Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent
by Sister Josephine Torborg
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, ‘Rejoice’. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. Christ is near” (Phil 4: 4-5).
As we reflect upon the readings for this third week of Advent – Gaudete Week – there is indeed a sense of rejoicing and joy that emerges. We are midway in our journey of waiting with expectant hope.
We might compare these weeks of Advent to a treasure hunt. With each successive week, the Scriptures bring forth new clues that reveal a truth about the Mystery and point us to the next clue, drawing us ever closer to the awesome Mystery of Emmanuel, God with us. We wait with eager longing for God to reveal the God-self to us in human form, as One who lives among us. In her book Christ, the Compassion of God, Monica Hellwig notes: “The Incarnation is the expression of God’s extravagant love showered upon humankind in sending his Son, Jesus into the world. There is no greater gift that God could have given to humankind.”
In the Scripture readings for this Sunday, we encounter some specific themes that encourage us to stay engaged in the treasure hunt.
First, in the Gospel of Matthew, we have a dialogue between John the Baptist and Jesus. John, who is in prison, is experiencing doubts about who Jesus is, because of the radical things John hears about his ministry: Jesus is inviting tax collectors, sinners, the weak, and the outcast into his community. Apparently, this was not what John expected of the Messiah. He sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus sends a message back to John that describes his mission on earth: healing the sick, forgiving sin, raising the dead, doing the will of his Father. Jesus is bringing new life, new hope, and vibrant joy to his people. Yes, indeed, he is the one sent by God to enter into our human condition.
Second, Jesus then asks the people this question, “What did you expected of the Prophet, John the Baptist?” After some dialogue, Jesus confirms for the people that John was indeed a prophet. “This is the one about whom it is written, “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’”
A third Advent question is evident in the reading from Isaiah: “Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness – sorrow and mourning will flee” (Isaiah 35:10). We must ask ourselves what we look for in this season. In what or in whom do we hope to find the fullness of joy and peace that Isaiah speaks? Jesus found joy and peace in doing the will of his Father.
If we listen to the prophets and ponder the reading from the Letter of James, we are encouraged to “Be patient until the coming of the Lord… for the Lord is near” (James 5:7). As we look around the world, this sense of waiting is intense. We reflect on the plight of immigrants and refugees fleeing from war-torn regions with no safe place to go. We see the homeless in Duluth, who endure dangerous cold and wait to find shelters. We sit with those who have had medical tests as they wait for the results. We journey with those whose chemo treatments have failed to stop the cancer as they wait in silent hope for a cure.
In times like these, as we ponder the Word of God in these last weeks of Advent, we will recognize the presence of God in new and unexpected ways. If we stay alert to revelatory events in our lives, we will discover how God is revealing the God-self to us.
In a discussion of these revelatory events in a class that I teach, I asked my students to define what revelation meant to them. One student wrote: “Revelation is when something is told, taught, read, or felt and it stirs the inside to an awakening of new possibilities for our lives.” What a great definition! These surprises of God help us to discover the treasure we seek.
Joyce Rupp captures this moment in her book, Beauty:
“Be open to life, be open, lest you miss the treasure
Awaiting you in the unexpected,
…in those graced glimpses, I am swept away with gratitude….
sometimes your created beauty calls so deeply that I am carried away to a place beyond,
Where union with you is simple and complete.”
In this season of wonder, our hearts fill with joy when we consider: we have been created, loved, and redeemed by a God who defies description, yet who chooses to reveal the Mystery to hearts that are open to receive it.
In closing, let us ask ourselves:
- What gifts and talents will I use this week for the building of God’s kingdom?
- What are some clues that the treasure, the reign of God, is near?
- Where have I glimpsed the face of God?