Third Sunday of Advent: Being Progressively Patient
- Isaiah 35: 1-6, 10. The prophet sees the desert blooming with new life, as the eyes of the blind our open, the ears of the deaf unsealed, and everyone returns singing to Zion.
- James 5: 7-10. The patience of the farmer is emphasized. He plants the seed in the autumn and waits through the early and late rains till the crop begins to grow in springtime. Remember the patent endurance of the prophets.
- Matthew 11: 2-11. When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come?” Jesus answered with messianic citations from the Hebrew Scriptures and the praised John.
Thoughts for Your Consideration: By John Gonzalez
I have always maintained that Christianity is a progressive faith. It is forward looking. It certainly honors and reveres the tradition that points to the Divine origin of creation, but essentially its aim and goal is a future reality that is to come. Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation are Divine principles that will define the Kingdom of heaven. Today we strive, as commissioned citizens of this Kingdom, to make these principles real in our lives and in our society so to hasten the arrival of this Divine moment of salvation history. Isaiah and James point to this hope and expectation. But in their message of hope they also exhort patience.
In the Gospel reading John the Baptist is in prison and he sends out his disciples to inquire about the nature of Jesus. John’s ministry has been to preach the message of redemption and reconciliation in preparation for the one who will bring in this Kingdom of heaven. Now in his own despair he wonders if Jesus indeed is the one foretold. Jesus offers an affirmative response with a prophetic testament linking his actions to the prophesy of Isaiah in the first reading.
Throughout the Gospels Jesus consistently honors the Prophetic tradition and the Ten Commandments but outside of that his actions and teachings are forward looking so that through himself he is demonstrating the virtue of living in this future Kingdom. People are healed, forgiven, feed, reconciled and given new life. These are the attributes of God’s coming Kingdom. Jesus offers God’s Justice by offering compassion and forgiveness to all, even to those who do not seek forgiveness “Father Forgive them for they know not what they do.” He never condemns anyone to exile or punishment but instead is always inviting us to be in relationship with God the Father. He Brings about God’s Peace through the message of non-violence and reconciliation ultimately making an example of this virtue through his own life. And He demonstrates the Integrity of all Creation by being open to all people and nationalities and also by exhibiting a unique interrelationship with the natural world.
But even by the time that James is writing his epistle the early Christian community is getting antsy. When will this salvation moment take place? How long must we wait? James reminds the people of the long process that is salvation history by reminding them of the patience and endurance of the Prophets. He exhorts the early community to exhibit the same patience and endurance while assuring them that He is coming. Now, 2000 years later, how do we address the natural impatience of our own people? We can do so by pointing to aspects of God’s reign in our midst. The Kingdom of heaven was brought to our attention through the life and ministry of Jesus, and we await the final culmination of that moment. But for the present we progressively collaborate with God to bring about aspects of the Kingdom in our midst. This progressive development is challenging and often accompanied with social violence of some form or another.
In Passionist spirituality we recognize a formula that is based on the Paschal mystery whereby we go through a spiritual process of accepting a “Mystical Death” in the hopes of accomplishing a “Divine Rebirth.” In this process our own lives are reborn into a more meaningful existence through a period of trial and tribulation. This can happen in periods of our own social history as well. While we saw the devastation of the American Civil War and the Two World Wars we can also point to the progressive reality where we no longer accept the institution of slavery, where we can declare that all humans have established inalienable rights and dignity, and where we attempt to form a global international system for states to discuss their issues rather than to go to war. These are moments or social “Mystical Deaths” and “Divine Rebirths” whereby we as a human community progress towards a social semblance of the Kingdom of heaven. We are not at the end of the journey and it looks like we have quite a ways to go. We too must be patient and make our hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.