16 December: Third Sunday of Advent
Readings: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; James 5:7-10; Mt. 11:2-11
Signs of hope, signs of new life and signs of fulfillment of promise characterize the message of the Third Sunday of Advent. Today we light a pink candle symbolizing joy because our salvation is already here. In the first reading that sounds like a poem, the prophet Isaiah announces to a people in exile that their situation is about to change; that they will soon go back home. He shows the people a poetic picture of how the desert will become fertile and all the foliage will sing out the goodness and glory of God. Then in the final section, the reading recounts how the change will affect those who long for salvation. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk and the mute speak. All will sing with joy as they enter Jerusalem. The reading therefore invites us to rejoice because the Lord is coming soon to save his people from their captivity and sorrow. We rejoice because what was prophesied is fulfilled in Jesus in the Gospel.
The Gospel starts with John the Baptist in prison. He sends his disciples to ask Jesus whether he is really the Messiah or would there be another to come. Jesus refers to what Isaiah had prophesied and says that there is no need to keep waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is already in our midst. There are already clear signs of hope. "Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, the lame walk, and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor". That is why we need not wait any longer. That is why we rejoice because we see the signs of Christ’s presence. The Messiah is already here. But how can we speak of joy and hope in the face of uncertainty and suffering in many parts of the world? Some years ago I asked a missionary Comboni Sister Maria Luisa who worked in North East Congo to tell me how we could proclaim the presence of the Messiah in Congo in the midst of civil war, suffering and poverty. She started by saying that it was a mystery because in such a situation the faith of the people was incredibly strong. Besides, there were many signs of hope and new life. We may speak of civil wars, poverty and famine in many parts of Africa, but at the end of the day we encounter many signs of hope because Jesus is present in all these situations. These signs of hope and new life in the midst of suffering are the hidden ‘miracles” of today. To sum up in a few points: 1) We are filled with joy because our salvation is closer than when we began this season. The air of Christmas is all around us; 2) We rejoice because the Messiah is already in our midst. There are many signs of hope; 3) We rejoice because we encounter the hidden “miracles” of today. Yes, “the blind see, the lame walk, and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor.” 4) We pray that the Lord may open our eyes and ears of faith to see and hear what Jesus is already doing in our midst; that we may see the hidden ‘miracles” of today.
©2007 John M. Mbinda