3rd. Sunday Of Advent – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Signs Of The True Messiah.”
What signs can we offer people today to convince them that the true Messiah is among them?
The disciples of Christ have to keep on being living signs of what their Master did: they need to help and serve their fellow men and women, feed the hungry, cure the sick and be champions of the oppressed and lost and be the enemies of sin.
The first and the second readings tell us that if we want to succeed in being such witnesses, we should never allow ourselves to be discouraged, even when confronted by situations that look desperate.
The Gospel tells us at a certain time the Baptist had doubts about Jesus being the true Messiah. He had placed his hopes on the wrong signs. He had expected a judge, hard on sinners; he saw instead ‘One’ who was endeavouring to save and recover what was lost.
This week let us search for examples of ‘True Christian Living’ that we can imitate to help bring about the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God on earth by giving hope, the promise of peace and joy found in Christ to a troubled world.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden. In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10.
The first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah are generally, but not exclusively, the personal work of Isaiah, the son of Amoz. Scholars tell us that these chapters also contain some material from later times. That seems to be the case with the first reading for this Sunday. It is a poem concerned with the return from exile, apparently written some 150 years after the time of Isaiah, though still reflecting his teaching about the Messiah and the messianic kingdom.
The first reading is a message of comfort and hope addressed to those in need of liberation. It describes for the exiles in Babylon how things will be when God brings them home again. The text as presented to us in the lectionary is divided into three parts.
The first part describes the road that the returning exiles would travel. It would pass through the desert country, but God would beautify and refresh the country so as to make it pleasant and easy for the travellers. The desert will bloom and there will be singing along the road. Luxuriant growth will spring up, like the green on the mountainsides or the robust growth in the Valley of Sharon, along the Mediterranean. Travelling the road will be like seeing the very splendour of God.
The next section of the reading has to do with the travellers. The prophet encourages someone (perhaps the religious leader of the people) to strengthen feeble hands, make firm the knees that are weak and to encourage the fearful to be strong. The assurance of God’s presence and help would give the travellers the strength and courage they needed to continue the journey of return. “God is coming to rescue and deliver you.” When that occurs, every disability will be removed. The blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute will enjoy a fullness, even an abundance of power and energy.
Finally, a concluding summary: no more sorrow, only singing with joy when the return has finally taken place and the Lord’s people return to their homeland. These signs of the ‘new world’ correspond to those listed by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. By transforming suffering into joy and turning death into life, Jesus shows us that his coming is the beginning of the ‘new world’ announced by the prophet.
The psalmist tells us that God is the one who keeps his faith forever, and this faith is aimed at ‘those who are wronged … the hungry … the prisoners … the blind … the bowed down … the foreigner … the widow and the orphan”. What we have to learn, again and again, is that our true happiness and joy rests, not on our own resources or merits, but on God’s grace and generosity, and so our psalm ends, ‘YHWH shall reign forever, the God of Zion from generation to generation’.
The second reading does not have too much about rejoicing; it is, however, well aware of some of the difficulties involved in being a joyful Christian, as it councils ‘patience’ (the word is used three times) in waiting for the Lord’s appearance, pointing to the way farmers behave. A delay in the Lord’s coming leaves them feeling decidedly uneasy, restless and impatient. They have to be warned ‘Not to groan against each other, brothers and sisters; because the Lord is standing before the gates’. James counsels the people to be patient and not to lose heart for, as he vows, “The coming of the Lord is near.” We must listen to the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name.
In the Gospel, Matthew tells us that a certain time John the Baptist had doubts about Jesus being the true Messiah. He had placed his hopes in the wrong signs. He expected a judge, hard on sinners; he saw instead one who was endeavouring to save and recover what was lost. From a Galilean jail John the Baptist sent his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one to come, or do we have to wait for another?”
Jesus does not give them a direct answer. Rather, he says to them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have ‘Good News’ brought to them. Blessed is anyone who takes no offence to me.”
John and his followers knew the Hebrew Scriptures well. They were fully aware of all the promises made by Isaiah and the other prophets. The question of John is our question too. Is Jesus the one for us, or are we waiting for someone else? Is his Gospel enough for us? Jesus’ answer is as much a challenge to John as it is for us today. Do we find in Jesus the true answer to our longings? Jesus is not the seemingly powerful Saviour who will usher in the day of wrath and winnow the wheat and the chaff, but the one whose deeds gather up the most profound hopes of Isaiah. John and his disciples also recognized that in his reply to them, Jesus clearly implied that he was fulfilling those promises, that indeed he was the long-awaited Messiah.
Notice too that Jesus did not find fault with John because he had doubts. There is a comforting message in that for each one of us, because we too have struggled at times in the darkness of our doubts and uncertainties. What it means is that the Lord accepts us and loves us unconditionally just as we are.
What sign can we offer people today to convince them that the Messiah is among us? The disciples of Christ have to keep on being ‘living signs’ of what their master did: they must help their fellow men and women, feed the hungry, cure the diseases, be champions of the oppressed and be the enemy of sin.
The messianic journey of God’s people has begun, but it is not yet ended. We are not home yet. To a greater or lesser extent, we are still in spiritual ‘exile’. To a greater and lesser extent, we are all infirm, disabled and handicapped. We have been given the words of Isaiah and the words and deeds of Jesus. These are not mere poetic effusions or symbolic actions. They constitute God’s own reassurance that the road we travel towards our salvation is not impassable, and that the infirmities we bear are not incurable.
What is important for us to remember is that we are still on a journey, that we are making progress through faith. Sometimes we are tempted to be content with what we have, to put down final roots where we are now. We content ourselves with our present life, its comforts, and its consolations. We are inclined to be too settled and make the best we can of our life here in the ‘Babylon’ of our lives. We forget that God has something far more and better in store for us.
We all have then a long way to go in our spirituality and in our commitment to God. Let us carry in our hearts something of the strength and dedication of John the Baptist.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … The first part of the reading in Isaiah 35, which describes the road that the exiles would travel along being made pleasant and easy for the travellers, is symbolic of how God will make it easy for us when we wish to come home from our self-imposed exile.
Mon. … In the second part, the prophet gives the assurance of God’s presence and help to all those needing the strength and courage to continue the journey back home, no matter how far and difficult it may be. He says: “God is coming to rescue and deliver you.” When that occurs our disabilities will be removed; we need to pray for the true desire to return to our Father who is waiting to welcome us home.
Tue. … The messianic journey of God’s people has begun. Jesus has given us the ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’ to lessen our burden and to heal our disabled spirits and handicapped hearts.
Wed. … In the second reading James councils the people and us to be patient and not to lose heart, for as he vows, “The coming of the Lord is near.” We must listen to the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name. The Lord’s Word is eternal; the message of that time still applies to us today.
Thur. … John the Baptist favoured the apocalyptic approach. Things are so bad that there must be a total clear-out, ‘the axe, winnowing fan and fire’. Jesus favoured the prophetic approach. The prophet’s way was to unveil the presence of God in all situations. Evil will never prevail because God is with us.
Frid. … The question of John is our question too. Is Jesus the one for us, or are we waiting for someone or something else? Do we find in Jesus the true answer to our longings? Jesus did not find fault with John because he had doubts. This is a comforting message for each one of us as we have all struggled at times in the darkness of our doubts and uncertainties.
Sat. … John the Baptist predicted the ‘Axe of Vengeance’ and the’ Fires of Divine Wrath’. Yet Isaiah in the first reading says of vengeance, “He is coming to heal you.” To Jesus, vengeance means not punishment, but a love that healed. Two suitable questions of Advent Reconciliation: Where do I need divine healing? Is there anybody to whom I owe forgiveness?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, grant us a strong desire to read and understand the Gospel that we may come to fully realize that Jesus, Your Son is truly our Saviour and Redeemer, and that he is the ‘One’ whom we are waiting for this Advent. We pray that we may not have any doubts but truly believe.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.