We have two homilies by Father Hanly for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B. We have a recording and transcript for each homily.
The Messiah Is Among Us
In this beautiful homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B, Father Hanly reminds us that the Messiah is among us.
First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
Second Reading: First Thessalonians 5:16-24
Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28
(Beginning of homily missing/inaudible)
… to call them back to God.
Anyhow, St. John says, and I quote this one now,
“Why do you baptize?” they ask him. “You are not the Messiah. Why are you baptizing?”
Because to come as a baptist is a very important element of who the Messiah will be. And so the (inaudible) is set by the Pharisees as: “Why are you baptising if you are not the Messiah, the one to come, the Holy One of God.”
And he says, “I am the voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight his path.’”
But he says to them, “I baptize with water. He will baptize you with fire, he will baptize you with the Spirit of God, and then you will truly be called the children of God.
He says, “Here I am, the voice of one crying in the desert.”
But he says “There is this one who is among you, living with you, here, hearing my voice with you, and you do not recognize him.”
When we speak of the comings of Jesus, we speak of the three comings that we celebrate.
The first one, of course, is Christmas. And this is joyful, for many reasons.
But it’s also an ache in the heart for those who, perhaps, have lost somebody in the past year that they love or have moved away. They recall the happiness of these days and now it seems they’re moving away from that kind of joy that they experienced on Christmas Day and there’s a little sorrow in their hearts.
And we pray for them at this time, because Christmas is very, very hard for people who do not rejoice in their hearts or rejoice and feel any joy because they are confronting difficulties in their own lives.
But for most of us, it’s a very happy day. It’s a family day. And it’s easily explained.
We celebrate the first coming of Jesus as if we celebrate his birthday 2,000 years later. And in the celebration of his birthday, we become one with that day. It is almost, when we hear the story told again and again about the birth of Jesus, we almost feel that once again he is reborn in Bethlehem. And he is our Saviour.
The second celebration we celebrate is the second coming of Jesus. And this is given to us in hope.
We know the Messiah came to establish the Kingdom of God among us, but that kingdom will take time in order to develop. So that the full realization of that kingdom, the realization of the kingdom of peace, of joy, of one family under God, the full realization of God’s work in this world, will come at another time. And we hope will come soon, and yet no-one knows when it will come.
And so our joy is a kind of a joyful hope. It makes us understand that this world is full of meaning and purpose as it moves faithfully, carefully, and sometimes skipping a bit here and there, but it is moving towards the unity of all mankind and the full realization of God’s triumphant love for all things.
And so Jesus feels at this time when he says that on that day the Son of Man will come riding on angel’s wings that will be the day of great judgment.
But the third coming of Jesus seems to be more fitting for today’s gospel when Jesus says, “There is one among you who you do not know. There is one among you, you do not recognize, and that one is the Messiah.”
And so I’ll end this with a story. I’m sure that many of you have heard this story before — about the rabbi in the woods. Do you know this story?
Once upon a time, but it wasn’t once upon a time, it was maybe two or three hundred years ago, in a place in and around central Europe.
There was this very famous monastery full of eager monks. A wonderful monastery, where all the people in the area used to crowd the masses on Sunday. Everyone was happy to be there to hear the monks sing. And they were so cheerful and happy that it was contagious and they helped, just by their mere presence there, to deal with many of the problems that confronted this little village where most of them were farmers.
Now on the side of this very famous monastery was a great woods with lots of beautiful trees. And the abbot of the monastery used to go walking through the woods.
And one time when he was walking through the woods, he spotted a little place. It was not exactly a house, just a shelter. And inside there was this rabbi. The rabbi was praying in the woods. So he went over and introduced himself. He said “I am the abbot of the monastery.” And the rabbi was very kind and they sat down and talked. And they liked each other so much they talked and prayed all night together. And then the abbot went back to his monastery.
Many years later, something had happened so that somehow the monastery had lost its early spirit. And the monks, maybe from saying the same prayers and doing the same things, day after day, lost a little edge off their spirituality. And they began to be complaining about this and very ordinary. And people, when they came now, the singing wasn’t as good as it used to be, and this and that, and there were complaints. And, finally, the people began to fall off.
The abbot always left orders at this time, because he needed so much to talk to this man who understood all the things in his heart, the rabbi, he said “Whenever the rabbi comes into the woods, call me.”
And so, one afternoon, his second in charge came up and said, “The rabbi is in the woods. The rabbi is in the woods.” So he ran out and he searched around, and he finally found the little lean-to, and there was his friend kneeling in prayer.
The men embraced and they shared their experiences. They hadn’t seen each other in a quite few years. And the abbot said “You know, Rabbi, I have something to tell you and it really affects me, it makes me quite sad: the monastery that I told you about in the old days is no longer here. Something is wrong with us. Something is missing. It’s not a matter of believing in creeds or practices, it’s a matter of the heart.”
And so the rabbi said, “Abbot, I know that’s a great pain.” But, he said, just before the abbot went home he said, “Now Abbot, I have this secret that I am going to give you. The secret is very, very secret. You’re not to tell anyone. And the secret is this: one of the members of your monastery is the Messiah of God.”
Well, the abbot thought he was maybe putting him on, but he knew that his friend was a sincere and wonderful rabbi, and he looked at him and he said, “One of us is the Messiah?”
The rabbi said, “Yes, but don’t tell anyone.”
So he went and the first thing he did was he called in his second-in-command there and he said, “Brother Dominic, I just met the rabbi, and I have a secret, but I can’t tell it. But don’t worry, because the monastery will be well again.”
And he was dying to tell him what the secret was, but he’d made this promise to the rabbi.
And, finally, Brother Dominic saw that the abbot was so happy he wanted this to be shared. So what he did was he said “Now, Abbot, you’ve got to tell me, for the good of all the men here.”
So the abbott said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you, but you don’t tell anybody else. Not one other person.”
“Oh, I promise. Yes, I promise.”
And so he said, “I met the rabbi in the woods, and the rabbi in the woods says that one of us, one of the members of our monastery, is the Messiah!”
Well, he was so surprised.
As he was leaving, the abbot said, “Now, don’t tell a soul. Don’t tell anyone.”
Well, you can imagine what happened.
He got down to the end of the hall and there was his favourite brother, a buddy of his, who was the cook, and he was on his way down to the kitchen to prepare supper.
And the cook says to him, “Why are you so happy? You’re almost dancing around.” This was very out of character.
And he says “I can’t tell you.”
“What do you mean you can’t tell me?”
“Well, it’s a secret.”
“Well, it’s the secret of the rabbi in the woods and I’m not allowed tell you, because the abbot says I shouldn’t tell anybody.”
“Well,” he said, “just tell me and I promise I won’t tell anybody.”
So he told him.
All of a sudden, it wasn’t very far along the way that everybody in the monastery knew what the rabbi had said, and nobody knew that the other person knew, because each one just told one person.
And so what happens is they all said, “Which one is it?”
And they couldn’t figure it out, because they were very ordinary people. I mean they had their good points: some were good singers, and some were patient, and some were this and that. They also had their bad points: they argued a lot, and they were lazy, and maybe sometimes they drank too much, and they had all of these things.
So they can’t figure out which one it is.
So the only solution to this, of course, is that you treat everybody as if they are the Messiah and you (inaudible) to pay homage to the Messiah, who was among them.
And, all of a sudden, they began to care about each other, and see the good things in each other, and say, “Yes, it might be Brother So-and-so, because he never loses his temper, he’s so kind and generous hearted, and he’ll do anything for you.
And, gradually, the whole monastery changed. And the brothers began to realize how lovely it was to live among people who were so kind and generous, forgiving and loving, and so Christian, as if Jesus himself was among them.
And the people came back, and the singing became wonderful, and the monastery regained all its spirit of the old days when they were a force for spiritual healing and good, and they especially celebrated Christmas with great joy.
And then, finally, one evening, when the abbot is sitting there in the dark on Christmas Eve praying, he knew the rabbi was right.
Because Jesus once said, “If you are looking for me, you will find me amongst my people.” All (inaudible) knew that Jesus was one with his people.
And Jesus himself had said, “On the great day of judgment, you will be judged by this: ‘When I was hungry you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty you gave me to drink.’”
He never saw it in this way, but the Messiah was among you all that time, because when you did it to the least of your brothers, you did it to me.
The old abbot smiled and nodded his head and he said, “Yes, the rabbi in the woods was right. The Messiah is among us. He’s in each and every one of us.”
And when he began to fully understand (inaudible) hearts, that each of us who turns to their brothers and sisters and say (inaudible) Lord, and the kingdom will unfold in our midst.
And you will know what Jesus said is true: “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
In this beautiful homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B, Father Hanly helps us understand the importance of Gaudete Sunday.
First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
Second Reading: First Thessalonians 5:16-24
Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28
I had a homily opening, and I look down at these four candles and I realise that there’s a little difference here. This is a big problem now.
You all know the Advent wreath. You know it’s made from a circle and the circle is the symbol of God – no beginning, no end, and taking within itself the wholeness of all life. It’s usually covered, as ours is, with evergreen branches.
And there’s an old story, there’s stories about everything, there’s an old story that says that God came out one day and He looked at all that He had made, and He realised that there was one part that was really not too good. And that was in the wintertime, because in the wintertime all the trees, they lost their leaves, and all the plants, they died and left the whole place desolate.
So He called His angels together and they came up with a solution: that you should take those green trees and make them green not only in the summertime, but also all through the year. And they could be sentinels of hope, where people could look out at all the darkness at the winter and see the evergreens forever shining around them.
Nice story. I don’t know what we’d do without stories. And it’s true. So we have the evergreens here, and they are signs of God’s constancy: that He is with His people, not only through the beauties of spring and fall, but also through the desolation of winter.
But there are always four candles. Now, in general, in most places that I have noticed, three candles are kind of a purple, a light purple, and one candle is rose. And now I’m looking at this and I can see the tall one looks rose, but the other two aren’t too purple.
Anyhow, why would that be in a set of four?
The four, of course, are the four weeks of Advent. There are four Sundays of Advent. And each Sunday, after blessing Advent wreath, the symbol of the season, we also light one candle. And you can see the third candle, this one, is more pinkish, it is kind of pinkish. And that is why we have lit it today, because today is Gaudete Sunday.
Gaudete is “rejoice,” and the idea is the pink is a little bit lighter and more joyful than the purple.
Does this have any importance?
Well, it does, because the idea of the pink candle, the idea was not that it should be pink, but it was to sign and signify that the coming of the dawn was not far away, because we’re halfway through Advent and only one more Sunday, next Sunday, which is Our Lady’s Sunday, when Gabriel comes to tell her she is going to be the mother of the Messiah.
And because of that, the candle is supposed to show, today, that the end of the penitential side of Advent is giving way to the joy and hope of the newborn child being born in Bethlehem in a very short time.
So with that short resume, what does it mean?
Well, for us, it means that this is a time that is very joyful.
At the same time it’s a penitential season.
But the penitential season, for instance, of Lent, can be very, very, very difficult. Why? Because it ends with the crucifixion of our Saviour, and there’s a lot of pain and wonder about how this could have happened.
But we are in a penitential season that is recalling, at the end of it, the birth of the child, the birth of the baby, and this, of course, is something to rejoice and be happy and be filled with wonder and joy.
So we begin, even during this penitential season, to celebrate all these kind of Christmas parties and that. And every year, the pastor might say, “Well, you’re not supposed to celebrate those things at this time.” But it’s okay.
Because we can’t, we’re so excited about Christmas coming, and everyone has these incredibly happy feelings about Christmas, that we just have to let everyone express it, maybe with a little bit more joy than, say, Lent and fasts.
What are we celebrating?
Basically, John the Baptist. John the Baptist comes out of the desert. The desert hones people, the desert takes away from all the unnecessary things that may clutter our lives and makes it clear and simple. If you come out of the desert, you’re coming out of an area where life is very strong, but it also has to be tough, and all the extras are kind of cast away.
So John is someone who’s coming and saying, look at your life, now, look at your life. Don’t get caught up in the kind of incredible amount of nonsense and celebration. Look at your life, because your life is the key to your joy, and the joy is the joy of welcoming Christ himself into the world, you see.
So what we are asked to do at this time is to take our lives seriously. It seems a bit odd to have to say that, to take your life seriously, but in many ways, I’ve often said this, there are two things that we are most afraid of, the two gifts of God that we are most afraid of.
And one is our freedom, nobody really likes to be free. And the other one is the revelation of who we really are. We are free, and we are shaped by God Himself. And so it is these two wonders that go down with us through the ages, but we’re frightened of them, we’re afraid to be what God wants us to be.
He says, go out and love — love the whole world, embrace it, praise it, sing for it, and work for it.
But we hesitate. We think of what everybody else is doing and whether they’re going to do it, or whether I’m going to do it, or what somebody’s going to say.
So that burst of joy that comes with being, in a sense, comes with being considered, in God’s eyes, as eternal and lovely and good and wonderful, kind of gets smudged around a little bit because we’re really not using our freedom well.
The other one, besides freedom, that God has given us, of course, is love. Everybody says, “Ooh, it’s wonderful to love this, love that,” but we’re frightened of love. We really are. We’re frightened, well, of maybe they’re going to ask too much, or, if I love that person, maybe they’re going to demand too much, or this or that. And so these are the two mysteries for some reason.
John the Baptist says, throw every… He comes out and he’s wearing almost hardly anything but the robe of a prophet, just one robe, and that’s all that he owns, faces the whole Roman empire and all of the scribes and the Pharisees and all the people that are important at this time, and he tells them, “There is one walking among you, one walking with you, one here and now, and you don’t even recognise him.”
And, of course, he’s talking about Jesus. And the reason we don’t recognise Jesus is because he doesn’t come as the saviour of the world, he’s born as a helpless little child, a helpless little child. It is God saying, “I need you, I need you in order that I might help you and teach you how to love.” This is an incredible thought, and yet we take it for granted.
The second thing that we have to remember, as we come closer and closer to the celebration of Christmas, is what John constantly is telling his people to do: turn back to God. That’s the message of this time: turn back to God. Give up chasing all those silly things that you chase around and think are important, and turn yourself back to God. And walk with Him, and talk with Him, and speak with Him, and make yourself one with Him.
We’re not supposed to read books and then put into practice what God says, we’re supposed to embrace Him and live the way Jesus lives.
Think of that now: embrace him and live the way he lives. He doesn’t care whether you believe in this or believe in that. He doesn’t have a whole list of things that you have to memorise, prayers to be said, all of this. He just says, walk with me, follow me, walk with me, and do what I do, and I will do what you do, and together we’ll create a whole new world, a world where people can actually authentically live as they were created to live.
We were created to love others, to forgive others, to care for others. How fast we run a race, how high we get in marks, how we pass exams, how we do this, that, it doesn’t mean anything. What really matters is: have I become a human being, have I actually experienced the life of Jesus himself?
Now, I’ll tell you just one story. You’ve probably heard it before.
I come from Brooklyn, New York City, and there’s kind of a famous church in New York City, very well-to-do, Fifth Avenue church, you see.
And there’s this kind of bum from the Bowery, very dishevelled, and he goes into the church to say his prayers and maybe look around and see what’s going on. And they throw him out, because he’s a bum from the Bowery.
So they throw him out, and he’s sitting outside on the steps. And he kind of feels very upset, being thrown out of the church, you know. And then another kind of dishevelled person sits down next to him, and so he tells him his story, he says, “You know I’ve been in that church and they’re supposed to accept everybody and they threw me out.”
And the other guy that he was talking to says, “Ah, don’t worry, don’t worry. You don’t need that church, you know. You don’t need that church, you know. You’re going to be alright. Everything’s going to be fine.”
And he kind of peps up with a little bit. “Gee, that’s really nice, you know,” he said. “How do you know it’s going to be fine?”
He said, “Because they do it to me.”
And he said, “What is your name, anyhow?”
And he said, “My name is Jesus.” (Congregation laughs) “And some people call me the Messiah.”
And the two walked hand-in-hand out of the church and into the big city.
Now, I don’t want to make you all feel guilty. The point isn’t feeling guilty.
The point is that if we’re going to find Jesus, we might not find him where we’re hanging around, (inaudible), you know. I don’t mean church. What I do mean is there’s a world full of pain, a world full of rejection, a world full of worry. This is the way Jesus comes to us, in the guise of these people. These are the people we are called…
Because these are his people and this is where he wants us to be. It’s not dramatic. It’s as good as visiting the blind man next door, or the old man or lady down the block.
But it does mean that, if we’re going to find the Messiah, we’ll find him in two places: in our hearts, and among the needy.
And so, during this time, when you’re kind of getting all your presents together and having a good time, think of that.
Jesus walks within your heart, and he needs your hands, and he needs your voice, and he needs you to bring him to where he hungers.
And that is because he is one with the poor, and the needy, and the displaced, and the unhappy, and those who feel that perhaps this life is really not worth living.
It is there that we will find him.
And, of course, when you find Jesus, you find the Messiah. And when you find the Messiah, you have everything.
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Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B
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If you would like to use our transcripts of either of these sermons (updated 2019), please contact us for permission.
Father Hanly's sermon for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B, "The Messiah Is Among Us" was delivered on 14th December 2008. Father Hanly's sermon for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B, "Gaudete Sunday" was delivered on 11th December 2011. 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.