Readings: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; James 5:7-10; Mt. 11:2-11
Signs of hope, joy, new life and fulfillment of promise characterize the message of this Sunday. Last Sunday the readings focused on a peaceful kingdom in the future, when the wolf and the lamb would lie down beside each other. This Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice Sunday. We are invited to pause and rejoice. We are told that salvation is near; the Messiah is in our midst. The Sunday takes its name from the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon of this Sunday taken from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians which begins with Gaudete in Domino semper (“Rejoice in the Lord always”). That is why today we light a desert rose candle symbolizing joy, because our salvation is already here in our midst. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah announces to the people in exile that the Messiah will come; their situation is about to change; they will soon be free to go back home. Isaiah 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; those who look for real joy and happiness. There would be nothing as joyful as a blind person seeing, nothing as beautiful as a deaf person hearing; nothing as uplifting as a lame person walking and a mute speaking. The reading therefore invites us to rejoice because the promised Messiah is coming soon to make that vision a reality; to bring real joy and happiness into our lives. In the Second reading from the Letter of James, we hear the same message: “Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
The Gospel starts with John the Baptist in prison. John 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 in today’s First Reading, and says that there is no need to keep waiting for salvation. It is already in our midst. There are already clear signs of joy, hope and new life. Jesus tells the messengers: "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. That is why we need to rejoice and be happy. The deeper question we need to ask on this Sunday is what constitutes real joy and happiness in our lives? I am a lover of high tech and cool gadgets, but once I have them, I enjoy using them, but at the end of the day, they do not give me real joy and happiness. The joy and excitement that many had in having the latest cool gadgets on Black Friday is already over. In other words, material possessions, no matter how cool, never give lasting satisfaction and joy. That is why St. Augustine once said: Our heart is restless until it rests in God. This Sunday, the readings help to see what Christ is already accomplishing in our midst, through the Church and through our own witness that makes the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk! Miracles do happen in our parish: just open your eyes and ears! Let me sum up in a few points. 1) The readings proclaim joy because our salvation is closer than when we began this season. The air of Christmas is all around us. 2) The readings draw our attention to the Messiah who is already in our midst. There are many signs of hope: the saving action of Christ is present in our parish. 3) The readings lead us to rejoice as we encounter the hidden “miracles” of today. Yes, “the blind see, the lame walk, and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor.” 4) Let us 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 go and tell others what we have seen and heard.
©2016 John S. Mbinda