Readings – Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; James 5:7-10; Matthew. 11:2-11)
As we continue our journey through the Season of Advent we are invited to heed the call to repentance and renewal in order to prepare to welcome the Lord into our lives at Christmas.
Today, in the tradition of the Liturgical calendar, the third Sunday of Advent is known as “Gaudete Sunday”. from the Latin verb for “rejoice”. We have passed the mid-point in Advent so this joy becomes more and more intense as we advance in our journey of faith. The readings invite us to reflect on the source of this joy in the midst of the struggles of daily life, and the sufferings of our world. The great paradox is that this Advent joy has already been given to us, but, we continue to long for the joy which is not here yet.
The readings today are a great hymn of joy centering around the coming of the Messiah. In the First Reading, Isaiah announces that he will come; in the Gospel, Matthew tells us that he has come; and in the Second Reading, James tells us to be patient that he will come again.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist is making contact with Jesus from prison. The authorities have locked him away, because the message he preaches terrifies them. Yes, you can lock someone away, but you cannot imprison one who has truly repented with a full heart. The disciples of John were told to go back and say – the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor. Jesus’ miracles of healing have attracted public attention and given the people a sense of great joy.
However, James tells us that waiting for Christ’s coming requires patience, a patience that is strong and at the same time gentle. The beginning of accepting redemption from our sin is found in the realization that we cannot do without God and in accepting that “I am not” except insofar as I relate to God. The Christian calling is not clear-cut and it can take many forms, but we all share some of what characterises the mission of John. We have all been called; we are all challenged to go out into the world to proclaim the Good News, to cry in the wilderness, to witness and live out in our daily lives the love shown by God when he sent his Son into our world.
There is no doubt that the Gospel is demanding, but we have the great joy of God’s grace as we journey. Our salvation is a work in progress. Let us continue throughout this season to encourage each other in prayer to repent and rejoice in the knowledge that God is with us now. As St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice! The Lord is very near.”
Sr Máiréad Morrissey OP