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THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT 2019

In our lives, we may, on occasion, find ourselves doubting about the presence of Jesus? That is what John seems to be indicating when he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” John doesn’t need to ask this question for he knows Jesus is the “one who is to come.”

As we know from Luke’s Gospel, John was aware of Jesus being the Messiah even before both were born.

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:39-45).

It was John who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and heard the words from the Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus was the one that John refers to when he says: I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11). Therefore, it is not John who questions who Jesus is but those who follow John.

The disciples of John were not convinced that Jesus was mightier than John. John sent them not to satisfy his doubts, but for his disciples who were blinded by their love for John. They knew of John’s faithfulness to the Lord and his demand for repentance through baptism. Who could supersede this man, John, whose faith in God was so great that he cared nothing about his appearance or what he ate? Who could be more holy than this man who spent day after day calling for the Jews to turn away from sin and come back to God? What person other than John could be more dedicated to the Law of Moses, knowing that he jeopardized his life when he identified the adultery of King Herod? Who could there be to compare with such a man? John sent them to Jesus so that they could know the answer. How often have we failed to recognize Jesus for who he is?

Jesus’ response to John’s disciple was not with the words, “Yes I am the Messiah,” which might have been thought of as empty statements to these two who question the Divine nature of Jesus. Instead, Jesus points out his irrefutable deeds as proof. What other person could restore sight to the blind, enable the lame to walk, cure the leprous, allow the deaf to hear, and raise up those who died if he is not the one that God promised? Were John’s disciples convinced of Jesus’ cures even though they did not see them? Are we convinced that Jesus is the Messiah form the miracles attributed to him?

Jesus then speaks to the crowd asking the same question three times, “What did you go out to see?” when they went to listen to John preach in the wilderness. Each time he gives an answer that questions their motives. They didn’t go to admire the scenery of the desert. No one would be interested in watching the wind blow the reeds. No one would expect to see the robes of royalty out in the wilderness. So, what were the crowds looking for in the desert? They were looking for the prophet, the one who could identify the Messiah. We, too, seek out the Lord, in the setting of the Mass. What are we expecting to see when we attend Mass? How does the homily reshape our spiritual life?

John was worthy of going to see because he was the “voice crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Matthew 3:3). However, he could only be found in the wasteland. John’s desert was not a hospitable place. It was a barren, dry location where nothing seemed to grow, but that is where John was able to cause the people to repent of their sinful ways. The desert of John’s time was the location where nothing would block contact with the Lord but it was not a comfortable experience.

We, too, should be considering a visit to the wilderness, the wilderness our heart. It is there in that dark recess where we hide our greatest sins and most intense fears. We are most uncomfortable visiting that place where there is pain, resentment, and denial.

Even though we try to conceal those discomforts, that evil side of us, God is already there even in that locked hiding place. God knows of that location where we will not allow his healing light. He waits for us to listen to the words of John continually repeated ? to repent and turn to God. Prepare the way for the “one who is to come.”

At times we too doubt our faith in Jesus, like John’s disciples, and we question our belief in him as Lord. God invites us to look in the places of darkness, of guilt, of doubt in the depths of our hearts. God is working there to bring hope and new life into our desperate situations, where we suffer from the most agonizing pain. It is the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, therefore rejoice that the Messiah is drawing near. Pray that we may open our hearts to let the joy of the season enter into us.

Jesus, are you the one for whom my heart aches? Take time to sit in the silence, and try to quiet your heart, listen for the words of peace that he offers. Feel the warmth of his healing power. It is at Christmas when Jesus’ miracles show the brightest with the hope of new life even amid doubt and suffering, for we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Messiah, “the one who is to come.”

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