Happy the Man or Woman in difficulty who does not lose Faith in Jesus

Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

There is a birthday card which reads on the outside, “Sweetheart, you are the answer to my prayers!” Then when you open it, it reads, “You’re not what I prayed for exactly, but apparently you’re the answer!” I read an article some time ago which is rather disturbing if it is true. It stated that there are more family rows at Christmas than at any other time of the year because people have unrealistic expectations of Christmas and when they are not fulfilled tension results and then fuses blow leading to family rows. I hope that is not true.

I was reminded of those examples of unfulfilled hopes by the question of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?” John the Baptist’s hopes in Jesus seemed not to be fulfilled.  He was in prison because he preached the word of God, the truth about marriage and life-long fidelity to one’s spouse. We can easily understand his question, “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?” Like John we too sometimes feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Through no fault of our own we find ourselves in some difficulty or fix. And we wonder where is Jesus. And we too feel like sending messengers to him saying, “Are you the Messiah? Are you going to help me or will you leave me helpless?”

Jesus sent back the messengers to John the Baptist with this reply,

‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’ (Matt 11:4-6)

That is Jesus’ message to us also. Look around you and see the presence of God despite the difficulty you are in. Look around you and see the blind seeing again, the lame walking, lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, and the dead being raised to life. When we look around in our own diocese we see those words being fulfilled in the very powerful healing ministry of some priests of our diocese. A person in my last parish received a letter from a friend in another part of the country about being cured of cancer through the healing ministry of one the priests of our diocese. Events like that give us courage. Remember the last line of the message Jesus sent back to John in prison, ‘happy the man who does not lose faith in me’. When we are in prison like John, between a rock and a hard place, in some difficulty or fix, let us continue to trust and pray and not lose faith in Jesus. Let us continue to pray. Prayer is always answered somehow, somewhere, even if not in the way we expected. Keep sending messengers to Jesus looking for an answer to the problem. And we will get an answer, even if not what we expected. But let us keep trusting in God.

When our hopes are dashed let us turn to Jesus. He is the answer to all our hopes and dreams. He will not let us down. Cardinal Basil Hume wrote of St. Thérèse of Lisieux,

“In 1987 I visited St. Thérèse’s cell in the Carmel of Lisieux. By the door of her cell, scratched into the wood, she had written, “Jesus is my only love.” That was not written in exaltation but in near despair. She was thus crying out to her Beloved that even when she experienced nothing but absence, emptiness, darkness, she clung to the assurance of being loved and carried in his arms. That is faith at a heroic level – that is trust, clinging to God when everything in our experience would seem to contradict his very existence, or at least his love for us.”

The following was found written on a cellar wall in Cologne (Köln) after World War II,

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I feel it not.
I believe in God even when he is silent.

Happy the man or woman in prison who does not lose faith in Jesus. Happy the man or woman stuck between a rock and a hard place who does not lose faith in Jesus. Happy the one who does not lose faith in Jesus.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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