3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A

We have two homilies by Father Hanly for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A: the in-depth “Are you the one who is to come?” and the succinct “Are you the one who is to come? (short)”.

Two Homilies:

“Are you the one who is to come?”

“Are you the one who is to come?”

In his homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A, Father Hanly looks at John the Baptist’s question to Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Readings for Third Sunday of Advent, Year A

  • First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
  • Second Reading: James 5:7-10
  • Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Recording

Transcript

It’s Gaudete Sunday and you’d expect that all the readings be full of joy. And yet in the gospel we are given what seems to be a very sad reading, because the great John the Baptist…

As we said last week that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was the precursor of the coming of the Messiah, the long awaited One which all of Israel prayed for, and especially at this time of distress and desperation where they were a fiefdom under the Roman heel, where the majority were poor, where the majority had little hope — except the anawim.

The anawim were the group, as we translate it mostly, “the poor.” And there were many poor, and they continued to follow Jesus and to have great hope.

And then, all of a sudden, we have John the Baptist, the herald, the one who spoke so strong and gathered hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people to wash themselves in the Jordan to prepare themselves for the Messianic era that was to begin when Jesus began his public life.

John is in prison now. Herod’s wife was jealous and had him arrested because he had told Herod that he was not allowed to marry his brother’s wife and Herodias did not forgive him for this and plotted to kill him. And he was in jail and he was set up to be condemned and eventually to have his head chopped off at a drunken Herod birthday party.

Of all people we would never think would doubt, or should doubt, would be John, who knew Jesus as a child, who knew him and played with him and was close to him when he went off into the desert to become and prepare himself for the great role of the prophet, the one who is to come to prepare the way of the Messiah.

But then you begin to wonder a little bit when you read the text again:

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”

We really don’t know whether John was sending those disciples for his disciples’ good or for his own. Perhaps he was really strong and continued to believe in Jesus and he had no doubts at all. And that is what some say.

But other commentators say human beings have terrible times and John, who was waiting for the Messiah himself, was a human being. He was waiting for the triumph of God over all that had come before and the final appearance of the Messiah. And then the works of Jesus were simple: the blind he helped to see, the deaf hear, preaching the word of God to the poor.

Where were the armies, where was the majesty, where was the great war that would be fought so that the Messiah would triumph in the whole world? And instead he sees Jesus continue to be a simple itinerant preacher.

I think John must have had deep thoughts when he was in that prison. And he was in the dungeon of one of the strongest prisons of the time.

I think Jesus allowed him to have these doubts because he wanted we ordinary people not to be afraid at times to doubt even the most beautiful messages, to be afraid, to run away in fear from what they might demand of us.

Doubting is something that we all have to deal with, especially those who search into the spiritual side of man, because you cannot touch that, you cannot measure it, you cannot give it a value like you can if you’re talking about success in business or farmers farming, things like that.

I think what Jesus was saying, “Tell my disciples what they must do,” because they certainly were doubting that this could possibly be the Messiah.

And what does Jesus say to them? Well, he quotes Isaiah the prophet in the year 700BC when it seemed that the whole of Israel would be destroyed by their enemies.

The prophet then said these words: “The blind will see, the lame will walk and the lepers are cleansed and the deaf will hear and the dead will be raised.”

And this is what Jesus quotes to the disciples. “Go back and tell John, this is being done. The blind, you have seen he healed the blind, the blind see. The deaf hear. The lame walk. And, finally, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

This is the final summary: the poor will have the good news proclaimed to them and blessed is the one who is not offended by this.

This is a very hard saying unless you begin with the end of it and work yourself to what the true meaning is of Jesus’ words.

The poor, who are the poor?

The poor are the anawim of God, those who believe that God is with them or coming to them and will be with them. It is God who they believe in totally and completely. They don’t believe in systems. They don’t believe in money. They don’t believe in power. They believe that the presence of God will be with them and that’s what they’ve been praying for.

And Jesus says, “You have the good news now and I am proclaiming it.”

And what is the good news?

God has come to be with you and to stay with you. God has sent His Son. God Himself has come with him, the Father and the Holy Spirit, and “when you look at me you must see in me the Son of God.”

And if you understand that, then your eyes will see. They won’t see God. God cannot be seen. But “when you see me walking with you and you put your faith in me and put your faith in your Father,” then all these things are already happening, for you see what Jesus sees.

And he sees a world and he will have it and he will make it what his Father intends. And he hears what you hear and he gives this hearing to you so that you might hear the music of God Himself and you might see deep into the meaning of life as long as you see with his eyes.

And you shall dance. Before, you crawled around like broken people, but when you know that God is with you, that God will never leave you, then you will dance and you will sing.

And no matter what the world throws out at you, no matter how much it tries to (inaudible), the final truth is this: God Himself has come into the world in such a special way that the world will never be the same again.

And it is this that the anawim believed in.

And Jesus is saying this is the way it will be done: not with power but with weakness, not with shouting but with soft voices of persuasion, not with any kind of magical magic.

It will be done in the ordinariness of every man’s life and woman’s life, in the ordinariness of life itself, because “I have come to show you, if you follow my eyes, you will see as I see and you will hear what I hear and you will dance as I dance, for God has come to make His home in your heart.”

This then is Jesus’ message. And, of course, John understood.

It couldn’t come by power, this kingdom. We’ve tried power. We keep trying power. It doesn’t work. We try money, buying things, building things. It doesn’t work. We try perhaps to use our talents to create things and make them wonderful and impress everybody. But that doesn’t work.

And what works?

“To see as I see, to hear what I hear, to do what I do.”

And what is the only word that makes this possible?

You are not here to command, you are not here to win, you are not here to triumph. You are here to love each other. And that is the task and Jesus shows us the way.

And that is what he says today in this gospel, not just to the anawim of his time, the poor of his time.

But you must remember this: if you are going to see as he sees and hear as he hears and do as he does, you’re going to have to be one of the anawim, because the definition of the anawim is “those who know their need for God.”

And if you know your need for God, He will always be there, for He has come to take up His life and give us His love in every step of the way.


“Are you the one who is to come?”

“Are you the one who is to come?”

In this short homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A, Father Hanly looks at John the Baptist’s question to Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Readings for Third Sunday of Advent, Year A

  • First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
  • Second Reading: James 5:7-10
  • Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Written Homily

John the Baptist is in prison now. Herod’s wife, Herodias, had John arrested because John condemned Herod for marrying her in violation of Old Testament law.

And it was while John was in prison that Jesus began his public ministry.

Now, one person we would never think would doubt, or should doubt, would be John the Baptist.

He had baptised Jesus and he knew Jesus as a child, he knew him and played with him and was close to him right up to the time that John left to go into the desert.

John went into the desert to prepare himself for the great role of the last and final prophet of the children of Israel, the one who was to prepare the way of the Messiah.

But when John heard in prison of the works and words of Jesus, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question: “Are you the One who is to come or should we look for another?”

We really do not know whether John was sending his disciples to Jesus for his disciples’ good or for his own. Perhaps he was really strong to the end and continued to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and he had no doubts about it at all, and that is what some commentators say.

But other commentators say that human beings often experience terrible times and John was a human being, alone and very vulnerable. He, too, was waiting for the appearance of the Messiah and the triumph of God over everybody and everything that had come before.

Then, too, the works and the words of Jesus were simple and not so dramatic. The blind he helped to see, the deaf to hear. He was preaching a quiet word of God to the poor.

Where was the grandeur? Where were the armies? Where was the great war that would be fought so that the Messiah would triumph over the whole world?

Instead, what he sees is Jesus humbly walking with ordinary and poor people, like a simple itinerant preacher, watching over and taking care of his little flock.

I think John must have had deep thoughts when he was in that dark prison all by himself, and he was in the dungeon of one of the worst prisons of the time.

I think Jesus allowed John to have these doubts, because he wanted we ordinary people not to be afraid at times to doubt even the most beautiful of messages, not to be afraid at times to run away in fear from what Jesus might be asking of us.

Doubting is something that we all have to deal with, and I think what John was saying was, “Tell my disciples you are the One sent by God, you are really and truly the Messiah.” John was reassuring them because the disciples certainly were having doubts that this was indeed the Messiah that they were waiting for.

And what does Jesus say to them?

Well, he quotes from Isaiah the prophet many centuries before, at a time when the children of Israel faced total destruction at the hands of their enemies.

Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

Now this ending might seem harsh and hard to take, unless you really understand what Jesus is saying.

The poor, who are the poor?

The poor are the anawim of God, those who believe, through thick and thin, with their whole hearts, that God is with them.

It is God who they believe in totally and completely. They don’t believe in systems. They don’t believe in money. They don’t believe in power. They believe in God and that the presence of God is always with them. It’s all a matter of love.

And what is the good news?

God Himself has come into the world in such a special way that the world will never be the same again.

And Jesus is saying, this is the way it will be done, not with power but with meekness, not with shouting but with soft voices of persuasion, not with any kind of magic, it will be done in the ordinariness of every man’s life and every woman’s life, in the ordinariness of life itself.

Because as Jesus says: “I have come to show you, if you follow me, how you too will see as I see, and you will hear what I hear, and you will dance as I dance, for God has come to stay, to make His home in our hearts.”

This then is Jesus’ message and, of course, John understood.

It couldn’t come by power, this kingdom. We’ve tried power. We keep trying power. It doesn’t work. We try money: buying things, building things, having things. It doesn’t work. We try perhaps to use our talents to create things and make them wonderful and impress everybody with our cleverness, but that doesn’t work.

And what works?

Jesus would say: “To see the world as I see it, to hear what I hear, to do what I do.”

And what is the only word that makes this possible?

We are not here to command, we are not here to win, we are not here to triumph. We are here to love each other and care for each other, and that is the task and Jesus, Our Lord, shows us the way.

That is what Jesus says today in this gospel, not just to the anawim of his time, the poor of his time, but to all of us here and now.

However, you must remember this: if you are going to see as Jesus sees and hear as he hears and do as he does, you’re going to have to become one of the anawim.

Because the definition of the anawim is, “those who know their need for God.” And if you know your need for God, God will always be there, for Jesus has come to take up this life and give us his love every step of the way.

FAQ for Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A

When is 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A, in 2022?11th December 2022
What is the title of Father Hanly’s homily for Third Sunday of Advent, Year A?"Are you the one who is to come?" and "Are you the one who is to come? (Short)"
What is the next homily by Father Hanly in this Liturgical Cycle?
4th Sunday of Advent, Year A
Who was Father Hanly?Father Denis J. Hanly was a Maryknoll Missionary
How can we find other homilies by Father Hanly?By Liturgical Calendar or by topic or by title

Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A

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If you would like to use our transcripts of either of these sermons (updated 2020), please contact us for permission.

Father Hanly's sermon for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A, "Are you the one who is to come?" was delivered on 12th December 2010. Father Hanly's sermon for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A, "Are you the one who is to come? (Short)" was delivered on 15th December 2013. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.

We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.

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