christ does not force himself upon anyone but waits for the individual to open the door willingly to him. A few months later, in the beginning of the winter season, the priest was traveling to one of his mission churches. It was a cold, snowy day with the wind blowing at a strong gale. As he passed a certain hut, he noticed the door standing wide open. He thought it was strange; maybe someone was in need or distress. He went over to investigate. It was the home of the man who had seen his picture of Christ. “Why do you keep your door open on such a cold day?” asked the priest. “It is really cold,” said the man, “but I thought that maybe your Jesus would go by, and I want him to find the door open.”

Today, the Church invites us to reflect upon two things. First, she invites us to reflect upon the joy of the coming of the Lord. The Third Sunday of Advent is always known as Gaudete Sunday, ‘gaudete’ meaning ‘joy’ or ‘rejoice’ and is taken directly from the entrance antiphon for the Mass: “Rejoice, I say it again, rejoice!” Why does the Church call us to such joy? Because the coming of the Messiah is close at hand; His coming to us is imminent. Secondly, the Church invites us to reflect upon the person of John the Baptist. Who is this man?
John appears at a precise point in history to bear direct witness before man to Jesus Christ. John appears as the bridge between the Old Testament and the New. He is the personification of antiquity and the announcement of new times. Representing antiquity because he was born of elderly parents. He represents the dawn of a new era because he inaugurates the entry of the Messiah into the world first, by leaping in the womb of St. Elizabeth, his mother and second for his testimony to Jesus. All the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament announced the coming of the Messiah in different ways. John, however, had the privilege of pointing out the Messiah himself.

His testimony and his actions in the Gospel are a cause for reflection here. As the precursor to the Messiah, what is he to do? Baptize. For the Jews, baptism was a rite of immersion in water and carried the weight of a legal purification for those who contracted some impurity under the Law. It was also used to incorporate Gentile converts into the Jewish faith. Baptism, therefore, was not something made up by Christians but an ancient Jewish rite of purification and incorporation – the same meaning it holds as a sacrament. The importance here is the stress placed on John’s baptism. His is a baptism of repentance marked by an interior conversion. His words of exhortation and a person’s humble recognition of his sins prepared the people to receive the grace of the Messiah – it opened the door for Christ to enter their lives.

In our Advent journey to Bethlehem, we are that much closer to welcoming the Lord once again in our hearts through the celebration of His birth. On this journey, John the Baptist cries out to us – “make straight the way of the Lord.” As he called his own people to conversion so many centuries ago, so he calls us to do the same. We are called to interior conversion, by recognizing our sins, by purifying our souls not by baptism (as we have already done that) but by way of receiving His mercy in the Sacrament of Penance. This interior conversion opens the doors of our hearts for Christ to enter in, to make His dwelling within us. Our journey to Bethlehem has to be characterized by this conversion – the conversion not just of our hearts but our entire way of life. This means overcoming the lure of the world, not being influenced by the fallacies of the secular media, and directing our lives toward Christ and striving to become the men and women He has created us to be. It is this movement, this journey, that is indeed a cause for joy, the type of joy in which the Church invites us to experience as we get closer to Christmas. In his Angelus address on the Third Sunday of Advent in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the meaning of this joy and the effects of opening the doors of hearts to Christ, he states:

“…the Church, illumined by the Holy Spirit, already at that time understood increasingly better that God's "closeness" is not a question of space and time but rather of love: love brings people together! This coming Christmas will remind us of this fundamental truth of our faith and in front of the manger we shall be able to savour Christian joy contemplating in the newborn Jesus the Face of God who made himself close to us out of love. “





Fr. Jon Reardon


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.




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