Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
John 1: 6-8, 19-28
CHRIST, THE SOURCE OF HAPPINESS
All of us want to be happy and we keep trying to find happiness that seems to elude us. What is it that we believe would really make us happy? Deep down in our hearts we really know what will make us happy but perhaps we are not focused on obtaining that happiness which we crave for. Have we tried finding our happiness in our God? God’s word invites us and challenges us to seek the Lord and find our happiness in Him.
In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah there are two segments both written during the time when hope was flagging for the Israelites, who had returned from exile to their devastated land. The first segment utters words of consolation to a broken people. The disheartened people are to keep faith in the trustworthiness of Yahweh who has returned to the land and will give them freedom and comfort. The second element is interpreted as a dialogue between Jerusalem and Yahweh. The people, personified as the Holy City, affirm their hope of being clothed with salvation. The promise of the first reading is that the healing, saving power of God will come about in the midst of the people’s struggle to make a new beginning after their return from the exile. Even in what appears to be a hopeless situation they are asked to hope in Yahweh. “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God.”
Waiting for God in Joyful Hope
Ingrid was a South American woman who was admitted to a Catholic Hospice in the U.S. She had full-blown aids and steroid-induced diabetes. One day she, not a Catholic at the time, asked the nun why she went to church every day. “Because God loves me and I want to return his love.” replied the nun. Ingrid replied, “I don’t think I like God.” Naturally, she wouldn’t. Sister reassured her that while this was understandable, God really liked her. As she grew weaker with each passing day, with the love and care of those around her, she experienced a quiet hope and then illumination. At the moment of her death she whispered: “I’m so tired; I want to go home.” Asked what she meant by that she replied: “I want to go to God.” She had learned to wait in joyful hope for the coming of her Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
In the second reading Paul reminds his readers to be joyful and thankful at all times, praying constantly and giving thanks because this is what God expects of us. Paul enumerates the great treasures of Christianity: the Spirit, prophecy, joy, thanksgiving, the blessing of the triune God and the call to discipleship. Paul advises his followers to practice discernment in all things before getting into action: Think before you act. “Hold on to what is good and avoid evil,” is one bit of advice he gives that will keep them happy if faithfully observed.
The subject of today’s Gospel is the same as last Sunday’s, the witness of John the Baptist as he prepares for the coming of the Lord. John is sent by God as a witness to speak for the light so that everyone might believe through him. “He was not the light only a witness to speak for the light.” John was content with his role and not keen on being in the limelight. John summons all to faith in Jesus. He openly declared: “I am not the Christ…. But a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.” He tells the people that unbeknown to them the light (Jesus) is already present among them. Are they looking for Him? Have they given up their search for Him?
There is a story about a man who came home one day to his daughter who was crying bitterly. He asked her what the matter was. She said she had been playing hide-and-seek with her friends. But when it was her turn to hide, she had hid so well that they had given up looking for her, and had gone off to play another game. She waited and waited for them to find her, but they failed to do so. When she finally came out of her hiding place she found herself alone. Perhaps God sometimes feels lonely. He has hidden himself so successfully in his creation that some people are unable to find him. And eventually they give up looking for him, and go off in another direction. Flor McCarthy in `New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’
The Pharisees and their disciples could not understand John or his actions. “If you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet, why are you baptizing?” they asked him. John proved a courageous and effective witness, a man of principles and a man whose lifestyle and personal integrity lent credence to his words. He was a living example of what he preached. When his task was done he moved aside to make room for Jesus. John was content to be a voice in the wilderness, unmindful whether people listened or ignored him. He knew he had a task, a role to fulfill, but the more important action was to follow. His task was to be a witness and a good witness points to something or someone without attracting too much attention to himself. Christ still needs witnesses who can effectively make him present to other people today. We can’t be witnesses for the light if we are living in darkness. Are we as witnesses living in the light, are we happy to be his witnesses today?
Be a Lamp-lighter
Several parents were sitting on a neighbor’s porch discussing their children. They were talking about the negative environment in which their kids had to grow up and were wondering how they could bring any light into their children’s world since it seemed so dark and hopeless. Could they be enough of a positive influence to change the world around them? One of the parents, a science teacher remarked, “I think we can make a difference in our children’s lives if we become lamplighters.” “Lamplighters? What do you mean? the others asked. She explained. “Around the turn of the century a lamplighter went around the streets lighting the street lamps. He carried a long pole that had a small candle on top with which he would reach up to light the kerosene-fed lamps,” she said. “But from a distance you could not see the lamplighter very well. The light from one small candle was not very bright in the surrounding darkness of night.” “However,” she continued, you could follow the progress of the lamplighter as he went along a street. The presence of his candle was barely visible until it joined with the flame of the street lamp being newly lit. A radiant glow erased a portion of the darkness and looking down the street, you could see the light from the glowing lamps made the entire street bright as day. The darkness was held at bay.” “That’s it” exclaimed the parents. “We’ll be lamplighters for our children. We’ll share from our own flame in order to light each child’s individual lamp of wisdom. Brian Cavanaugh in ‘The Sower’s Seeds.’
May our every action enlighten the way for His coming!
Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.