3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT – B
Today is GAUDETE SUNDAY! It is a day of rejoicing because the Savior is close at hand! St. Paul reminds us in the second reading: “Always be joyful!” It is not just about joyful expectancy that Christmas is very near but a reminder that Jesus is the reason to rejoice in the midst of life’s pains, sufferings and tragedies. He is not just “the reason of the season” but “the reason to rejoice in all seasons.”
On this third Sunday of Advent we continue to meditate on the life of John the Baptist as he leads and guides us to encounter our own personal Messiah. Last Sunday we meditated on his role as a prophet; this Sunday we meditate on his being a witness. The word witness occurs 64 times in the writings of St. John out of the 173 in the New Testament. To witness is to give testimony to something one has experienced or has seen. It is the translation of the Greek word marter (marter) from which we derive the word martyr. The early Christian martyrs were those who gave witness to their faith by shedding their blood.
“There is no man born of a woman greater than John the Baptist,” says the Lord. The greatness of John the Baptist lies in his being the greatest prophet and witness par excellence. And yet it was also his limitation being just a messenger, a mere voice! When the people flocked to him, he could have made use of that opportunity to aggrandize himself but in all his humility he said “I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal; he must increase, I must decrease.” Our greatness does not depend on what others think of us; it does not even depend on the power we’ve got. It all depends in our personal relationship with God; how we are able to carry on the mission entrusted to us. Our life’s worth is only seen through heaven’s eyes.
Pope John Paul II once said “To die for the faith is a gift for some, to live the faith is a gift for all.” To give witness to the faith by shedding blood is red martyrdom; to witness the faith in our daily lives is white martyrdom. It may not be our call at the present age to be red martyrs like the early Christians, but certainly by living the faith in the most extra-ordinary way through the ordinariness of life, we are giving testimony as important as shedding our blood. We are called to witness our faith in our homes, in our workplace, in the market, restaurant and everywhere.
“Standing among you, unknown to you, is the one who is coming…” How often do we recognize the Messiah walking in our midst? We have been waiting for him but he has come already although incognito among the poorest, the lowest, the least and the marginalized. Unless we humble ourselves and learn to see through heaven’s eyes, we will miss the divine encounter we have been longing for. Unless we experience a radical change of hearts, our waiting for the Savior will be in vain.