Saturday, December 15, 2007
3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT - A
ISAIAH 35:1-6, 10
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice
and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with
joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor
of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the
splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm
the knees that are weak, Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be
strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With
divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the
blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame
leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will
burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. Those whom the
LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with
everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and
mourning will flee.
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See
how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being
patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You
too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the
Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brothers, about one another, that
you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the
gates. Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers, the
prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his
disciples to him with this question, "Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Go and
tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the
lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is
the one who takes no offense at me." As they were going off, Jesus
began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out to the
desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to
see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing
are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes,
I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is
written: 'Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will
prepare your way before you.' Amen, I say to you, among those born of
women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the
least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
In today's gospel reading the greatest prophet of the Old Testament
and the greatest prophet of the New Testament come together. The
voice of the old way comes from a prison. The voice of the new way is
free. This Gospel story could have ended here, because the scholars
tell us that its function was to introduce Jesus and get John out of
the picture. But it does not end because John is not the only one in
We too are in prison. Just like John the Baptist, we suspect, we
hope, that the reign of God has begun. Yet we find ourselves in
prison, stuck and held back in our old ways: violent ways, selfish
ways, prejudiced ways, greedy, slow to forgive, impatient and
intolerant. We are like this doubting John the Baptist whose
expectations of a Messiah are not quite fulfilled by this man from
Nazareth. He does not destroy our enemies. There is still sickness,
blindness, cancer, infidelity, injustice, and power abused. Like John
in prison, we are lonely, betrayed sometimes by the most loved. And
we are filled with doubts about whether it is really worth it to be
honest, to be truthful, to be faithful.
The doubts of John in prison are not hard to understand. In the
silence of his heart, pondering on the person of Jesus, he must have
wondered: "Who's side are you on?" Still in prison and unable to
clear his doubts about Jesus, John the Baptist sends his disciples to
Jesus with the question: "Are you the One who is to come or are we to
look for another?" To this question of John the Baptist comes the
most simple response: "What you see is what you get."
Then one of the deepest and most profound statements Jesus ever makes
comes from the pen of Matthew, revealing a great deal about the
church that will receive this Gospel. "Happy is the one who does not
find in me a stumbling block." It is a startling verse implying that
faith is not only a question of belief in the deeds of Jesus, it is
also an act of faith. It is a choice to believe in spite of some
evidence to the contrary that God is with us, that God's reign has
begun, that we are not alone, left to ourselves, and without a vision
of the future and the means to bring it into reality. The person who
really stumbles is not the one stricken by doubts, but the one not
impressed by Jesus. Doubts do not destroy us. Indifference does and
confusion about who Jesus is for us and what he can do with us.
Advent, when lived through the life and the eyes of John the Baptist
means getting ready for what seems impossible and improbable. Advent
is a season that raises our curiosity, and invites us to see
something that can change our lives. Our worldly way of thinking
never lets God be God, never allows for the surprise of a baby born
of a virgin, nor the possibility of mercy, love, tolerance, patience
and forgiveness being better than revenge, punishment, and power. The
old and the new come together today. The old way of anger and
vengeance meets the new way of mercy and love.
John must have wondered why Jesus was eating with the very sinners he
had cursed. He must have wondered how it would be possible to save
sinners by chatting with them, smiling at them, and touching them.
Our joy today springs from the news that the old has been replaced;
that God has come to save us not condemn us; that God has come to
love us not despise us; that the Messiah for whom we long, is far
better than we could ever have imagined.
As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are set free from our prisons
by a Savior who does not do what we want, but invites us to do what
he wants. And doing what Jesus wants means to change our ways and
follow his ways. The message that Jesus sends to John and to us is
that the power of his coming is found not in the fury of battle but
in the changes within human hearts and lives. We see the power of
Christ's coming at Christmas most vividly, not in the brightness of
our lights, the glitter of our decorations, the sound of our choirs,
the size of our Christmas trees or the number of our gifts. The power
of Christ's coming is shown in his entry into human lives to dwell
there as a source of strength, faith and redemption.
The real miracles of the Messiah occur every day within human hearts.
The real power of Christmas is manifested on the inside rather than
on the outside. The inner change that Jesus came to bring about in
the human soul is the necessary condition for any abiding change in
our world. A corrupt heart will corrupt everything it touches. A
healed heart can heal its environment.
Advent is a good time to identify whatever is keeping us from
experiencing this power of the Messiah. Maybe the question that we
should ask is not "What do we want FOR Christmas?" but "What do we
want FROM Christmas?" What do we want the Messiah to do in our lives?
Part of the deep joy of Advent and of Christmas comes from our
knowledge that the Messiah came to bring life to the dead places in
our hearts, to help us recover spiritual vitality in our soul, to
remove the desert of sin in our lives. The Messiah that John the
Baptist awaited did indeed come to do battle not with the Romans but
with the power of sin; not on the plains of Palestine but in every
human heart; not once but in every generation.
Use the remaining days of Advent to let the Messiah change your
world, your life and your soul. Embrace the gospel and live in his
truth. Then you will know that the Messiah has indeed come to you.
We pray ...
... for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the
... for the strength, healing and speedy recovery of Damaso Guevara and
... for the personal intentions of Danica Nadia M. Calonia
... In Thanksgiving: Balingit Family
... for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary.
- Birthday: Trini and Marilou Bulaong
- In Memoriam (+): Manuel Dee C. Ham
- In Memoriam (+): Juanita Q. Estrada
... for world peace and reconciliation.
Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our
prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.
Have a good day!
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