Third Sunday of Advent Year B
First Reading (Is. 61: 1-2. 10-11). Prophet Isaiah, sent by God to foretell the age of salvation. Jesus uses the prophecy of Isaiah to announce the programme of his own ministry.
Second Reading (1 Thess. 5: 16-24). To await the second coming of Christ, Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians how to live.
Gospel (Jn. 1: 6-8. 19-28). John the Baptist declares that he is not the savior. The savior is already among the people but the people do not recognise him yet.
One of the key words in the history of Christianity is the word "salvation". In Today's readings, we see the word "salvation" coming often. But what does the word salvation mean?
The world we live in is full of wonders, riches and beauty. However, it is also a world full of poverty, wounds and a broken world. It is a world which needs salvation. What kind of salvation?
Long past and in even in the near past, salvation was purely understood as spiritual: salvation of souls from sin and eternal damnantion. Salvation was also understood in a very individualistic way: I save my own soul and do not care about the salvation of other people's souls.
Today's world, with all its many social movements, we have become more conscious of our common destiny, hence the tendency to pray for a common salvation. With this in mind, salvation is now more seen in a secular eye or sense: it is salvation from need, want, oppression, suffering, difficulty, tribulation. Looking at salvation from this secular point of view, seems like being concerned only from things of this world. Political, economic and social salvation. This is not wrong at all.
We need to liberate ourselves from earthly vices, live a good life worthy of the children of God here on earth and prepare ourselves for the life to come in heaven. Here comes the notion of solidarity and help to the poor. Poor politically, economically and socially so that this notion of earthly salvation becomes reality for all. Communities, societies and nations that are politically, economically and socially advanced are called and have the duty to help those which are not. Nevertheless, advanced nations or not, our world has many vices which need the spiritual side of salvation.
The spiritual side of salvation is the much richer and deeper one. The Bible calls us to a much larger understanding of salvation than the struggle for political, economic and social rights. It is the understanding of life and life to the full. That is what Jesus Christ brought. "So that we may have life and life to the full".
The Bible embraces the idea of salvation from these both senses: salvation from the ills or sicknesses of body and soul. Meaning, physical and spiritual salvation. In this way, we are to understand that my personal and individual salvation cannot be complete except in relation to the salvation of others.
This understanding of salvation we see it in Jesus, in the first reading: "The spirit of the Lord has been given to me... He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord". The Gospel of Luke 4: 18-21 repeats it.
While he took care of himself, Jesus also ministered to his brothers and sisters, especially the poorest and the wounded. He cared not just for their souls but also for their bodies. Salvation therefore begins here on earth but its full blossoming is in heaven. As we work for a better world for ourselves and others here on earth, we must not put all our hopes in this world. Our ultimate hope of complete salvation is and lies in Jesus. Let us not lose hope and faith in Jesus.