Sunday Scriptures — Advent A 3, Dec. 11, 2016

This is extremely late, for a number of reasons, including that when I tried to post last week, I was unable to enter any text. Although it may seem superfluous now, I want, if possible, to get a complete set of comments on the Sunday readings posted to this blog. Perhaps even at this stage, it could be useful as part of Advent preparations for Christmas and the return of the Lord. Still, this is fairly brief: the reader will have to do more work than usual.
As was the case on the Second Sunday, the readings present the figure of John the Baptist as the greatest prophet, who prepared the people for Jesus, while offering some thoughts about the Messianic Age.
In the first reading —Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10 — we are told of four aspects of the Messianic Age: deserts will bloom; God will bring about justice; the disabled will be healed; and the exiles will return. In the light of these promises, the people should be strong and fearless.
The responsorial psalm — Psalm 146: 6-10, with a refrain based on Isaiah 35:4 — some of the themes of the first reading are reprised, with emphasis on God”s power to save.
In the gospel — Matthew 11:2-11 — John sends disciples to ask if Jesus is really the Messiah, as he had thought. (Perhaps this was for the disciples’ benefit, rather than reflective of any doubt on his own part.) Jesus’ response is to point to healings such as those promised by Isaiah and more as indications that he was indeed inaugurating the Messianic Age. But the promises will not be completely fulfilled in the present life. This life is not heaven. We must await Jesus’ return at the end of time.
The second reading — James 5:7-10 exhorts us to be patient while we wait. Farmers can’t force the rains to come, and we can’t force Jesus to return. But the farmer prepares for the rain, and we prepare for Jesus’ return be being uncomplaining toward one another.
It is our faith that enables us to be patient. We see all the evil in the world — wars, violence, illnesses and premature deaths, all sorts of natural disasters — and we long for an end to them. Impatience could take various forms. One is to abandon faith and decide that there cannot be a God if these things can happen. But when we hold on to faith we realize that all these evils are merely temporary, and we have confidence that the world to come will not have such things and will more than make up for them. We may not understand why the fullness of the Messianic Age can’t be with us already, but we don’t despair of its arrival.

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