Third Sunday of Advent
December 15, 2019 Cycle A
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
“Be strong, fear not! Here is your God” (Is 35:4).
The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday or Rejoice Sunday. Today, we feel great joy and delight because we are so close to Christmas.
John the Baptist was in prison. He knew he would not come out alive. In the darkness and loneliness of his cell, tormented by anguish and doubts, he had a moment of weakness. Such feelings and bad moments occur not only to us but also to the great saints, even to the man whom Jesus described in the following words: “… among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11). The saints are human people, like us.
John the Baptist had a mission to accomplish: to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. If Jesus were not the “one who is to come,” John’s mission would not have been completed and his life would have made no sense. John suffered doubts about the Messiahship of Jesus. What did John do? He sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was the one who was to come. Amidst John’s tribulation, he asks Jesus for a clarification. John did not remain closed within himself, in anguish and doubt. Instead, he opens his heart to God. He needs an answer from Jesus to achieve peace. He needs confirmation.
This is what prayer is: to place ourselves, as we are, before God and wait for an answer. We need to wait patiently, as the second reading tells us: “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth […]. You too must be patient” (Jas 5:7). Nothing that we place before God ever remains unanswered.
Here is Jesus’ answer: “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” (Mt 11:5). Jesus does not merely answer with words. He invites John’s disciples to see what is happening. He points to the facts. He orders John’s disciples to return to their master and tell him what they have heard and seen. Thus, John recovered the peace, joy and strength he needed for martyrdom.
John is one of the principal figures of Advent. We have much to learn from him! His life reveals a path that we can follow.
It is easy for us to identify with John’s drama. Sometimes we also feel lonely and imprisoned. Many times our fears explode and doubts invade our hearts. We have to choose whether to remain closed within ourselves or open to the light, between asking or not asking Jesus, between having or not having the patience to wait for an answer.
The Entrance Antiphon for this Sunday says the following: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4, 5).
God’s closeness destroys our fears and doubts, bringing us unexpected joy.
“Be strong, fear not! Here is your God.”
During this Advent season, let us make the choice that will allow us to be surprised by the closeness of God. Amen.