Sunday, 12/11/2016, Third Sunday in Advent
First Reading Commentary Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
In this part of his prophecy, Isaiah is telling us that when the Lord comes, Israel will be delivered. Isaiah's message was written for the people of his time but when we consider Israel in this prophecy, we include all, of the faithful; past, present and future. Isaiah is telling us that everyone who puts their faith in God will see God’s glory and splendor.
As we wait for the day that we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are constantly reminded by Isaiah’s prophecies that we also await the day of His second coming. Jesus came into this life as a poor baby and lived a life of humility. But when He comes again, Jesus will radiate all, of His splendor and glory.
Isaiah is telling us that we are not to keep the coming of the Lord a secret. We are to share this news with the world, especially with those who are feeble, weak and frightened. Isaiah says to tell them, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God.” And, in order, for us to share this message, we have, to first embrace it with, our hearts.
In today’s world, it is unpopular to discuss religion so most of us shy away from such conversations. But there are those who do want to hear God’s Word and they are waiting for someone to share it with them. They may be afraid to ask but they are willing to listen and it is our calling in baptism to share God’s Word with them. The strength, courage and fortitude that comes with faith, all of which comes from the Holy Spirit, will give us the encouragement to answer the call. All we have to do is be willing to serve God by answering the call.
But those who do not know God’s Word through no fault of their own, meaning that no one took the time to share it with them, will not be abandoned. This is another message that Isaiah repeats several times in his prophecies.
Today, Isaiah tells us that God will come with vindication and divine recompense to save us. In other words, God will take His wrath on those who have not allowed God’s Word to be shared and God will save those who have been denied.
What we learn in this prophecy should tell us that taking religion out of our schools is a bad move because in doing so, we are denying our children. We should be just as anxious to have our children learn about God as we are to have them learn math, science and reading. All, of the knowledge there is to have in academic subjects will do our children no good on the last day if they do not know God. We should educate our children giving them the ability to use their free will with intelligence.
God will make Himself known on the last day. Isaiah tells us that on that day, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap and the mute will sing. This includes those of us who have faith because all of us are sinners and therefore fall victim to at least one of these afflictions each time that we sin.
Isaiah tells us that everyone who is ransomed by the Lord will be crowned with everlasting joy. And just who will that be? Anyone and everyone who truly wants to be with Christ will be ransomed by Him. On that day, there will be no more sorrow and no more mourning. This is the promise of deliverance made by Christ in His covenant with us which is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Proclaim with Patience
Second Reading Commentary James 5:7-10
Are we there yet? When are we gonna get there? How much longer? Why is it taking so long? These are the kind of questions that our children nag us with on a long car trip. When are they coming? How come they are not here yet? Our children nag us with questions like these when someone special is expected to visit. Little children are not known for having patience and—some of us never grow up.
Patience is a difficult thing for children to embrace. When we tell our children to be patient, sometimes they pout, stomp and fuss. They have not learned how to appreciate the reward that comes with whatever it is that they are waiting for until it comes to them. But we “grown-ups” are supposed to understand. We should know that a reward which is much greater than any of us can imagine will come to us when Christ comes again.
We do? I’m not so sure about that. If we knew and understood the reward that awaits us on the last day, we would not sin. If you are like me, it might be a good idea to consider that the next time that you get ready to something that you know is wrong.
In this part of his letter, St. James is telling us to be patient. He gives us the analogy of a farmer who waits for the precious fruit of the earth. The farmer knows that the early and the late rains must come first. In other words, the soil must be nurtured so that it can nurture the plant that bares the fruit. In this analogy, Christ is the farmer and we are the fruit. Christ will come again when He is ready and that will be when we are ready to receive Him.
James tells us to keep our hearts firm which is another way of telling us to keep the faith. He also gives us a warning not to complain about each other because the Judge is standing before the gates. If you are in the habit of judging others but you do not want to be judged yourself, you better stop saying the Lord’s Prayer. On second thought, don’t stop praying—stop judging instead.
St. James tells us to learn from the prophets. Some of them had great struggles with patience and had to learn hard lessons but in the end, they proclaimed the coming of the Lord and we should be patient and do the same.
Don’t Let Impatience Cloud Your Judgment
Gospel Commentary Matthew 11:2-11
Impatience can cloud our judgment and cause us not to see what is right before our eyes. It can cause us to doubt that which we know to be true and if we are not careful, impatience will get us into a lot of trouble.
John the Baptist knew who Jesus was but because Jesus presented Himself with great humility and without any of the flashy fanfare that would be expected of a king, John began to doubt—or so it would appear.
We do know that John was anxious for the arrival of the Messiah and knew of the works that Jesus was performing. But was John like so many others, expecting someone very different from Jesus? Or, was John showing impatience wanting Jesus to proclaim His divinity? In any case, John sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to John’s disciples, “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 to me.”
The answer that Jesus sent back to John came from the prophecies about Him. Jesus was fulfilling the prophecies and John knew that. So, in effect, Jesus was telling John to stop allowing his impatience to cloud his judgment. Jesus was saying to John, “You came to prepare the way for Me. You know better, snap out of this, be patient and keep your faith in Me.”
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds about John. Jesus did not rescind His rebuke of John but He did stand up for John’s credibility and reminded the crowds of the importance of John’s mission by saying, “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.’” Jesus wanted the people to know that He was the one who John spoke of and Jesus also wanted the people to know that John proclaimed the truth and that was what John wanted Jesus to hurry up and say.
Jesus also picked John up by telling the people that no one greater had ever been born of a woman than John the Baptist. We have, to stop and meditate on this for a moment. The Second Person of the Trinity just said that John the Baptist was the greatest person ever born. That’s nothing to take lightly. It just goes to prove, one more time, that the best of us make mistakes and God loves us in spite, of our brokenness and God will use us for His glory if we let Him.
Why did Jesus proclaim John’s greatness? John carried out his mission of heralding the coming of Christ without any question and with great humility. Instead of boasting his own importance as the prophet who prepared the way for the coming of Christ, John proclaimed that he must decrease so that Jesus could increase. John 3:30
But we cannot ignore what Jesus said next either. Jesus said, “…yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” This may sound like a contradiction but it is not. It may also sound like God has favorites and in spite, of John’s loyalty, he is not a favorite. Well, we know that is not true. God has no favorites! So, what did Jesus mean by saying that the least in the kingdom would be greater than John?
Jesus was referring to His Church which is His Mystical Body. Everyone with faith who is a member of the Church is a part of the Mystical Body and is among those who will be great in heaven. Now, don’t go running around proclaiming to be greater than John the Baptist because none of us are and none of us ever will be.
Heaven is a place that none of us will ever truly deserve to be but none of us with faith and remorse for our sins will ever be denied. We will never get to heaven by proclaiming our own greatness. We will only get to heaven if we allow God to proclaim our greatness. We are only great because God loves us enough to decree it and that will only happen if we exercise the humility of John the Baptist.
Even then, we cannot take our place in heaven for granted. We still have, to be patient and do our part by keeping the faith, confessing and repenting for our sins and by taking up our crosses in life with a willingness to give up this life so that we can live in the next.