THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT ‑ CYCLE A
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Pray and ask God to speak to you through His Holy Spirit.
“THE PARACLETE, THE HOLY SPIRIT WHOM THE FATHER WILL SEND IN MY NAME, WILL INSTRUCT YOU IN EVERYTHING, AND REMIND YOU OF ALL THAT I TOLD YOU.” (JOHN 14:26)
FIRST DAY Reread last week’s readings.
- What was a helpful or new thought from the readings or from the homily you heard on Sunday?
- From what you learned, what personal application did you choose to apply to your life this week?
SECOND DAY READ ISAIAH 35:1‑6, 10 FIRST READING
(“They will meet with joy and gladness.”)
- What will exult and bloom and for what reason? Isaiah 35:1-2
- What is the response to seeing the glory of the Lord? Isaiah 35:2
- What are we to do with hands that are feeble and knees that are weak? Isaiah 35:3
- What are we to say to those whose hearts are frightened? Isaiah 35:4
- Why should we not fear? Is 35:4 41:10 and Zechariah 8:13
- What will happen to the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf? Isaiah 35:5
- What will happen to the lame and the tongue of the dumb? Isaiah 35:6
- Who will return and what will they enter Zion doing? Isaiah 35:10
- With what will they be crowned, and what will flee from them? Isaiah 35:10
Personal ‑ In what way do those in your family, or your friends or co‑workers, see joy and rejoicing in your life? How can you, in a joyful way, show your appreciation for what God has done for you?
THIRD DAY READ JAMES 5:7‑10 SECOND READING
(“Steady your hearts, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”)
- What must we be until the coming of the Lord? James 5:7
- What does the farmer do? James 5:7
- What must you do and for what reason? James 5:8
- What does 1 Corinthians 13:4 say about patience?
- What must you not do and for what reason? James 5:9
- Who stands at the gate? James 5:9
- Who is the one to judge us? 1 Corinthians 4:5
- For what has God set Jesus apart? Acts 10:37‑42
- Who are our models in suffering hardship? James 5:10
- In whose name did the prophets speak? James 5:10
Personal ‑ In what way have you suffered hardship for speaking the name of Jesus? In what way have you been a model to your family, friends or work associates? How does patience fit into your life? Reflect on this.
FOURTH DAY READ MATTHEW 11:2‑11 GOSPEL
(“The poor have the good news preached to them.”)
- Where was John when he heard about the works Christ was performing and whom did he send to ask Jesus a question? Matthew 11:2
- What was John’s message and why was he in prison? Matthew 3:1‑2 14:3‑4
- What was the question John sent his disciples to ask Jesus? Matthew 11:3
- What was Jesus’ reply, especially noting who has the good news preached to them? Matthew 11:4‑5
- What two things did Jesus say to report to John and who is blest? Matthew 11:4, 6
- To whom does the reign of God belong? Luke 6:20
Personal ‑ In what way are you being blest by what you hear and see going on around you?
- As the messengers went off, about whom did Jesus speak to the crowds, and what question did he ask them as to what they were looking for? Matthew 11:7‑9
- As what did Jesus affirm John and what did scripture say about John? Matthew 11:9-10
- What did Jesus say history has done? Matthew 11:11
- Whom does Jesus consider greater than John the Baptist? Matthew 11:11
Personal ‑ In what way has Jesus affirmed you by the actions you have taken in dealing with those around you?
FIFTH DAY READ PSALM 146:6‑10
(“The Lord sets captives free.”)
Read and meditate on Psalm 146:6-10.
What is the Lord saying to you personally through the Psalm?
How can you apply this to your life?
SIXTH DAY READ ALL OF THE COMMENTARY
ISAIAH 35:1‑6, 10
Isaiah has delivered a message of judgment on all of the nations in almost all of the thirty‑four previous chapters. His message includes Judah and Israel consistently rejecting the God of Abraham, Jacob and Moses. There were times of relief and restoration in the history of the chosen people but these seemed to be only at the most crucial times. A small remnant of faithful believers prevailed during these times of God’s wrath and judgment.
We see in this passage Isaiah bringing to the people a vision of hope, beauty and encouragement. The people are shown a God of judgment, but also are shown a God of incredible mercy. We see a God that is perfect in his love and complete in his hatred of sin. God has shown his love for all of these he has created through his never ending mercy. Many have failed to respond to his love because of the temptations of the world. He has in his all encompassing love extended his full range of mercy on all who have repented and come back to him. We too enjoy the benefits of his mercy, and we too will be part of the final kingdom, which is described so beautifully in this passage.
This will be the kind of world you and I can look forward to after the judgment, when all of creation will rejoice in God. The talk and times of tribulation end with the beginning of this passage. Life after the final judgment will be peaceful and joyful because we will be “home” praising the living God forever and ever. Even now as we read this, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is preparing a place for us (John 14:1‑6) and he is preparing the road for us. He will walk with us on this road “home”. This road will run from the desert of suffering to the blessings of eternal life. It can be traveled only while following God. Our Lord Jesus will never stop pointing the way for us. He is always beside us as we go. Let us follow that vision. Let our highway be holy. Let us all respond to God’s call and lead others on to God’s holy highway to heaven.
To understand this passage one has to realize that the early church lived in expectation of the immediate second coming of Jesus Christ. James is exhorting the people to be patient for the few short years that remain. He tells about the farmer who has to wait patiently for the early and late rains in order for his crops to mature. The farmer needs much patience to wait until nature does her work, and the Christian needs much patience in his life until Christ comes again. During this time between planting and harvesting, they must confirm their faith, by affirming and helping each other in all the circumstances. A farmer depended greatly on his neighbors to help him at harvest time and support was needed, not criticism.
Today we do not have as many farmers, but we still are busy planting the seeds of life. We too must be ready to help our neighbor, not only in times of harvest, but also in times of disaster. The early church was mistaken in thinking that Jesus would return within a generation, but the call to support and love one another is still a major part of the Christian walk. It is interesting to note that both the Christians and the farmers must live by faith. Many people blame others when things begin to go wrong in their life (Genesis 3:12, 13). Our reluctance to own up to our own share of responsibility causes many to strike out and blame others. This method is easier and more visible, but it is also destructive and sinful.
We need to reflect on what is being said in this passage and apply it to our own lives. What is being said is that before any of us judges others we should be very much aware that Christ, the ultimate judge, will come to evaluate us (Matthew 7:1‑5). Our patience needs to be in our ability to put the needs of others before our own. We also need to pray for courage; that will sustain us in the battle against sin. It is only as we go through the trials and sufferings that we gain the grace and courage of patience. History has shown us how much the prophets of the Old and New Testament have patiently suffered for the love of Jesus Christ. We who are called to the Christian walk can expect our cross of suffering which we in faith and patience will carry everywhere that the people cry out “I thirst.”
John the Baptist’s career had ended in shambles. He was now in prison, put there by King Herod. John never sought to soften the truth and was incapable of seeing evil without taking a stand against it. King Herod stole his brother’s wife and lived with her in sin. John spoke out fearlessly and Herod took his revenge. John reflected while in prison about whether Jesus really was the Messiah. John thought that his role was to be out preaching to the people and preparing them for Jesus. How could he do this while in jail? Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
Many times in our lives we think that we are being blocked from doing what we think is the best way to go. We may be stopped by poor health, old age or even lack of natural ability to do what we think the Lord is calling us to do. Jesus answered John’s doubts by telling him to look around and see what was being done in the community. The blind were able to see, the deaf able to hear. Lepers were being cured and people were being raised from the dead and preaching the good news. Jesus’ answer to John was the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). Jesus’ identity was obvious to John when he heard the answer that Jesus sent him.
We too need to reflect on our own salvation and our own level of doubt. We need only to look at the evidence in scripture and the changes in our own life. We have seen how he has forgiven us of our sins and when we doubt, we do not need to turn from him. In fact, when we have feelings of doubt then we should turn completely to him. We need to observe John and see who and what he was. He was a man who lived in the desert and was very close to the earth. He had no fancy clothes and he ate no exotic food. Some of the people thought he was mad, yet they flocked to hear and see him. He spoke with authority and humility. He was abrasive to the lawless and in total submission to Christ. Today John’s style would probably be laughed out of town because his message was too simple and too clear. John’s basic message was “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).
Many people today do not want to repent because “repent” means a complete change of life. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and we are all called to repent. Fall on your knees and be still and listen to our God (Psalm 46:10). Then ask him to create in you a new clean heart that is filled with clean thoughts and desires (Psalm 51:10). John’s message was “Good News” and that was that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah and he had come to begin God’s personal reign on earth. Jesus offered freedom to the poor, the oppressed, and the hopeless, and he does no less than that even today. So repent and be of good cheer, for the kingdom of God is surely at hand.
The first reading shows a God that is just and merciful. The second reading tells us that patience is a godly virtue, and the Gospel reveals a call to repentance now!
This week, let your actions speak for themselves in your home, work, and school area. Patience and kindness are clear signs of love. To repent means to change. Start being humble and patient today. Let others be the first in line, the first to eat, the first to speak. Be the first to give and give freely. Your witness will be a tremendous sign that “the kingdom of God is at hand.”