Daily Reflection
December 12th, 2004
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
The Third Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

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 Daily Advent Prayer for this Day

“Rejoice in the Lord always” are the opening words of our liturgy this weekend. Through the readings we are invited to consider the theme of “futurility.” Something very good is going to happen, but we are to wait with patience.  Rejoicing while waiting is not easy of course.

As with the First Reading last weekend, there is in our First Reading this weekend a reversal of the natural. The desert is going to be fruitfully rich some day. The physically challenged will be healed, some day. The fearful will be encouraged to trust in that “some day” which will reveal the glory of God.

We are invited to wait in hope, not just for Santa, or presents, but for the “some day” when we will rejoice even more that we are alive in body and spirit. Our joyful “some day” is always God’s work and we wait in watchful expectation for our own coming more alive to God’s coming into our deserts. Each “this day” is one day closer to that “some day.”

Often in Advent we hear of the nation, Israel, being promised a “day” or time when they will return to the land of the Covenant. The “Good News” is a cancellation of the old. Exiled from their Promised Land, they grieve their condition. Isaiah authors a poem of hope which we hear in our First Reading.

The people know well the desolate condition they are in and the poem sings of how the desolate nature of the desert will be changed and so will their own. They know the curse of physical infirmities and those are going to be removed.  The poem ends with a wonderful imaginative re-entering into Jerusalem with much singing and celebration.

The cause for all this joy is that the Lord who had sent them packing into exile is coming to vindicate and restore their covenantal condition and relationship. God is seen as the ever-lasting, ever-loving caretaker. As the sun seems to disappear and the rains disappoint at times, people of faith wait for God’s warmth and grace to bring about their fruitfulness.

From last-Sunday’s Gospel to the Gospel for today, John the Baptist has moved from the Jordan to prison. He sends two disciples to check out Jesus and whether or not Jesus is the awaited-for messiah. It was not that John doubted, but rather was surprised to hear all that Jesus, whom he had baptized, was performing as signs. His sending the disciples with the big question allows Jesus to say simply, “Check it out.” Jesus then makes reference to the prophetic poem we hear from Isaiah in the First Reading. The blind see, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the mute speak and they become evidence for John’s disciples and Matthew’s readers that Jesus is the Messiah.

The Gospel ends with Jesus speaking to the crowds of the person of John the Baptist.  Again Jesus is saying “check it out.”  Jesus asks the crowd what did they go out to check out, a wind-shaken straw? Did they find somebody dressed up in finery? No, they found a prophet of whom Scripture refers as the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

Jesus then states that John is the greatest ever born in the natural way. Ah, but Jesus twists this a little bit. Even greater, Jesus continues, than John the Baptist is the least one born of the Spirit in the “kingdom of heaven.” This last sentence is the cause for our great joy.

John sent his disciples to check it out and would hear of the signs and teachings, first hand. Those born of the Spirit are believers whose lives are molded by their deep belief in the Good News. John came before and believed what he heard and saw and died for his beliefs. WE are the after-comers who live while waiting to see and hear the fulfillment of the promises. Our lives are molded as well by the Jesus Who continues giving life and encouragement to keep “checking it out.”

This waiting for Christmas, this waiting for our permanent conversion, this waiting for the reunion of the desert parts of our lives and our world’s condition, this waiting seems to make us feel, well, impatient!  I was seated recently in a plane waiting for takeoff, but it wasn’t happening according to my schedule. After a few hours, well, minutes, the nice Flight Attendant explained the problem and thanked us for our patience. Ten minutes later she again thanked us for our patience. I thought to myself that she was thanking those others who were patient, because I was not feeling patient at all!

Virtue, like the virtue of Patience is not always accompanied by the feeling of that virtue; if it were then I think we would be more virtuous. Waiting for the Good News to be lived out in our lives, waiting for our deserts to bloom, waiting for our exiles and separations to be healed, are not always accompanied by the feelings of faith, hope and charity. Feelings come and go; how we live the virtues is how the Good News comes alive for us.

Rejoice then that this Reflection is almost completed; rejoice that you have waited to see if there is anything worth waiting for here. Our joy is that God waits patiently for us, not to be perfectly virtuous, but available to God’s advances and so become “the least in the kingdom of heaven.”

“Say to the anxious- be strong and fear not, our God will come to save us.” Isaiah 35, 4
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