Advent Reflection on the Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent, 2020

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Advent Reflection on the Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent, 2020

by Pastor David Mesner, Oblate OSB

Prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Thank you for the invitation to share an Advent reflection. I am a Pastor and an Oblate. These are not two callings but one, unified around the words of our Prayer: “Open our ears to the words of your prophets.” Listening with the ear of our heart to the words of our lectionary texts for the Third Sunday of Advent stirs us to life and ministry in some unexpected but beautiful ways:

Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11

            “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,

                        because the LORD has anointed me;

            he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed . . .”

In the Gospel of Luke these are the first words spoken by Jesus as he begins his public ministry in his hometown synagogue. That day did not end well as the adoring crowd became an angry mob. Word and Spirit become offensive to those who limit the good news to “hometown first.” As we “hear” this Word in worship, may the Spirit launch us to places near and far, to proclaim the year of God’s favor to the oppressed, the brokenhearted, the prisoners and all who mourn.

Psalm 126

            “Restore our fortunes, O LORD,                

like the watercourses in the Negeb.

                 May those who sow in tears

                        Reap with shouts of joy.”

The lament psalms of Advent give voice to the deep pain of the world. This post-exilic psalm describes a physical and spiritual journey to Jerusalem expressed in the pattern of distress, ascent and arrival “home.” The psalmist masterfully places the hearer in the challenging place between planting and reaping, weeping and joy.

This Advent it seems there is an imbalance, with too many tears watering our plantings. The threat of infection in the air that we breathe, the loss of human touch, grieving from a distance, not knowing how long; all of these deepen our longing for the coming harvest with shouts of joy.

John 1:6-8, 19-28

(John) was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

            “I am not the Messiah.”

            “I am not (Elijah).”

            “I am not worthy.”

I long for true light. The philosopher Charles Taylor maintains that the tenets of our secular culture are a denial of transcendence and the autonomy of the self. Into this darkness, the true light shines. John’s statement “I am not . . .” expresses a refreshing truth and leads us to a relationship of active believing in the one who is the light of the world.

We return to the prayer, “. . . open our ears to the words of your prophets,” which leads us to experience the leading of the Spirit, the harvest of joy, and the true light of the world. In the darkest of days, this is very good news indeed.

Thanks be to God!


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“Listen carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.”
–St. Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of Saint Benedict