11 December 2022
Is 35:1-6a, 10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11: 2-11
“Rejoice in the Lord always,… the Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).
The Entrance Antiphony of the Third Sunday invites us to rejoice in the Lord always (“Gaudete in Domino semper,” ). St Paul gives the reason for rejoicing and says, “The Lord is near” (Phil 4:5). Thus, this Sunday is often called Gaudete Sunday because of its clarion call to rejoice in the Lord. It is also called ‘Rose Sunday’ because on this Sunday the third candle of the Advent wreath is lit and the colour of this candle is rose. The rose colour is often associated with joy. Thus as the Nativity of Christ is near, we are invited to rejoice in the Lord. We also rejoice in the Lord as we prepare for his second coming in glory and majesty.
This joy characterizes the first reading from Isaiah 35. Like the theme of Deutro Isaiah, the text comforted the exiles who were returning to their land to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. While in exile, the Jews had become so weak and fearful. By the mouth of his prophet, God announced the Glad Tidings of salvation. The Good News was that the weak were going to be strengthened and the blind and the deaf were going to be healed. A ransom to redeem the people was paid. The desolate wilderness was going to blossom. It was going to be recreated and become a paradise. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Lord, we wait with joy for the coming of our Redeemer who at his first coming paid a supreme sacrifice on the cross in order to redeem us.
Be patient,… until the coming of the Lord.
The Apostle James exhorted the righteous, who were being exploited and were suffering unjustly at the hands of the unjust rich, to be patient as they waited for the coming of the Saviour who was going to judge both the oppressor and the oppressed. He drew good example from the farmer who was patient until the rains came to give growth to the crops. We are thus, invited to carry our crosses daily as we wait for the coming of the Lord. Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict xvi says, “The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man” (Benedict xvi Inauguration 25 April 2005). We pray that during this Season of Advent we may cultivate this virtue of patience. May we be patient with one another just as God is patient with us.
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
In today’s Gospel, we encounter John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah in prison at Herod’s stronghold Machaerus. John was imprisoned because he had denounced Herod the Tetrarch for taking his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias. When John heard about works of Christ, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was the one to come or they should wait for another one. John wanted to know whether Jesus was Israel’s awaited Messiah. He himself had preached about the Messiah as the one who was to come after him. In his preaching John had highlighted that the one who was to come after him was going to baptize with fire and hew down every wicked tree. To the disappointment of John, Jesus had not acted and preached according to his expectation. . Jesus did not fulfill the popular Jewish expectation of a political Messiah.
In his reply Jesus said, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Mtt 11:4b-5). The disciples of John got a new task from Jesus, to go and proclaim the might deeds of the Messiah. They were to be missionary disciples to their master and to others. The works of Jesus were a cause for joy. They were the works of the Messiah. They echoed the promise of deliverance in Isaiah 35: 5; 61:1. Thus, John and his disciples had to rejoice because the Messiah was already in their midst. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs…” (CCC 549). While the miracles performed by Jesus pointed to his messianic presence, nonetheless faith in Jesus was required. Jesus imparts a beatitude on, anyone who does not find him a cause of falling (Mat 11:6). May we not be ashamed or be scandalized to follow and proclaim Jesus the Messiah who was born in a stable in Bethlehem and was laid in a manger.
Are we the missionary disciples who are expected to come?
The question of John can be directed to us especially this time of Advent. What then is our reply? Are we able to point to some works that bring joy to the poor, to the migrants, to the youth affected by drugs, to the child headed families, to those who are economically excluded? What action are we taking to solve the social problems affecting our society? The reply of Jesus spurs us to be missionary disciples who are attentive to the needs of our society. If the healing of the blind , deaf, lame and lepers by Jesus became the cause of joy to those who were waiting for his coming, we can ask ourselves: Can we bring the same joy to the people of our time?
The Gospel preached to the poor
On this Gaudete Sunday, Jesus invites us to resolve the spiritual and moral handicap which enslaves us. Pope St John Paul ii once said that “even in our times, there are many people waiting to hear the Good News. There are many “who are lame and have difficulty in walking on the right paths; many are disappointed or discouraged; many are affected by the leprosy of sin and evil and are waiting to be saved” (John Paul Homily December 13, 1998). Let this Christmas be for us a healing season when we rebuild our relationship with Christ the one who is to come.
May our Mother Mary who rejoiced at the coming of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ intercede for us so that we may rejoice in the Lord always. Amen.