Third Sunday of Advent
First reading: Is 35:1-6, 10
Responsorial Psalm: 146:6-10
Second reading: Jas 5:7-10
Gospel: Mt 11:2-11
By Jem Sullivan
The midpoint of Advent is a perfect place to pause and take spiritual stock of our journey to the awesome, wondrous gift of the coming of God in Jesus, the word made flesh. With less than two weeks to Christmas, it’s easy to lose our spiritual focus.
We may have begun Advent with the best of good intentions. But the growing list of tasks to complete, gatherings to attend and preparations to make will inevitably sidetrack our best efforts to draw near to the Lord this Advent. The hectic pace of the season may leave us feeling overwhelmed and frazzled, with less and less time for prayer or spiritual reading.
On this Third Sunday of Advent, God’s word invites us to get back on track with our spiritual journey to the Christ Child. It’s never too late to begin again in the spiritual life. Thanks be to God!
For again the Lord calls us to calm our fears, quiet our hearts and loosen our grip on the often superficial, unreasonable demands of the season. God’s word leads us gently to look away from our own feeble efforts in the spiritual life to focus instead on the radical wonder of what God is doing in our hearts and minds this Advent.
As the prophet Isaiah says, “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God … he comes to save you.”
The same Advent hope is reflected in the prayer of the psalmist, “Lord, come and save us.” We call to mind all the things we need to be saved from! The sin of the world and our own weaknesses and failings awaken us to the reality that we are all sinners who stand in need of divine mercy.
Awaiting this divine mercy, we grow in Advent virtues of patience, firmness of heart and spiritual longing for God, particularly through the sacrament of confession.
The wonder of Advent is knowing that we will not be disappointed. From the beginning of creation, God has desired the friendship of all those he has loved into existence. That is you and me! Advent is a time to ponder the mystery of God who comes in search of us.
Jesus announces the signs and wonders that accompany God’s relentless search for us when 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, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
Advent awakens us to recognizing the signs and wonders that God is working in our lives today.
As we recommit to the spiritual journey of Advent, God’s word invites us to fix our gaze on Jesus, as John the Baptist did. Then with eyes of faith fixed on Jesus, the word made flesh, our Advent longing will transform into joyful hope as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
What wonders has God worked in your life this Advent?
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.