Third Sunday of Advent

Is 35:1-6; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11 (year a)

‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice! Indeed, the Lord is near.” The entrance antiphon for the Third Sunday of Advent pierces winter’s gloom with a glimpse of anticipated joy. The prophet Isaiah, speaking from one of the darkest moments in Israel’s long history, captured the mood. “Let the wilderness and the dry lands exult, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom. Strengthen all weary hands, strengthen all trembling knees and say to all faint hearts: courage! Do not be afraid, your Lord is coming.”

The beauty of Isaiah’s imagery faithfully captures the seasons of soul. As sinners, we have experienced the wilderness of isolation, a seeming estrangement from God and those we love. We have known the wasteland of a heart crying out for hope and lasting joy. Such is the consequence of sin, our own and that of a sinful world.

John the Baptist’s call to repentance attracted wide acceptance precisely because it resonated with the wilderness of sinful hearts. Together with the disciples sent by the imprisoned Baptist, we are invited to address John’s question to our Lord: “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?”

Before we can ask the question, there are questions that we must first ask of ourselves: what are we waiting for? What will bring fulfilment to our lives? Such questions are not easily answered without prayer and reflection. We tend to live in a confusion of “wants”, rarely taking the time to discern where peace and joy are truly to be found.

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