December 5, 2016

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent [A]

Nativity of Christ

Third Sunday of Advent (A), December 11, 2016

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

"Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord." (Jas 5:7)

Advent coincides with one of the busiest times of the year. As people are gearing up for Christmas with frenzied shopping trips and the like, a very holy time can easily be lost. Christians need to reclaim the four Sundays and their corresponding weekdays before Christmas for Advent, in which the Church asks its people to stop, wait, listen, be patient, and pray, all in preparation for Christmas.

On December 25 the world will celebrate the Incarnation, the feast of the coming of the Lord. At a certain point in time and history, God stepped into the human story as one who is fully human yet also fully divine. He did this with one purpose in mind: to show his deep love for the human person most especially through the passion, death, and resurrection of His son and our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, even on Christmas morning the faithful have one eye on Easter, for that is the feast of all feasts in which hope is born and death, sin, and despair are conquered. On Christmas day, the human person is introduced to its Savior, this tiny child born in a stable.

While Jesus was born once for all for history, the faithful prepare for His coming every year. It is like preparing one’s life and home for an annual guest eagerly awaited. The reawakening of Christ is in the heart of each of His followers. It is a fresh beginning in which the relationship with Christ is built once again. Why does the Church celebrate this feast annually? Each year the faithful follower needs this reawakening. In the time since the last feast of Christmas much has happened. In his life of work, home, family, school, and community there have been good developments alongside of sin, obstacles, suffering, and disappointments. The follower is not the same person today he was a year ago. Being introduced to Christ once again will give him hope, new life, and the possibility of starting ever new, ever fresh. Christmas is a reintroduction to hope, new life, salvation, and redemption, all of which came through Jesus Christ! Needed by all, this reintroduction will strengthen the Christian faithful to the life of the covenant of Jesus Christ which has eternal life as its end. This is the feast of Christmas! The world rejoices that God has stepped in to bring it hope and forgiveness!

Then what is supposed to happen during Advent? In this season, the Church joins the people of the Old Testament in seeking the Messiah who will bring this hope. It is a season of intense prayer and patient, silent waiting. Spending time in silent prayer, away from words and distractions, is the core of Advent. It is the season of eager expectation at the coming of the Guest! One possible metaphor that works in this season is a carefully wrapped gift under the Christmas tree. Throughout Advent, the person unravels that gi one day at a time, slowly, until it is fully unwrapped. A little frustrating, right? Waiting for the Lord can arouse similar feelings! The journey of faith requires patience with God and self.

Advent is the season in which the person steps back, waits, and prays for patience. James 5:8 reads as follows: “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.” Faith comes to the human person in quite the same way. As the person goes through the trials and tribulations of life, so she realizes the need of God’s presence and His saving help. Hope grows from within so as to give the person an anchor to hold. Faith is a lifelong process. Advent is but a capsule of time that really is the lifetime of faith. It is an intense period of realizing the search for the Lord. The readings of daily and Sunday Masses throughout Advent are all focused on waiting for the Lord’s presence. The figures that have prominent roles are Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul, Mary, and Jesus.

The Guest of all guests will arrive soon, bringing you hope, salvation, and eternal life. Are you ready?

Questions for private reflection …

1. What is your build up to Christmas like? Are you spending enough time in prayer?

2. There are multiple resources online and elsewhere to read the daily Mass readings. Read
and pray those readings daily to understand the journey of Advent.

3. Are you ready for the Guest of all guests?

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois, "Living the Word: Feast of St. Andrew, November 30, 2013", Vermont Catholic (November 2013). Reprinted with permission from the author.

Rev. Msgr. Bernard W. Bourgeois is the Pastor of Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Patrick Parishes in Rutland, VT.

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