By Father Patrick Longalong
The Gospel this weekend invites us to take a closer look into the person and mission of John the Baptist. Last week we heard about him in the Gospel of Mark but this week we go deeper into the question of who he is. “He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” In other words, he will be the first to publicly witness that Jesus is the one they have been waiting for a long time. The Messiah.
The primary way that we witness to our faith in Christ is by talking about him without being embarrassed. I learned how to do this when I was in public high school.
It all started as a simple conversation, an idea. Then a few of us decided to meet and just ask around if there are others interested. We were surprised how many started to join us that we met the number necessary to formally start a Christian club in our school. At first, there was pushback from the Student Government but as we explained that this organization and the prayers would be student led and not imposed by a particular faculty member, they gave us permission to host our meetings.
We designated a day each week when we would meet by the flagpole in the morning before class to pray for our school and to pray for our neighborhood, city and country. We received our fair share of snarky comments and condemnation from fellow students.
This Sunday, we are reminded that as John was a witness to Christ’s coming, witnessing to Christ has its costs. Remember, “witness” in the Scriptures is derived from the word for martyr. Most likely we will not meet severe reactions to our witnessing in Christ’s name. In our society people will probably give a light listening and then ignore us, maybe call us naïve or say a sarcastic comment. Still, our job description as Christians is to give witness to others and suffer the con- sequences.
The second reading is an encouragement for us not to fall into despair. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes we might not feel like it or just overwhelmed. Maybe we are too busy. It is all the more reason to find that quiet time to pray each day.
I have seen many inspiring Catholics who did not hesitate to witness to the Gospel. But I often encounter Catholics who are the shyest believers when it comes to “giving witness.” I of- ten remind them that there are many ways we can give witness to Christ.
Participating in your local parish and even diocesan programs is a good way to start. Joining a civic community’s efforts to help the poor, abused, uneducated and migrant; speaking up for the unborn, terminally ill, and those condemned to die are other opportunities to consider; loving our enemies and being a voice of forgiveness is another. How many more can we add to the list?
Going back to my experience in High School. Before we witness to others, we have that golden rule to say a prayer first. Prayer reminds us who we are doing this for. It invites the Lord to put his words into our mouth and His Wisdom into our minds.
Before Jesus began his public ministry, he first said a prayer that we heard in the first reading this weekend. “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.”
Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)
Isaiah 61:1-2A, 10-11
Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.