Sunday Scripture readings, Dec. 11, 2022: Third Sunday of Advent
1) Is 35:1-6a, 10 Psalm 146:6-10
2) Jas 5:7-10 Gospel: Mt 11:2-11
Advent calls us to recognize signs and wonders
When St. John Paul II was elected to the papacy in 1978, he was the archbishop of Kraków, Poland, a country then struggling under an oppressive communist regime. The totalitarian political system controlled the lives of its citizens through spies, intimidation and fear.
Against that historical backdrop, the newly elected pope’s first words in his inaugural homily were truly extraordinary as he urged the faithful, saying, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” Human fear is overcome by the grace of Jesus Christ.
This third Sunday of Advent is a perfect time to take stock of our spiritual journey to the great feast of Christmas when we celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus, the word made flesh.
With two weeks to Christmas, it’s tempting to feel that one’s spiritual focus is lost. Perhaps Advent began with the best of good intentions but the ever-growing list of holiday tasks distract your effort to grow spiritually. The hectic pace of the season may leave us overwhelmed and weary, with little time for prayer and spiritual reading.
We are strengthened by the prophet Isaiah’s words, “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God … he comes to save you.”
God’s word invites us to begin anew our spiritual journey to the unsurpassed gift of God in sending his son, Jesus, among us. Jesus desires to calm our fears, quiet our hearts and loosen our grasp on the many superficial, unreasonable demands of the season.
God’s word opens our hearts with a sense of gratitude and wonder at the mystery of what God is doing in our lives this Advent.
So we make our own prayer the words of the psalmist, “Lord, come and save us.” Advent is a graced time to ponder the mystery of God who comes in search of us.
In the Gospel, Jesus announces signs and wonders that accompany God’s search for fallen humanity when he says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
Advent awakens us to recognize those signs and wonders, great and small, by which God continues to work in our lives today.
As we continue the spiritual journey of Advent, we turn our gaze to Jesus, just as John the Baptist did as he prepared the way of the Lord. With eyes of faith fixed on Jesus, our Advent longing will transform into joyful hope as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
What fears will you entrust to God in your Advent preparations for the birth of Jesus?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.