FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Third Sunday of Advent (A)
Isaiah 35:1-6A, 10 | Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 | James 5:7-10 | Matthew 11:2-11
We are now very close to celebrating Christmas Day! The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin for “rejoice.” This Sunday is so named because today’s Mass begins with the antiphon from Philippians 4:4,5, “Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” Some people mark this Sunday on their Advent wreath with a rose-colored candle. It is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near.
Mello, a catechist, told his class, "When the Messiah comes, he will perform many signs." Mark, a fourth grader, told the catechist, "Teacher, I am the Messiah." Mello looking puzzled, asked, "What made you think that way?" Mark replied, "Every time my Dad says anything to me it always started with JESUS CHRIST!"
The Israelites are in Babylonian captivity. In the first lesson for this Sunday Isaiah rejoices in the thought of the transformation of all things: The parched desert will be transformed for them and bloom. The people will be restored; feeble hands strengthened and weakened knees steadied. More than physical strength will be given them, for the frightened-of-heart will be emboldened. Through these concrete tangible signs, people would be able to recognize the coming of the true Messiah.
One day, Lorraine was sitting quietly in the sun with Cosette, her Miniature Pinscher Beagle mix. Cosette suddenly saw a large white rabbit in the lawn busy grazing. Well, Cosette jumped up, and barked loudly, took off after the rabbit with a passion. Soon other dogs joined her, attracted by her barking. The pack of dogs ran barking across the creeks, up stony mounds and through the bushes and thorns. Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs didn't continue on the chase. The others have gradually lost all interest because they had not seen the large white rabbit. They were simply attracted to the barking of Cosette and gave up running with the pack when they got tired. In the end, only Cosette continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit. Why is this? Because only she had actually seen the large white rabbit and took off with a purpose.
How is Advent going for you so far? Have you taken off Christmas preparation with a purpose? Have you gotten glimpses, reflections, glimmers, glances, echoes and whispers of our Lord to encourage you to continue pursuing him? In our Second Reading, James exhorts us to be patient and make our hearts firm until the coming of the Lord. He seeks to encourage us who are weary while in expectation. Advent, The season of joyful anticipation for the Lord's return, helps us to cultivate patience as we strive to see the face of Jesus in our midst and carry on his work until he comes again. Like Cosette, let's keep wagging our tails in excitement and continue with the chase!
This week's Gospel Reading continues our Advent reflection on the person and message of John the Baptist. John the Baptist's ministry signaled the end of the Old Testament and the coming of the Messiah. John was typical of an earlier time, a time that prepared the way of the Messiah. He prepared the way but there were things about God's plan that he did not fully understand. There were things that Jesus comes to reveal about God's kingdom that John didn't know. As it turned out, John got stuck in prison for some of those crazy things he preached about. He sends word to Jesus, asking if Jesus is the Messiah for whom he has been waiting. The reply of Jesus is to give neither a yes nor a no to the question. It is typical of the Gospels that Jesus does not declare openly that he is the Messiah. He does not proclaim himself; he proclaims the kingdom of God. Jesus cites Old Testament text mainly Isaiah 35: 5-6 which found clear and visible fulfillment in his deeds. The coming of Christ and his Kingdom will be understood when the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame leap. The burning sand shall become a pool of cold water and the thirsty ground spring of water. Jesus invites John to answer his own question, basing his decision on what he hears of Jesus' activities interpreted in comparison with Isaiah's words. Unexpected this may have been to John, the acts of mercy Jesus had been performing were indeed the deeds of the Messiah.
Iris, a catechist, was concerned that his students might be a little confused about Jesus Christ because of the Christmas season emphasis on His birth. He wanted to make sure they understood that the birth of Jesus occurred a long time ago, that He grew up, etc. So he asked his class, "Where is Jesus today?" Michelle raised his hand and said, "He's in heaven." Ariel was called on and answered, "He's in my heart." Little Abby, waving his hand furiously, blurted out, "I know! I know! He's in our bathroom!" The whole class got very quiet, looked at the catechist, and waited for a response. Iris was completely at a loss for a few very long seconds. He finally gathered his wits and asked Little Abby how he knew this. And Little Abby said, "Well...every morning, my Dad gets up, bangs on the bathroom door, and yells 'Jesus Christ, are you still in there?'!"
John did not live to see the ministry of Jesus unfold. He was executed by Herod during the time of Jesus’ ministry (14:1-12). But we are blessed and fortunate to have seen the ministry of Jesus come to its completion. The Gospel speaks of the Messiah already here. Jesus, of course, is already present and working through his Body, the Church. But he still has to come more fully into our own lives. The coming of Christ and his Kingdom will be understood when the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame leap. The burning sand shall become a pool of cold water and the thirsty ground spring of water. Are your eyes open to the realities around you? Are your ears willing to listen to people? Are your feet ready to walk the path of peace? Have you shared to others the blessings and abundance that you have received? If we perform all these works of the Messiah, the "coming one" will be born in our hearts. This Christmas, let's not settle for mere shadows of joy — let's allow the Messiah to be born in our hearts, the greatest gift, joy itself fulfilled! <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum