Are you the One, or are we to wait for another?

Today, we are officially past the half way mark of Advent, with only one more Sunday to go before Christmas. We call this Sunday Gaudete Sunday. It means ‘to rejoice’. We are given reasons for rejoicing.

Dec 09, 2022

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr George Packiasamy3rd Sunday of Advent (A)

Readings: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10;
James 5:7-10;
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Today, we are officially past the half way mark of Advent, with only one more Sunday to go before Christmas. We call this Sunday Gaudete Sunday. It means ‘to rejoice’. We are given reasons for rejoicing. The Israelites were told in the first reading that the wilderness and the wasteland would bloom and what was thought impossible would take place. It is a call to joy.

Yet, despite the “Joy” of the day, the story of John the Baptist is not exactly joyful. We are brought back to the Advent reality of watching and waiting. John the Baptist is languishing in prison… the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to see the show last week as John preached in the wilderness, along with King Herod, have decided that John is too much of a threat to their power.

John sends word through his followers to Jesus. “Are you the one? Or are we to wait for another?” John asks Jesus.

We heard John’s bold and dramatic preaching last week. The fiery prophet was foretelling the coming of a mighty Messiah. A Messiah who was going to come and burn some chaff, to lay an axe to the roots of oppression. John’s Messiah was coming to upend the powerful and lift up the weak. John has high expectations for this Messiah. John has a certain vision of what the Messiah should look like and what the Messiah should do.

Jesus is not what he expected.
A wandering preacher healing a few sick, helping a few poor people, preaching to the hungry crowds and generally staying away from Jerusalem where all the power is – this is not what John was hoping for.

Like John the Baptist, we carry with us expectations of what the Messiah is supposed to be. We want Jesus to be a sweet little baby in December. A conqueror at Easter. A non-intrusive presence a lot of the time. We want a God who will show up when we need help and stay out of the way the rest of the time. We want a Jesus who will fight our battles and be on our side and act when we want Him to act.

We imagine things going a certain way, and we can begin to lose hope when they don’t. When we find ourselves in prisons of suffering, isolation, crisis, brokenness… we can begin to question the Messiah, just like John does. We thought Jesus was going to do and be what we expected.

We want a powerful voice to silence our enemies, but Jesus makes the deaf hear.

We want Jesus to see how good we are, but Jesus gives sight to the blind.

We want a Jesus who will carry our burdens and troubles, but Jesus makes the lame walk.

We want to never experience suffering, or pain, or discomfort, to never be touched by disease or illness but Jesus cleanses the most diseased of all, the lepers.

We want to be rich and blessed, but Jesus brings Good News to the poor.

Jesus receives John’s doubt with mercy. Jesus doesn’t scold the prophet for his questions, nor rebuke him for his uncertainty. Jesus praises him instead. John is the prophet who has prepared the way, who has announced the coming of the Messiah. Even if it isn’t the Messiah John imagined, it is still the Messiah.

Like John the Baptist, we wonder if Jesus really is the One. We lose hope when our expectations are not met. At times we are bewildered by some of the things that are happening in our world: tragedies, violence, wars, famines, poverty etc. We may indeed feel numbed and wonder why God doesn’t intervene. Modern life is becoming increasingly stressful.
Christmas often brings more work and stress. Some people feel overwhelmed and wonder if they will be able to cope.
“Are you the One, or are we to wait for another?” It is a question we all ask.

In the midst of our bewilderment, may we hear the word of Jesus: ‘Blessed is the person who does not lose faith in Me’.
May the Holy Spirit increase our faith and trust so that, as St Paul writes at the end of his Letter to the Romans: ‘May the God of hope bring you such joy and peace in your faith that the power of the Holy Spirit will remove all bounds to hope.’ We pray this through Christ our Lord. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus. Amen.

(Fr George Packiasamy is the parish priest of the Church of St Thomas, Kuantan)

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