December 13, 2020
Hear audio and watch video of this homily.
GOSPEL READING STARTS AT 17:49
HOMILY STARTS AT 20:06
John 1:6-8, 19-28
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.
So, as Father said, this is a joyful Sunday. Gaudete Sunday means joyful, and so that leads to the readings that we heard today – full of joy!
Isiah starts it out, and he says, “Our joy comes from the Lord”. Because the Lord, He’s the one who does all the is good. He’s the one who does these great things. And he does great things sometimes we don’t even recognize that they are great at the time.
For instance, I was born and raised on a farm up in East Texas. I lived there all of my life until I left to go into the Coast Guard. I had seen a lot of people come and go – it was not anything unusual. In the eighth grade, when a family moved into town – the father was a preacher, the mom was a nurse, and their sons, unlike me, their sons were totally unremarkable. [laughter]
The thing is, it didn’t phase the town or anything like that. They just moved in. Their second son, David, was my age, and so we were in class together. And he didn’t make an impression on me. He was just another guy who would be leaving sometime again because that’s what people did – they moved in and they left.
But the thing is that, even though it was totally unremarkable at the time, David and I in high school became inseparable – that friend that you had in high school were people – if they saw one, they knew the other was close by. If one was in trouble, the other one was hiding. It was that type of friendship. And even though it took a while, it became a great joy for me – that friendship that I had.
Today we hear about John the Baptist. Now, John the Baptist, when he was born, it was not all the remarkable, other than the fact that his mother, Elizabeth, was well past child-bearing age. She had become known as barren. And yet, she became pregnant and her son was born. And then he just kind of falls off the shelf. We don’t really hear anything else about him until today.
We hear that he is out in the wilderness, living in the wild. He was eating locusts, and honey. I’ll be honest – if you want me to eat locusts, bring something stronger than honey. I cannot imagine that. But the thing is that while he was in the wild, he was hearing from God. He was listening to God.
And so, he came, and he began to preach to those who were out in the countryside. And the people came to him. And they came to him because they wanted to hear. And he spoke so eloquently. And he spoke so vividly about the Kingdom. When he spoke, people wanted him to baptize them.
Now I don’t know if you are aware of this, but at that time, baptism was used by the Jews only in the case of a Gentile converting to Judaism. It required somebody very important to baptize that person coming into the Church.
But here’s John, out there in the wild, and he is baptizing anybody and everybody – both Jews and Gentiles. And he is testifying as to what is to come after him. And of course, there were those who were in power who wanted to know who he was. In reality, they wanted to know what he was. John was a witness to the Light. Those coming to question him were interrogators. All the Levites, the Priest and the Pharisees – those were basically prosecutors. And so, they ask who he is. And you notice, he doesn’t say who he is. He doesn’t tell anybody who he is. He simply says, “I am NOT the Christ.
They ask him, then, what is he – Is he the Messiah? Is he Elijah? Is he the Prophet? They don’t ask one question about his message that he’s been preaching because they don’t care about that message. All they want to know is by what authority he claims to be able to baptize.
They’re concerned that he might be Elijah. Elijah, they all knew was assumed into Heaven. He didn’t die. And so, I think, especially the leadership kind of lived in dread that one day Elijah might come back and see what they were, and not be very happy with them.
Then they ask, is he the Prophet? Is he Isiah returned? Because the Jews treated prophets with great respect.
And then, of course, they ask if he is the Messiah, because the Messiah is who everybody in all of Judea is waiting for.
So, think about it today. You go to court because you have knowledge about something. You don’t have a lawyer representing you. You’re just there – no advocate. And the prosecutors are sitting out there. And the prosecutor stands up and they say, “Who are you?” And you say, “I’m not the person you’re looking for. There’s another person that you’re looking for.” Since you haven’t told them who you are, they want to know WHAT are you. Are you some special boss? Are you a politician? What are you? And you tell them, “I’m just a regular person.” And then, the head prosecutor comes up and says, “Well. if you’re just a regular person, they why are you doing these important things that are reserved for people with power?” And you say, “That’s not what I’m here for. There’s somebody coming after me.”
Again, you have to notice no one asks him about the message he has been preaching because they aren’t concerned with the message. They’ve seen preachers come and go. The only thing they’re concerned about is themselves. I mean, can I get in trouble if its Elijah? What if it’s the Messiah? We have to treat him totally different. And then, of course, the Prophet. If he’s the Prophet, they have to treat him with great respect.
This is what happens to John. Basically, in his interrogation, he, as a witness, is treated just as we described. The Pharisees ask again, “Where is his authority to do the things that he has been doing. And through it all, if you notice, John is adamant about one thing. And that is that the One is coming after him.
That’s the message today from John, is that he’s not the one – he’s the herald of the one. He didn’t even know who the One was yet. That information comes to him later whenever he’s in prison awaiting to be beheaded. He sends a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One – the One who’s been promised?” And Jesus says, “Go back and tell John of the works that you’ve seen done.”
We do absolutely have to respect and admire John’s courage because those guys who were interrogating him were very, very hostile. And they were just trying to find something, anything, that they could arrest him for. And yet they couldn’t. And why? Because John’s courage came from the joy of serving the Lord. As herald to the King who was yet to come.
Brothers and sisters, we all have to be prepared to stand up and herald what is coming because we are coming more and more as a faith, as a religion, as all religions, we are becoming more persecuted throughout the world. There are Christians who will walk away from someone who is asking hard questions. We cannot do that. We have to be there. We have to be the ones who herald because John had gone before us. So, we need to be the ones who herald the coming of that King, the King who was, the King who is, and, of course, the King who’s coming.
Great things happen in our lives every single day. And we have no idea. For me, one of those great things that happen was the arrival in the 8th grade of David – my best friend. We became best friends and continue to love and support each other even today. And I take great joy in that relationship with him because it’s gone through weddings, it’s gone through children, it’s gone through marriages, it’s gone through deaths. And yet, we know we always have the other one to turn to.
And then, of course, for Christians, it was the birth of a son to a woman who was well passed the age to bear children. We celebrate, and we are joyful because he heralded the coming of the King. And then, of course, for the world, it was the birth of that King, unnoticed except by the very poorest in that manger in Bethlehem, who would eventually die for all of us for the sins that we had committed.
That, Brothers and Sisters, should bring such joyfulness to all people. Going forward, let’s just be joyful for the Gospel, for the Readings that we heard today – the joy that was in those Readings. We celebrate and we’re joyful for the Gospel of the Lord. Also, for the one who was the Herald of that Gospel. And then the One who came for each and every one of us.
As we move forward, let us just be so joyful we bring Joy to the World.