3rd Sunday of Advent Year A

     Towards the end of my junior year of high school, I found myself in the midst of a crisis of faith, where I was questioning the most basic beliefs of our Catholic Faith. I was raised in a strong Catholic family. I went to church and did well in my theology classes, but up until that point, my faith was simply cultural. I did the whole Catholic thing simply because I was Catholic and that’s what Catholics do. Since Catholicism was just something I did, I never actually allowed it to become a part of who I was, and I took it for granted. Up until that point I had never stopped to ask myself the most basic questions of our faith, like does God really exist, is Jesus really who He says He is, and is this whole Catholic Church thing really true. After coming to recognize that God exists (a homily for another time) I found myself staring at the same question John the Baptist poses in today’s Gospel when He sends His disciples to ask Jesus if He is the one to come.

     As I wrestled with this basic question, namely is Jesus really who He says He is, is Jesus really the Son of God, I realized that the Bible tells about a lot of unbelievable things that Jesus did. He made the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the crippled walk, He cleansed lepers, raised people from the dead and even raised Himself from the dead. Hearing these unbelievable things there can be a temptation to write them off as a fairytale, after all, people just don’t do those kinds of things, but we can’t forget that there are accounts of people witnessing these things and there were plenty of people who were so upset with Jesus that they would have spared no effort to disprove these claims if they could have. Think about it for a second, these people put Jesus to death and then used Roman soldiers to heavily guard His tomb. Don’t you think they would have found His body if He didn’t truly rise from the dead?

     It took a little wrestling to come to believe that Jesus is who He said He is and that was only the first step. By the start of my senior year of High School, I had heard about Jesus and come to believe in Him, but it was not until a couple years later when I entered the seminary and made practicing my Catholic faith the most important thing in my life that I came to truly know Jesus. Sadly there are allot of Christians who have heard about Jesus and come to believe in Him but do not truly know Him. What about you? Do you believe in Jesus, or do you truly know Him? Do you know Jesus or do you only know of Him?

     This season of Advent reminds us that regardless of how far away Jesus seems, He is always near to us. He is here in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Confession; He is here in His word contained in Sacred Scripture and in the encounter with someone in need. If we find that we have heard and come to believe in Jesus, but do not truly know Him, then perhaps we need to take a leap of faith and make a radical shift in how we view the world. Perhaps we need to look at the world, through the lens of the Christmas Story and rejoice because Jesus has entered into humanity and experienced the same joys and hardships we endure. He is always present waiting for us to encounter Him if only we are willing to take the risk to take a step towards Him. Friends “the Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize He is already there waiting for us with open arms.[1]

     The pink candle in the Advent wreath beckons us to take this leap of faith and rejoice because Jesus came to save us, He remains with us as we journey the pilgrimage of life and He will come again to lead us to eternal life. Today, we rejoice because we know that Jesus is behind us, He has entered into human life and shared it to the fullest. We rejoice because Jesus is always with us: never distant, and we rejoice because Jesus is ahead of us and every tick of the clock brings us closer to the greater eternal encounter with Him in heaven.

[1] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB. (2014). pg. 1.

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