Is 61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
Provider of glad tidings
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners…” (Is. 61:1).
Back in my university days when I didn’t find myself particularly attached to the Bible, I still found Isaiah’s prophetic passage above very powerful every time I heard it proclaimed. When recited by Luke in his gospel within the setting of Jesus standing in a synagogue, slowly unrolling a scroll of Isaiah, and reading it out to an enchanted and expectant congregation on Sabbath, the prophetic passage took on a new meaning of fulfilment (c.f. Luke 4:16-21) – fulfilled not only in the very person who read it, i.e. Jesus, the Anointed One, but also in me, the listener, personally.
I, a foreign student struggling to make ends meet, was the poor; not only because of corporeal deprivation but also because of spiritual destitution. I was the brokenhearted, not only because my life then was filled with hardships but also because the deepest yearnings of my young heart – for love and dignity, for justice and righteousness, for the truth – somehow just could not be satisfied. I was the captive, captive of so many unrealistic dreams, captive of my own youthful passions. I was the prisoner, chained hands and feet by sin, incarcerated body and soul by the unrelenting grip of death. I was in dire need of the Anointed One’s glad tidings, healing, liberation, and freedom.
When my university chaplain, a young and exceedingly kind Basilian priest whose mission it was to help the lowly and marginalized, told me that in Jesus I could find my glad-tidings Provider, my Healer, my Liberator, and my Freedom, I dived right into his RCIA to find out whether Jesus was really the Savior who could solve all my personal problems. Finally at the Easter of my third year of university, I was baptized into the Catholic Church. Here I am 37 years later, I can honestly say that Jesus has given me everything Isaiah promised and more. There is not a day my heart doesn’t rejoice together with Mary, his mother, in the Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
Yet our journey of faith is a long one, full of ups and downs and potential pitfalls. Like John the Baptist in the gospel reading, we must properly discern the role that God sends each one of us to do. John identified his role as “the voice of one crying out in the desert”; he saw himself as the precursor that “make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23). He was determined to serve the Lord in this humble capacity even though many of his followers wanted to make him the Messiah. In this Advent, let us discern with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit what our role is. What is the ministry that God wants us to serve? And in serving it, “may the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you…be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 5:23).
The joy of waiting for the dawn
Fernando Armellini MCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau
The Baptist is loyal and does not accept identifications, honors, titles that did not belong to him. He denies all these titles and defines himself simply as a voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord.
It is hard to imagine something more fleeting and ephemeral than a voice, it disappears without leaving a trace. The Baptist does not want the focus on himself, but on Christ: “It is necessary that he increase but that I decrease”—he will say later (Jn 3:30). His mission carried out, he is happy to step aside. He makes sure that no misunderstandings arise; he shuns any form of “cult of personality.”
The Baptist has also made a journey of faith. He acknowledges that he gradually came to discover Christ, “I myself did not know him. Yes I have seen. And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God” (Jn 1:29-34).
This spiritual journey is repeated in the life of every believer. It starts from the discovery of the true identity of Christ. Then one arrives to the conviction that deserves full faith. Finally one becomes a witness of one’s faith, as Paul said, “We also believe and so we speak” (2 Cor 4:13).
The last statement of the precursor: “Although he comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal” is not as a statement of humility. To remove the sandal was an act covered by marriage legislation of Israel. It meant appropriating the right to marry a woman who belonged to another (Dt 25:5-10; Rt 4:7).
By declaring not being able to untie the straps of the sandals, the Baptist states that he has no right to steal the bride of Christ, the Church. John would later speak without metaphors: “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. Only the bridegroom has the bride, but the friend of the bridegroom stands by and listens and rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice. My joy is now full” (Jn 3:28 -29).
Advent is the time when the bride (humanity, the Church) is preparing to welcome the groom and the Baptist is the friend of the bridegroom, in charge of promoting this encounter of love.
Fr. Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF