The readings for the Third Sunday of Advent speak to the signs of the times that point to God’s presence in the world. A challenge for Christians throughout the ages has been to see anew Christ’s coming into the world.
The prophecy of Isaiah heard in today’s first reading is likely directed to Israelites in captivity: “Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing.” Although the oracle is attributed to “First Isaiah” from eighth century BC with its placement near the end of Isaiah 1—39, it may, in fact, have been composed later during the period of exile in Babylon (597—538 BC). Nonetheless, a message of unthinkable joy is being pronounced to “the desert and the parched land,” to a people who are “feeble” and “weak,” to a people “whose hearts are frightened.” The message from Isaiah could not be clearer: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God...he comes to save you.” He encourages the people to look for signs of God’s presence—the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking, and the mute speaking. Isaiah calls on the people to see God’s work present in the most vulnerable among them, to those living on the margins of society. Isaiah’s prophecy was one of hope, and trust, that God’s desire is to reverse Israel’s fortune and announce a new day, one characterized by “everlasting joy,” where “sorrow and mourning will flee.”
In the Gospel reading, we hear Jesus communicate a very similar message to the imprisoned John the Baptist (later in the Gospel, Mt 14:3-12, we discover the reason for John’s arrest, imprisonment, and execution: he spoke out publicly against Herod’s unlawful marriage). The reading is divided into two parts. The first part is the question/answer between John and Jesus. John’s question to Jesus (“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”) is somewhat puzzling. The dialogue recorded by Matthew at John’s baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:13-17, especially verses 14-15,17) seems to make clear Jesus’ identity as the Messiah and Son of God. John’s question of Jesus may stem from his own expectations of the coming Messiah and messianic age (heard last Sunday), an experience characterized by divine judgment and “wrath.” For John, the public ministry of Jesus might have been surprising in its outreach to the poor and marginalized of society. Jesus’ beatitude directed to John (“And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me”) may be in anticipation of a negative reaction from John to Jesus’ answer to the question, “Are you the one who is to come?”
The second part of the Gospel reading is Jesus’ commentary to the crowds on John the Baptist. Jesus confirms that John was truly a prophet, foretold by one of the final prophets of Israel, Malchi (see Mal 3:1, “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me”). Jesus further publicly honors John by ascribing to him the singular title: “there has been none greater than John the Baptist.” Jesus ends his comments on John by returning to the centerpiece of his public ministry: preaching on the kingdom of heaven. Entry into God’s kingdom was a constant invitation offered by Jesus.
In the second reading from the Letter of James, our author urges us: “Be patient...until the coming of the Lord.”
He offers sound advice in this period of waiting and anticipation for the coming of the Lord: “Make your hearts
firm,” “do not complain,” use the prophets before us as our guide. By doing so, our eyes and ears can be opened
anew to Christ’s coming into the world.
Faith Formation sessions have begun!
Sunday 9 am – 10:15 am CGS I & II, grades 3 – 6
Sunday 10:30 – 11:45 am CGS I & II
Sunday 6 – 7:30 pm grades 6 – 8 & Confirmation
Monday 4:30 – 5:45 pm CGS I
Monday 6 – 7:15 pm CGS I & II, grade 3 – 6
Tuesday 9:30 – 11: am CGS I
Wednesday 4:30 – 5:45 pm CGS I & II