December 15, 2013 – Third Sunday of Advent
We have previously explained that the word Advent finds its roots in the Latin word adventus which means “coming.” It is apt on this Third Sunday of Advent that John the Baptist asks a question in Matthew’s Gospel which is “Are you the one who is to come?”
Reviewing the three main readings for this Third Sunday of Advent, we might find various themes, all of which are readily applicable for Advent: spiritual healing in the reading from Isaiah; patience in the reading from James; and hearing and seeing the truth in Matthew’s Gospel.
The first reading from Isaiah paints a glorious picture, a heavenly image. The desert blooms; there is boundless joy; all exult and sing. It is the happiest of times. “Sorrow and mourning will flee.” The coming of the Lord is imminent, and we as the faithful are asked to focus on the joys and gladness of the moment. That is a feeling which is very well analogous to stewardship. It is said that people who embrace and pursue stewardship as a way of life focus on the good and the positive, not the negative. They can see beyond the present, outside this world to the Kingdom to come. Reference is made to healing those who suffer ailments, but the real healing has to do with the soul, with one’s spirit.
The letter from James speaks to us of “patience.” Most Reverend Robert Morneau, Diocese of Green Bay, often speaks of the haves and the have nots. To the Bishop all stewardship people are haves. That means they do indeed focus on what they have, not what they do not have. They have the kind of patience James speaks of in today’s second reading. There is no question we live in an impatient society. Nothing is fast enough; in fact nothing seems to be enough. A farmer understands that if the crops are harvested too early, they are worthless. One must wait for the tree to bear fruit, for the crops to ripen and mature, before picking them.
People in today’s world do not like to wait. Yet, that is what we as Catholics and Christians, and as good stewards must do. It is especially noteworthy in this Advent season, when we wait and expect the “coming.” James refers to community and to embracing one another; this is part of the virtue of patience. Now, Advent, is a time for us to put aside our anxiety and anger and sense of injury, and to reach out to one another, to love as Jesus called us to.
Two strong themes leap out from the Gospel of Matthew. As stated, the question rises, “Are you the one…” The Lord replies “tell…what you hear and see.” This repeats what we have learned through this Advent — that is, we must be alert and we must be willing to look at things in a new and refreshing way. This is our stewardship struggle on a daily basis, to renew our lives and to embrace again and again the love of Jesus and to share it with one another. Advent is one of the best times to do that. It is also good to remember as Advent reaches toward Christmas that nothing humans have to sell is as good as what God has already given.