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Advent Homily by Archbishop Robert Rivas

HOMILY PREACHED BY ARCHBISHOP ROBERT RIVAS O.P.,
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B,
FEAST OF ST LUCY, NATIONAL SHRINE, MICOUD,
DECEMBER 13, 2020

    “He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light” (John 1:7).

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

On the third Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy focuses on John’s role as the primary witness to Jesus, the Messiah.  John’s witness transcends all of time as he bears witness to the light that has come into a darkened world. Bearing witness means pointing away from oneself to the other.  John points beyond himself to the one who is to come.  

In today’s Gospel the religious leaders of John’s time wanted to know John’s identity.  ‘Who are you?’ They asked.  Are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet? WHO ARE YOU?  We need an answer.  This is how John bore witness: ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: A voice that cries in the wilderness: prepare a straight way for the Lord’ (Jn 1:22-23 citing Is40:3).  If we want to know John we need to recognize the voice that cries in the wilderness.  We also need to recognize that he is not the way but the one who prepares the way for the coming one.  

John heightened the messianic expectation by telling the leaders and the people that the one who was coming was already in their midst unknown to them.  John did not consider himself worthy to kneel down and undo his sandal straps.  That was John’s humility and self-understanding.  Even his baptizing took place on the far side of the Jordan.  He did not want to confuse the mind of the people into thinking that he was the one they were expecting.  That is the role of the witness: to prepare and point out the way; to be the voice crying in the wilderness where people are searching, waiting and hoping; the voice that says believe and do not lose hope for salvation is near.

John came to witness or testify to the light.  Jesus is the true light.  John’s role as witness and Jesus’ role as light are inseparable.  Making straight the way of the Lord was also another way of witnessing to the light.  By his witness people would believe through him, coming to conversion  and opening their hearts through repentance to welcome the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the one who was coming.  Indeed, was already in their midst.

When we listen to this story in the third week of Advent we cannot afford to leave John crying in the wilderness prepare a straight way for the Lord.  We too have to be voices crying in the wilderness ‘preparing a straight way for the Lord’.  We, too, need to be witnesses to the true light, the WORD, JESUS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.  Could you imagine what would happen to Saint Lucia if we, the Catholic Community, and all the Christians in Saint Lucia were witnessing to the true Light?

Let us take up the challenge by making our light shine in all the places of darkness in Saint Lucia; all the places of violence and corruption; all the places of greed and selfishness; all the places of incest and domestic violence.  Let us work to eradicate poverty and exclusion; the culture of lies and dishonesty; the culture of disrespect and arrogance; the culture of negativity and gossip.

Let us witness to the true Light through a VISION of UNITY rooted in love, forgiveness, understanding, gratitude, appreciation, listening and caring for one another.  In his Encyclical Letter: Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendships), Pope Francis said: “Today’s world is largely a deaf world…At times the frantic pace of the modern world prevents us from listening attentively to what another person is saying…We must not lose our ability to LISTEN”.  He then spoke about St Francis of Assisi.  Saint Francis he said, “heard the word of God, he heard the voice of the poor, he heard the voice of the infirm and he heard the voice of nature.  He made of them away of life” (#48).  The desire of Pope Francis is that the seeds planted by St Francis may grow in the hearts of many.

When we damage nature and the environment; when we destroy life,  especially of the most vulnerable, in the womb and in sickness or old age; when we disregard the dignity of the human person, what else is there that we would not be prepared to do?

Today is our National Day.  We need to take time for reflection and introspection.  There is too much anger, disrespect and arrogance all around.  We need to learn to put the common good before self interest.  We need to be more attentive in the way we listen to one another and to give others a chance to let their voice be heard.  Everyone is entitled to his/her political views or religious views but there are times when we need to put our country first and the common good before all else.  
I believe that the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is one of those times.  Many people are on the breadline right now. Many people are unemployed, unable to pay bills, put food on the table, fill their prescriptions and meet the needs for online education.  Many people are living with great uncertainties and stress.  We need to be thinking of and caring for one another more than ever right now.  We need a National conscience and a willingness to see the bigger picture and to work together at all levels of society and to ensure that there is one common message: WE CARE; WE ARE THERE FOR ONE ANOTHER; NO ONE IS LEFT OUT!

I support the measures taken by the CMO and the Ministry of Health in counteracting the Coronavirus.  I support the protocols and plead with you to abide by them.  I support the Recover Saint Lucia Initiative of the business sector who today are reaching out to communities throughout Saint Lucia creating awareness of Covid-19 and bringing messages of hope.  I am in solidarity with and supportive of every group, be they religious or social groups, who this Christmas will STRETCH THEIR LOVE in reaching out and sharing with the poor, needy, unemployed, homebound, Institutions and vagrants.  NO ONE MUST BE LEFT OUT.

St Lucy is the Saint of light.  She too, like John the Baptist, witnessed to the true light.  May her light radiate throughout Saint Lucia today opening our eyes to the needs of those around us, making a straight way for the coming of the Lord and guiding us in the way of peace, unity and solidarity.  Let ask her intercession for our nation, our leaders, civil and religious and all Saint Lucians at home and in the diaspora.  Let us pray at her Shrine today that a VACCINE will reach us and our region soon.  ST LUCY, PRAY FOR US.

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