Rejoice Heartily in The Lord
Our world is besieged with so many troubles and ills. The tragedies of war, senseless violence on our streets and diabolic activities of terrorist’s groups around the globe leaves us with little taste for rejoicing. But the Church encourages us to rejoice and celebrate because God has not abandoned the world. The miserable situation surrounding us cannot diminish what God has already accomplished through the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ. He has clothed us in a robe of salvation with his birth. His birth is our blessing and hope. His birth is the assurance that our wounds will be healed, poverty erased, and our bondage broken. Let not the troubles around us obscure our vision.
Make the words of the prophet Isaiah your own. For the baptized, the Spirit of the Lord God is upon you because he has anointed you and set you on the path to share the good news with the less fortunate, the broken hearted, and prisoners. Therefore, the Church calls this day rejoicing Sunday because the feast of Christmas is drawing very close. Who best prepares for this imminent coming of our Lord but John the Baptist? The witness of John helps us to delve deeper into the mysterious reality of God’s absence, which is painful for us, and of his imminent coming as well.
First, God’s absence was not of his making; rather, it is as a result of our collective disobedience of God’s law. We are often too preoccupied with ourselves to recognize him needless to love him. Our choices frequently lead us to sin which makes it difficult to recognize God’s presence. It blurs our moral vision and creates division between us. John the Baptist speaks to us in a manner that we cannot ignore. His whole approach and clear-cut descriptions of what we must do is powerful and striking to the heart.
He was modest and humble. He did not assume what he was not. That is lesson number one for us. Approaching God with humility and modesty is the beginning of holiness. “I am not the Messiah,” says John …I am not Elijah… the prophet… I am a voice in the desert crying out.” That is all he is. He refuses to seek or usurp some role or status that God did not will for him. He teaches us to be bold and faithful in carrying out our assigned tasks. His role is to speak out, to be a voice in the service of God. He did not patronize anyone. He did not shy away from the truth nor tell his audience just what they wanted to hear.
When Jesus appeared, he introduced him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His one concern is to make sure that his own disciples follow Jesus. He knows he is not “worthy to unfasten” the sandal strap of “the one who is to come after” him. So, he resigns himself to the will of his God, a servant ever ready to obey the orders of his master. If we imitate the characteristics of John, there will be harmony in our lives, and only then can we enjoy peace. It means that we are called to combine boldness with humility, obedience with initiative, and tenderness with firmness. John’s message is quite clear. Let us take it to heart and meditate on it and allow the Spirit to work in us.
Saint Paul says, “Do not stifle the Spirit.” Any attitude different than that of John will surely stifle the Spirit. The joy of Advent belongs to those who put all their hope in the Lord, who know he is present even though he seems to be absent.
In spirit of hope, I remain sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Vitalis Anyanike