Third Sunday of Advent | Gaudete Sunday
Is.35:1-6A, 10; Ps.146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-6
“Are you the one who is to come?”
Today is Gaudete Sunday, and it takes its name from the Latin word for Rejoice. The scriptures today invite us to rejoice as these Advent days wind down, and we anticipate once again the joy of Christ’s coming.
We hear the call to rejoice first in the Entrance Antiphon. It echoes again in the first reading of Isaiah’s prophecy of what will accompany the coming of God, who will deliver the Jewish people from the oppression and suffering they have endured.
The parched desert will bloom, the weak will receive strength, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, the mute will sing, and those ransomed will return, certainly a cause for rejoicing for a people in desperate need of signs of hope.
In the second reading, James advises his hearers to be patient as they await the coming of God among them, something they believe to be imminent. We, too, can be tempted to become impatient as we reflect on the suffering and division prevalent in our world, our country, and our church and wait for things to change for the better. This Advent, perhaps more than any other, we too need to be patient as we wait for the fulfillment of the reign of God.
In our waiting, we can find a kindred spirit in John the Baptist. In today’s gospel, John is in prison, facing death, and questioning his ministry. He had focused his preaching on a call for repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, who would avenge the wrongs inflicted on the Jewish people. John had been patiently waiting for Jesus to do this. But his patience is wearing thin, and he is beginning to be discouraged.
When he heard that Jesus’ mission was focusing on forgiveness and healing, John became concerned that his work had been in vain. Was Jesus really the one who was to come? Was He the one for whom he was called to prepare the way? If so, where were the fire and avenging actions he expected from the Messiah? Fearing his mission may have been misguided, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another.”
As he often does, Jesus does not give a direct answer. Instead, he refers to Isaiah’s prophecy and asks John’s disciples to look at what they had seen and heard and judge for themselves. He then confirms John as the one sent to prepare the way for Him, certainly an affirmation of support for John’s ministry.
Like John, we can often become discouraged by the way things are. We may wonder if our hope that somehow the violence and division we witness daily will end, that the oppressed will receive justice, and that peace will come to the troubled areas of our world will ever be realized.
Advent is a perfect time to reflect on that hope. It is a time of waiting, of hoping for the completion of the Reign of God when all will be made whole. Our waiting can take on new meaning if we recognize how Jesus is present among us right now, in scripture, in the Eucharist, and in the many ways, He comes to us through others.
I was reminded of His presence recently as I read postings on a group’s Facebook page. Several people cited instances of how complete strangers had reached out to them and to others in simple ways that brought them joy and gave them hope. In each case, the recipients continued to pay the generosity forward.
These are signs to me that Jesus is present among us, and they challenge me to pay His presence forward. If each of us can do that, perhaps we shall be “the one who is come” for someone in need of joy during these remaining days of Advent.
Sr. Michaela Connolly, OP