Readings & Homily: Advent Week 3, Sunday 11th December

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Readings Advent Week 3

Sunday, 11 December 2022
The Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A
Readings and Antiphons on p. 68 of the Daily Missal and on p. 29 of the Sunday Missal.

Entrance Antiphon.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.

First Reading: Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10

A reading from the Book of Isaiah.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the lily it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,

 the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The Word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 146:6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10 (R. see Isaiah 35:4)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm

R/. Come, Lord, and save us.

It is the Lord who preserves fidelity for ever,
who does justice to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord who sets prisoners free.

It is the Lord who opens the eyes of the blind,
the Lord who raises up those who are bowed down.
It is the Lord who loves the just,
the Lord who protects the stranger.

The Lord upholds the orphan and the widow,
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
the God of Sion from age to age.

R/. Come, Lord, and save us.

Second Reading: James 5: 7-10

A reading from the Letter of Saint James.

Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient over it
until it receives the early and the late rain. 
You also be patient.
Establish your hearts,
for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not grumble, brothers and sisters,
against one another,
that you may not be judged;
behold, the Judge is standing at the doors. 
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters,
take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

The Word of the Lord.

Please stand for the Gospel.

Alleluia. Alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;
he has sent me to preach good news to the poor.
Alleluia.

Gospel: Matthew 11: 2-11

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.

In those days:
When John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ,
he sent word by his disciples and said to him,
“Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

 And Jesus answered them,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: 
the blind receive their sight and the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear,
and the dead are raised up,
and the poor have good news preached to them. 
And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John:
“What did you go out into the wilderness to behold?
A reed shaken by the wind? 
Why then did you go out?
To see a man clothed in soft robes?
Behold, those who wear soft robes are in kings’ houses. 
Why then did you go out?
To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 
This is he of whom it is written,

‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who shall prepare your way before you.’

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women
there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist;
yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven
is greater than he.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Communion Antiphon.

Say to the faint of heart: Be strong and do not fear. Behold, our God will come, and he will save us.

Homily

There was once a woman who was disappointed, who was disillusioned and depressed.

  • She wanted a good world, a peaceful world, and she wanted to be a good person.
  • But the news and podcasts and social media showed her how far we were from such a reality.
  • So she decided to go shopping.
  • She went to the mall and wandered into a new store – where the person behind the counter looked strangely like Jesus.
  • Gathering up her courage she went up to the counter and asked, “Are you Jesus?”
  • “Well, yes, I am,” the man answered.
  • “Do you work here?”
  • “Actually,” Jesus responded, “I own the store.
    • You are free to wander up and down the aisles, see what it is I sell, and then make a list of what you want. When you are finished, come back here, and we’ll see what we can do for you.”
  • So, the woman did just that.
  • And what she saw thrilled her.
    • There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air.
  • She wrote furiously and finally approached the counter, handing a long list to Jesus.
  • He skimmed the paper, and then smiling at her said, “No problem.”
  • Reaching under the counter, he took some packets and laid them out on the counter.
  • Confused, she asked, “What are these?”
  • Jesus replied: “These are seed packets.
  • Surprised the woman blurted out, “You mean I don’t get the finished product?”
  • “No,” Jesus gently responded. “This is a place of dreams.
    • You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. Then you plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.”
  • “Oh,” she said, deeply disappointed in Jesus.
  • Then she turned around and left the store without buying anything.

As Christians, how do we respond to a world of violence, increasing poverty, corruption and load shedding, terrorism, and intolerance.

The gospel describes John the Baptist being locked up in prison.

  • His blunt preaching had made him powerful enemies, especially Herod, whom he had criticized for committing adultery.
  • As Jesus said about John: he was no swaying reed in the wind; he wasn’t royalty dressed up, perched on a throne.
    • He was the messenger who was preparing Jesus’ way;
    • the way of the Messiah, with fiery rhetoric and hot warnings to repent.

John was confident and bold, but then got himself locked up and now his hopes are locked up as well – closing down on him.

  • From what he has been hearing about Jesus, he’s beginning to have doubts.
  • Jesus isn’t fiery, as John expected.
  • Nor is Jesus spewing warnings about God’s wrath.

John was a great preacher and prophet, but his expectation of the coming Messiah didn’t fit Jesus.

  • So, that is why he sends some disciples to go and ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”’

John wanted someone who would turn the religious and political order upside down; like a tidal wave, sweeping away the irreligious and the corrupt.

  • He wanted someone to come riding in as head of a triumphant army and proclaim God’s mighty kingdom.

Instead, the news coming back to John was that Jesus was eating with the tax collectors who worked to collect taxes to support Rome.

  • Jesus wasn’t condemning sinners.
  • Instead, Jesus  was sitting down to meals with them and making God’s forgiveness easily available to them
  • Maybe in John’s eyes, Jesus was forgiving too easily.
  • Jesus was even encouraging people to forgive their enemies – including their Roman enemies!
  • Things hadn’t worked out the way John expected and now he’s locked up in prison facing death.

So John’s disciples arrive with their question: ‘Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”’

  • Jesus doesn’t give direct answers.
  • But he tells John’s disciples to go back and give their own testimony about what they see and hear around them:
    • the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news preached to them.

This is the bottom line:

  • Jesus was helping those in most need, those who didn’t have anyone else to help them, or anyone who could help them.
  • Jesus didn’t come, as John had hoped, to destroy the wicked, but to restore them;
    • Jesus came to give them the possibility of a second chance.
    • Jesus was inviting the ignorant, the sinners and the foolish back to God’s highway – the right way.

Even today, some people still take offense at the kind of Messiah Jesus turned out to be.

  • Some fundamentalists, perhaps even some of us, want him to close the door on anyone different from themselves.
  • They consider themselves respectable and they have a long list of those who shouldn’t make it in: people of other religions, last-minute converts, gays, people with a different culture – and the list can go on and on.

Advent is the season of expectation.

  • It is a when children and adults too, make lists of what they would like to receive for Christmas.
  • This Advent we let us take the seed packets from Jesus’ shop.
  • With our deepening of our faith during this reflective time,
    • let us take the seeds that Jesus offers us:
    • It is up to us to plant the seeds.
  • The seeds to give us sight where we are blind
    • The seeds to open our ears to what we have been ignoring
    • The seeds to cleanse us of the past that weighs us down
    • The seeds to make us good news to the poor who need us.

God wants us to live in a healed and bountiful world.

  • Today we pick up those packets of seeds.
  • And we plant them – for the sake of our children and all the children of the world.
  • And then:
    • “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
          the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
      like the lily it shall blossom abundantly,
          and rejoice with joy and singing.”

From today’s Isaiah reading:

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
   “Be strong, fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    God will come and save you.”

Reflection:

We celebrate “Rejoice Sunday” today, because, as Isaiah points out, “Here is your God, who comes with vindication….” Our just God is going to set things right. That should give us hope and determination to continue (or, begin!”) our efforts to cooperate with God’s just plans now in the world around us. Happily we are not relying on our own efforts because we trust the prophet’s assurance that God is close

So, we ask ourselves:

  • What touched me in the readings today?
  • In what concrete ways do I experience the closeness of God in my life now?
  • Do I see that the good works I do enable others to experience God’s reaching out to them?
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