Third Sunday of Advent 2010 First Reading and Gospel Reflection

Gospel Mass readings for Third Sunday of Advent are here 

and a previous post on Gaudete Sunday from here

The First reading from Isaiah carries us weary pilgrims forward as we "slouch towards Bethelehem "with a resounding message of hope that our journeying will not be in vain
and this is backed up by the second reading asking for patience but the Gospel for today shows that even the greatest preacher John the Baptist could have grave doubts and depression.

John's physical circumstances did not change. In prison this week, a few weeks later he was beheaded. But his faith was vindicated.

So we have to wait in the darkness and arid doubt filled ground hoping and believing that the Holy Spirit  is mysteriously and intricately weaving together for us a miraculous affirmation of life. 

Some people hope for better days, less pain and suffering but Advent hope means something more... a hope that human existence has meaning and possibility beyond whatever circumstances we are experiencing e.g the hope of the Chilean miners contrasted with the abject despair of those who were unable to be rescued in New Zealand;  the hope of people in Haiti despite catastrophic earthquake and subsequent cholera.

All circumstances show us time and time again, that there are limits to our human lives and that there will always be events that we cannot control but out of whatever mess we find ourselves in the message is :

It is not that we have possibility in ourselves, but that God is a God of new things and so all things are possible. 

Our hope cannot be just in circumstances, no matter how badly we want them to alter or how important they are to us.

The reality of our physical human existence is that we get sick and we die, there is global violence, domestic violence, trafficking of humans, torture, abuse, famine, greed and poverty at a scale that disgusts in our modern world but which has been there too since Biblical times. 

The book of Job struggles with the oppression of human life and ultimately shows us that if our hope is only in our circumstances, as we define them to be good or as we want them to be to make us happy, we will always be disappointed. 

The shadow of the cross falls even over the manger.

That is why we hope, not in circumstances, but in God. 

Over four thousand years, God reveals time and time again the newness of possibility of redemption, the recovery or transformation of possibility from endings that goes beyond what we can think or even imagine .  The crucifixion is followed by the resurrection.

God will come and come again into our world to reveal himself as a God of newness, of possibility, a God of new things.  

The embodied hope of God is enfleshed, incarnated, in a healthy newborn baby, the perfect example of newness, potential, and possibility.

During Advent, I groan and long for that newness with the hope and faith that God will once again be faithful to see our circumstances, to hear our cries, to know our longings for a better world and a whole life. 

Experience confirms that those who have suffered, who still manage to hope understand far more about God and about life than those of us who have not.

Maybe that is what hope is about: a way to live, not just to survive, but to live authentically amidst all the problems of life with a faith that continues to see possibility when there is no present evidence of it, just because God is God. 

That is one of the wonders of Advent that I need to spend time appreciating.

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 splendour of Carmel and Sharon;

they will see the glory of the LORD,

the splendour 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 mute will sing.

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.

There is a good reflection here from America Magazine.

The Gospel Matthew 11: 2-11 

John the Baptist in prison by Juan Fernandez de Navarette

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus 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.”


claire said...

A very impressive post, Phil. Thank you.

Philomena Ewing said...

Hi Claire,
Thank you so much - I really appreciate your comments.