“Rejoice in the Lord always; … the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5)

Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-6A, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. 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.

James 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Matthew 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than 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. Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

During Advent, not only do we prepare ourselves to commemorate the birth of Christ over two thousand years ago, we must also prepare ourselves that Christ “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” (Nicene Creed). In the first Sunday of Advent, Jesus teaches us to “be alert … for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Matthew 24:44). On this Third Sunday, we celebrate Advent and rejoice as in the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass “Rejoice in the Lord always; … Indeed, the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5).

Jesus came to John the Baptist at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John’s bap-tism is for sinners although Jesus is sinless. This gesture of Jesus is a “manifes-tation of his self-emptying” (CCC 1224). He takes on “the nature of a servant, made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). After Jesus’ baptism by John Bap-tist, Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is revealed: “the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God come down like a dove and rest upon him. At the same time, a voice from heaven was heard ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, he is my Chosen One’” (Matthew 3:16-17).

Jesus’ ministry must have caught John’s attention and got him thinking further whether he is indeed the Messiah. So we hear in this Sunday’s gospel reading, when “John the Baptist heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples who said to Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” (Matthew 11:2-3). Jesus does not give a definitive answer whether he is the one, and instead answers them “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matthew 11:4-5). It is up to John to recognize the Messiah in what his disciples hear and see about Jesus and what Isaiah prophesied in the scriptures (Ref. First reading Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10).

Nevertheless, Jesus takes the opportunity to reveal to the crowds who come to listen to him that John the Baptist is “the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you’” and that “if you believe me, John is this Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 11:10, 14-15). Indeed, when angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah tell him that that his wife Elizabeth will bear a son whom he shall name John, Gabriel said that “[John] himself will open the way to the Lord with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah” (Luke 1:17).

The Messiah Jesus Christ has come and we will celebrate his birth on Christmas Day. Let us take a moment from our busy Christmas preparations to contemplate on what “the Lord is near” means for us (Philippians 4:5).

Posted: December 15, 2019

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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