3rd Sunday of Advent, Cycle A
Is 35:1-6a, 10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11
The 3rd Sun of Advent is known by its entrance antiphon that exhorts us to “rejoice,” in Latin Gaudete; and the reason it gives is: “The Lord is near.” As the Gospel narrates, John is already in jail and sends a delegation to Jesus to inquire, not for his knowledge because he already knew Jesus, but for his disciples, that they may follow Jesus. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate forerunner, sent “to prepare his way.” He surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. Already in his mother’s womb he leapt for joy when Mary visited her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, so near was the Lord. John pointed out Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and went before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Mal 3:1&23). John bears witness to Jesus in his preaching, by his baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom. By sending his disciples to Jesus, they and we get the answer, “he is the one who is to come” and we are not “to look for another.” Truly, let us “rejoice” because the Lord is near.
The first reading from the prophet Isaiah talks of the desert and the steppe exulting, rejoicing and blooming. Why? Because the Lord comes to his creation. The Lord comes with redemption, he comes to save us. It will be manifested when the eyes of the blind are opened, the deaf hear, the dumb speak and the lame leap like a stag. The gift of redemption makes us sing for joy and gladness, makes sorrow and mourning flee. The second reading from James reminds us that we are in advent, waiting for the coming of the Lord. Waiting is characterized by patience like that of a farmer waiting for the precious fruit of the earth. The prophets, too, waited for Him in patience; hope made their waiting joyful. We hope because we know that the Lord will fulfill his promises.
The Gospel answers our question: ‘Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?’ Jesus simply points to the events surrounding him; the prophecy of Isaiah is now being fulfilled by him: ‘the blind see, the dumb speak, the deaf hear and the lame leap like a stag.’ Human physical defects are healed, and Jesus adds: ‘the poor have the good news preached to them.’ In Jesus all the prophecies are fulfilled, and we are to look for no other.Jesus then begins to praise John. John the Baptist is the messenger prophesied by Malachi: “Behold, I am sending a messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.” He is the messenger in the spirit of Elijah who prepares the way of the Lord, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers’ (Mal 3:24). The Savior is right at our door knocking. Let us prepare our hearts through a good confession and with pure hearts receive the Lord at Christmas day.