December 15, 2019 — Third Sunday in Advent
Good news, Christian stewards — we are gaining ground on our Advent mountain climb and it is time to take a moment to rejoice in the Good News that our Savior will come again in triumph one day. Today’s readings on this Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday are filled with reminders of God’s final victory over suffering and injustice, and encouragement to remain steadfast in our mission to live as faith-filled disciples.
Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah seems to shout out good cheer as he paints a picture of what the long-awaited Savior will usher in: “the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag… the tongue of the mute will sing. Those whom the Lord has ransomed (that’s us!) will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”
Such a day almost seems too good to be true, especially when we look around at the dire circumstances we face in our world at present. But by faith we know this day is coming. Lest we grow weary as we await the glorious day of Christ’s return, St. James, in our second reading, offers wise counsel. “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord… Make your hearts firm… Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.”
This is excellent advice for us Christian stewards as we face the challenges of everyday life in our broken world, especially in the hectic days that precede Christmas, when stress can make us and those around us less than our best selves. St. James reminds us that we can choose our response to both the great strains and the minor annoyances of life.
In other words, we can be good stewards of our attitude, “making our hearts firm” by practicing patience with others and refusing to give in to the temptation to complain. We can choose to see and rejoice in God’s presence with us, no matter the circumstances surrounding us.
Our Gospel passage, from Matthew, connects the prophecy of Isaiah to the arrival of Jesus, almost word for word. In this passage we find the imprisoned John the Baptist sending his disciples to ask Jesus if he is indeed the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus’ reply is almost identical the Isaiah’s prophetic words. He says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised…” The Savior really has arrived just as promised! Yet that arrival was 700 years after Isaiah’s prediction. God always fulfills his promises, but patience and firmness of heart are required as we await his perfect timing.
As John’s disciples go off to report this wonderful news, Jesus has high praise for John. “Among those born of women, there has been none greater.” Yet, Jesus adds, “The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Honorable as it was for John the Baptist to serve as the one who would announce the Savior’s arrival, it is a much greater privilege to attain membership in His kingdom.
Let us rejoice in the knowledge that God has called us to enter this kingdom. Let us keep our hearts firmly fixed on this eternal goal and strive with all our might to give God and others the very best of ourselves in gratitude for such a privilege.