Father Valan Arockiaswamy

Father Valan

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Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Third Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Dec 17, 2017 Views 512 Listen 8 Downloads 1
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (61:1-2a, 10-11)

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for He has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the Earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54)

(R) My soul rejoices in my God.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked upon His lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed. (R)

The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. He has mercy on those who fear Him, in every generation. (R)

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has come to the help of His servant Israel, for He has remembered His promised of mercy. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians (5:16-24)

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.


A reading from the Gospel according to 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 to yourself?" He said, "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.

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


A teacher once noticed during her lesson that one of her students, Johnny, was daydreaming. So, to get his attention, she called out, "Johnny, can you guess how old I am?" Without hesitation, Johnny replied, "Thirty-four." "Well, that's not far from my actual age. But tell me...how did you guess it right?", the teacher asked. "Oh! It is very simple. My big sister is seventeen and she' is only half-crazy," Johnny said.

When a young man named John appeared in the wilderness near the Jordan River, wearing garments made of camel's hair, eating locusts and wild honey, and calling to people to prepare the way of the Lord by turning away from sin and being baptized as a symbol of repentance, some people thought that he was a bit crazy, Mark (1:1-8). Others considered him a holy man. A large number of people were going out to him to be baptized.

The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, who were disturbed by John's preaching, and perhaps were also quite jealous of his increasing popularity, sent some priests to ask John about his identity and credentials. Apparently, John was asked if he were the Christ, or he sensed that it was implicitly behind their question, "Who are you?", he denied being the Christ. Then he was asked specifically if he were Elijah, and he replied that he was not. There were several reasons why the people thought that John was Elijah.

  • John's clothing was similar to Elijah, the prophet and miracle worker, who had lived in the northern kingdom of Israel and had mightily opposed the Baal worshippers on Mount Carmel during the reign of King Ahab, this was about nine hundred years before Christ, 1 Kings (19).
  • About four hundred years before Christ, the prophet Malachi had predicted that the prophet Elijah would return before the "day of the Lord", which was commonly understood as the coming of the Messiah, Malachi (4:5).
  • Many of the scribes and common people popularly believed that Elijah did not die but, rather, that he was taken into the sky by a whirlwind after passing his mantle to Elisha, his successor, and might well return in exactly the same manner that he ascended, on a chariot of fire before the Messiah's arrival, 2 Kings (2).
  • The angel Gabriel had told Zechariah at the birth of his son John that he would fulfil the prophecy of Malachi (4:6), stating that he would go before the Lord "in the spirit and power of Elijah", Luke (1:17).
  • Once Jesus had also identified John as Elijah. Speaking very highly of John, Jesus said to the crowd, "If you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come", Matthew (11:14). Another time when Jesus was talking to the disciples he said, "Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also, will the Son of Man suffer at their hands". Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist, Matthew (17:10-13).

Despite several positive indications in the Bible that suggest John was the Elijah who was to come, why did John deny that he was Elijah? What are we to make of this seeming conflict between John's denial and Old Testament prophecies and Christ's affirmation of John's status as Elijah? It is possible that those who asked John if he "was" Elijah were trying to see if he would claim to be a reincarnation, something the Old Testament prohibits believing in. Hence, he rightfully denied it. That is to say that he was not literally a reincarnated Elijah but rather he fulfilled the Elijah prophecy because he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. This is what Jesus meant when he qualified his affirmation of John as Elijah. Jesus spoke of John only in terms of his role and mission, for he was the very one to give direct witness to the Messiah.

Finally, they asked John if were "the Prophet" promised by Moses that God would raise up a prophet like himself, which he also denied, Deuteronomy (18:15). It is worth noting here that John declared that he was not "the prophet" even though he was called "a prophet" by his father Zechariah in a song of praise to God for the birth of his son: "You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, Luke (1:76).

When John said he was neither the Messiah nor Elijah nor the prophet, the priests further demanded to be told who he was. This time, he answered by quoting the prophet Isaiah (40:30): "I am the voice of the one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord", John (1:23). The people hearing this prophecy would have understood it as making a path for the Messiah. But some Pharisees in the delegation were still not satisfied with John's answer. They asked him why he baptized if he was not the Messiah, or Elijah or the Prophet.

In other words, they wanted to know by what authority he was preaching and baptizing people for it is written in the Book of Ezekiel that the Lord saying to the people of Israel, "I shall pour pure water over you and you shall be made clean - cleansed from the defilement of all your idols", Ezekiel (36:25). The people interpreted such verses from their scriptures to mean that Baptism should be one of the marks of Messiah's work. No one less than the Christ, or Elijah, or "the prophet" could enact such a rite. But here, John had assumed their power and yet, he was denying that he was any of them.

At this point, John could have gone into a lengthy discussion of himself and his role as the baptizer. But again, his reply with regard to himself was as brief as possible. He directed people's attention squarely on Christ and not on himself. He said, "I baptize you 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", John (1:26-27).

That is, he baptized them with mere water as an outward sign of repentance and thereafter to receive all the spiritual blessings from the Messiah, who was in the midst of them, though they knew him not, and for whom he was unworthy to render the lowliest service. Unloosing or untying sandals of the Master was one of the lowliest services done by a servant. Here, John was emphasizing that he was merely an instrument of the living God; he was there to only help them recognize and believe in the God who was already amidst them. In denying being the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet, John was honouring the Lord Jesus for whom alone these titles are reserved.

What is the message for us?

The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' time had a great respect for all of the teachings and traditions, including Holy Scriptures which had been handed down from the time of Moses. They diligently studied, meticulously interpreted and zealously preserved every bit of Scripture but lacked the insight and wisdom to comprehend God's purposes, particularly the coming of the Messiah. Hence, God sent prophets like the John the Baptist who interpreted His word, including the things concerning the Messiah and called the people to respond faithfully to God who was revealing Himself in their history.

Today the Church plays a prophet's role. Here, "The Church" is the reference to the Pope, bishops, priests, catechists, parents, and all brothers and sisters who teach God's law. As a matter of fact, every one of us has a calling to be prophetic, to be prophets, i.e., to speak on behalf of God and God's truth. We are the voice for God's presence in our world' to explain the Scriptures or to instruct one another in the faith; to warn one another of our sins and to call on one another to transform our lives; and to seek His mercy and forgiveness. Our work is to point to Jesus; to testify to the light; give testimony to Jesus' name. We do all these, not to draw glory, honor and recognition to ourselves but to our Master, the Lord Jesus.

As we look forward to the Coming of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:

  • Let us give thanks to God for the Pope, bishops, priests, deacons and countless men and women who give of themselves as Heralds of the Word so that others might also know about Jesus Christ; believe in Him and be saved.
  • Let us take up the work of God joyfully and unitedly, proclaiming as one voice the message of warning and salvation.
  • Let us listen and give heed to the messages and revelations given to these men and women of the Church with humble and thankful hearts.
(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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