The Three Reveals of Advent — By Fr. Rich, OP
So, if the Gospel for the third Sunday in Advent were a show on HGTV (Home and Garden Television, for the uninitiated), there would be three separate “reveals.” Last week, John, the messenger, was preaching and baptizing repentance for sin. He proclaimed the imminent appearance of the Anointed one. He warned his listeners that judgement was coming and they needed to prepare.
And today, in response to John’s query, Jesus invites his disciples to report what has been seen and heard by the people. He offers to John’s disciples a summary of what He, Jesus has been about; the blind see, the lame walk, the unclean are made clean; the good news is proclaimed. He is indeed the long anticipated Messiah. Reveal #1.
So John’s people depart, and Jesus continues to preach to the crowd. He questions them about why they found themselves in the desert, listening to a man dressed in camelhair, feeding on locusts and honey. Why did they come out to hear the man challenge them to repent, to prepare for the coming of their Messiah? Jesus, in His best Socratic Method, having asked the question, answers it. The people did come out to see this “prophet,” but John is much more than a prophet. He is the one foretold by the ancient prophet Isaiah, the messenger sent to prepare for the Messiah. Reveal #2.
In the closing verse of our Gospel this week, it is as though Jesus speaks directly to us. “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Here we are, members of the Body of Christ, preparing for the coming of the Infant; preparing to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and we are being exalted beyond John the baptizer. John, the final prophet of the Jewish covenant; the first martyr of the new and final covenant. Jesus proclaims that “none is greater than John” of those born of women and in the same sentence offers that the “least” of those who follow him is greater than John. Reveal #3.
It is this final “reveal” that supplies us with the opportunity to REJOICE! In amongst all of the challenges and praise is a foundational message for us. We can choose to prepare our hearts through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and ministry. We can choose to follow the Lamb and commit ourselves to living out the Gospel message. We can choose to meet the invitation from the Messiah to “Love God, neighbor and self.” And, if we make those choices, we will find ourselves, for all eternity, in the awesome glory and majesty of God’s presence.
Advent is very much about choices. In a world where family meals can be a challenge to pull off, the nightly lighting of an Advent Wreath is uncommon. The holidays demand changes in work and family schedules that can make it difficult to attend a daily celebration of the Eucharist. Even finding moments to read and contemplate scripture can become, “just one more thing.” Making the time to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation seems a distant dream.
But we can navigate these choices. Fewer Hallmark channel Christmas specials, a clearer understanding of our priorities in today’s craziness, a desire to re-energize our relationship with this Messiah who is coming; those choices can result in an Advent season that finds us excited. In Christmas we find another “reveal.” The fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation, begun at the Fall, now proclaimed by shepherds and angels, the birth of the Messiah, the Son of God, our brother!