Third Sunday of Advent
December 11, 2016
People who are not grounded in faith consider the Bible to be “ancient literature.” Those who cannot bring themselves to embrace a relationship with our God often regard Sacred Scripture as frozen in time and useful only to provide insight into what people believed and the moral code they tried to live by many centuries ago. In fact, many believers, as well, come to God’s Word with the sense that it is “written in stone.” For some unfortunate reason, many fail to appreciate that God’s Word is alive. While the core truths which it delivers from The Source of all life and love are unchanging, God has a fresh, new message for each person, each and every day, when we only take the time to listen. God’s Word is ALIVE!
In a culture that amplifies every sound and demands “real-time news,” it is important to understand that God’s Living Word isn’t always broadcast with the speed of Twitter or Instagram; nor does God always intend that a particular message spread far and wide like something that goes viral on Facebook.
Our Second Reading is helpful in understanding the mystery and miracle of Scripture. Oftentimes, the message intended for a certain period in salvation history, or for a particular faith community or parish or family or individual, is like a seed that is planted but must be nourished and nurtured and allowed to grow before blossoming. This is to say that if we want to randomly turn to a page in the Gospel in the hope of finding the information we are searching for, we will often be disappointed. GOD IS NOT GOOGLE!
We should come to God’s Word with the spirit of patience and the willingness to bear hardship that we see in the lives of the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. This was even the case when, in the most dramatic, powerful, and unrepeatable of ways, God showed that His Word is alive. The Incarnation…Jesus…God’s Eternal Word made flesh walked among us to bring a message of peace, joy, hope, and love and was almost subtle in His delivery. Jesus, God’s Living Word, was delicately complex and understated.
Certainly, vision was given to the blind and the lame began to walk. Lepers were returned to their families and communities having been healed. Possibly the most significant reaction to God’s Living Word was the noticeable change in the poor and downtrodden. They began to stand taller and walk with a more determined step. Those who took the time to hear responded to Jesus with hope.
But, these things, while highly significant, were delicate ways of proclaiming the Reign of God. There was no news conference with a declaration or proclamation. Even John the Baptist, who, still in the womb, recognized the unborn Jesus as The Messiah, required confirmation. Sometimes, God’s Word is that difficult to comprehend. It takes patience, persistence, hard work, and even hardship to fully embrace what God is telling us at any given time in history, or even in our own lives.
There is no better example of Jesus’s subdued way of delivering God’s message than in the Gospel proclaimed on this Gaudete Sunday…the 3rd Sunday of the Advent Season. Rather than making some grandiose claim to the title that rightly belonged to Him…Messiah, The Christ…Jesus simply responds to The Baptist’s request for proof of identity by saying: Tell him what you see….what you hear. Explain how people are reacting!
But then, The Lord goes on, in the most sweeping of terms, to bestow a title on John the Baptist. AMONG THOSE BORN OF WOMEN, THERE HAS BEEN NONE GREATER!
You can hardly hope to top that. One would think.
But, in the very same breath, Jesus does just that. He goes on to say…in a not so subtle way….yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Put those statements side by side and we get back to the fact that The Word of God is subtle…sometimes difficult to perceive or understand…requiring spiritual acuity and discernment. In other words, to understand Jesus’s role in salvation history, we need to understand John’s role, which, in turn, enables us to begin to see what is expected of us.
Jesus is God’s Word Who took flesh to walk among us in order to announce that God’s Reign had begun, and, at the proper time, Christ will once again break into human history to proclaim God’s Reign in its fullness. But, during the “in-between times” that we live in, The Lord has made room for us to continue the work. As great as John might have been in preparing the way for the Lord, in our own way, we are just as important.
Think of just how important we are…The Son of God moved aside to give us the opportunity to bring God’s Word to life for our brothers and sisters, whether or not they are believers. In this hi-tech age, it’s not unusual to use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to share the Good News. In fact, I am doing that as I complete this very thought.
However, it seems that the most effective way to bring God’s Word to Life is subtly…delicately…without triumphal proclamations or great pomp and circumstance. Don’t you think, possibly, the best way to share the Good News and to bring God’s Eternal Word to life is by following Jesus’s example and by LIVING IT and letting the rest of the world hear and learn through our example? And the best part is…there’s no need to wear camel hair and survive on a diet of grasshoppers and honey. All we need to do to get the Advent work done is PUT ON CHRIST!