by Sister Karen M. Cavanagh, C.S.J.
Are we there yet? How much longer?
In today’s technological world, we might not hear that question uttered aloud from a traveler. In a car, we can check the GPS. On a plane, we can track our travel, the miles flown and miles to go and know almost exactly how much longer it will take. When I’m a passenger in a car, I always mimic a child’s voice when I do want to ask those aforementioned questions. I’m hoping it will allay the driver’s head-shaking.
Yes, we are halfway there. Today’s readings are about timetables – God’s timetable. We’ve come to know in our lives that God’s timetable is very different than our own. We’ve learned, too, that God’s action at certain times of our lives is also, often, different than what we may have planned, wished or expected.
God in Our Lives
Advent is that time when we are invited to look at the times of God’s coming into our lives. We look at His coming as a babe in Bethlehem and walking this earth with and for us. We are invited to consider and prepare for God’s coming in those “end times”… our own and the world’s. Thirdly, and quite importantly (even urgently), we’ve learned to not ask when but to notice how God comes, touches us, challenges us and seeks to act in us in the only real time we have – now!
Today is what is referred to as Gaudete Sunday, or “Rejoice” Sunday. It is a day of hope – “we’re almost there” – halfway through the season. We are offered quite clearly an image of our Messiah and of the ways in which He showed that He was “the One to come” – the One to bring God’s salvation and God’s reign of justice and peace for the world.
Now even John the Baptist wonders about Jesus’ identity. This is not the powerful ruler or military leader to whom people likened the Messiah, the One Who would show Israel as a political world power. This is not the One who would show any people or nation as the powerful one.
Jesus Himself answers the query, “Are you the One to come or should we be looking to follow another?” John was looking for a forceful, somewhat tough, judge who would separate weeds from wheat, name the sinners, pass judgments and put everything in order. Jesus tells John’s questioners, “Go back and tell John what you see, those blind see, those paralyzed walk, people with leprosy are cured, those who’ve died now live and those who are without at the edges of life hear the good news.”
The God of Jesus is the God of life. Our God is not a distant deity for Whom we search from afar. Our God, the God of Jesus, is near, is forgiving, is healing and strengthens those who are weak or vulnerable. We, like John, can forget where we find God right now. We can so easily lose sight of the ways that Jesus shows us God in our neighborhood and in every neighbor. We can forget that our baptism challenges us at this time, halfway to Christmas, to walk in Jesus’ footsteps … to be carried by Him, if necessary, in the service of our brothers and sisters.
To search for and to respond to God in the unplanned, unexpected and even unwelcomed happenings could be that which, today, makes our baptism so much more than an empty gesture. God’s ways are so often not our ways. God’s time is only now. We are called to live in that now.
On this halfway-to-Christmas Sunday, have I found some time for that journey within to welcome Christ’s coming in me? Have you and I found ways to gift others with our time, with our listening and caring, with our forgiveness and prayer? Have we been a light in another’s day? Have we allowed a light into some dark corners of our own hearts?
God’s timing tells us that we are almost there to another Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus, that we are on the way to Christ’s coming again at those personal and communal “end times” and that we are right on time to find God’s ever moving Spirit in the present moment.
Isaiah tells us that when we are able to let God’s timing into our lives and hearts, even for a time, we experience nourishment in our dryness, abundance in our spirits, strengthening in our hands and works, courage in our fears and salvation in our days. James demonstrates in very human imagery – the waiting, the patience and the willingness necessary to be turned and changed in every moment – every new now – of our time on this earth.
If we were to need any further assist or handbook of the Messiah’s fidelity and mission, we could reflect each day this week on today’s Responsorial Psalm. Can I see my name, myself, where it says “The Lord…” in each of the verses? What I am able to do, and need to do, as we move closer to Christmas and to God this third week of Advent, is pray: “Lord, come and save us.”[hr]
Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10
Psalm 146: 6-7, 8-9, 9-10
James 5: 7-10
Matthew 11: 2-11
Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.