December 17 – Third Sunday of Advent

Hopefully we all know that we are called to be Christ to others. We see this subject come up in the letters of St. Paul: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1), as well as in the popular prayer attributed to St. Theresa of Avila which was taken up by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

“Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours…”

This, of course, is quite challenging to live out as a Christian. A similar challenge came to me while I was praying with our First Reading from Isaiah, the same reading Jesus will proclaim before starting his ministry in Luke’s Gospel today:

“The spirit of the Lord GOD 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…” (Isaiah 61:1)

If these words, which are proclaimed by Christ, are to be fulfilled by us I have a few questions to ask first: How am I to heal the brokenhearted? How am I to proclaim liberty to the captives & release to the prisoners?

As a priest, a person ordained to be In Persona Christi Capitas (“in the person of Christ the head”), you can imagine the various encounters I have regularly in my priestly ministry. You can imagine the broken hearts I encounter in the Church, in hospitals, the jail and in funeral homes. How do I bring healing?

But of course, this challenge isn’t just for me! This includes all of us; we are all called to bring healing and hope to our loved ones. You may find yourself asking the same question: how? The Gospels give us insight. St. John the Baptist was a man, a fore-runner to Christ, but also an example for you and me.  When asked if he was the Messiah, the one to bring healing, his response was to point everyone to Jesus Christ. We are called to do the same.

As a priest, it’s not me who comforts or consoles, it is the Lord who does it through me.  Advent is not only a time of preparation to receive the Lord ourselves, but to point others to the Lord and his coming.  Let us ask the Lord for the strength to unite ourselves to him who can “bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners”.

Father Michael