Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, December 12, 2010 3rd Sunday of Advent, Ken Hughes, SJ


SMA Sunday Advent III A


(Isaiah 35.1-6a, 10; James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11)

If I am looking for facts or information, I turn to Google and to Wikipedia, and for driving directions, to Mapquest.

If I am wanting knowledge, I go to books, or lectures, or classes, or to learned people who can connect facts and information into a larger whole, a bigger picture.

But, if I am seeking wisdom, I must ask questions and then wait, -- wait for a mystery to emerge and unfold from within. Wisdom needs both questions and time.

Advent is question time and wisdom time. During this season, we hear important questions which make us stop and ponder because we know that some great mystery lies deep down, far beyond our understanding.

Last Sunday, John the Baptist asked the Pharisees and Sadducees, "Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?"

This morning, John asks Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come or shall we wait for another?

Next Sunday, God will encourage King Ahaz to question when He says to Ahaz, "Ask for a sign from the Lord your God."

And then, just before Christmas, We have further questions:

Zechariah, when promised a son, asks, "How shall I know this?"

Mary asks the angel, Gabriel, "How can this be?"

And, when Mary and Elizabeth meet one another, Elizabeth asks, "How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

All these Advent questions go beyond answers and point to the amazing Christmas mystery of God coming closer and closer. These questions elicit wonder, and wonder leads to pondering, and pondering needs time, and time demands patience.

Thus, St. James says to us in the second reading: "Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord." Just as the farmer must be patient for the fruit of the earth to grow, "You too must be patient." And adds, "Take as an example of … patience, … the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord."

In today’s Gospel, when John the Baptist asked Jesus: "Are you the one who is to come or shall we wait for another?" he was asking the question that all the people of Judea were asking. How could Jesus respond? He could not answer that question directly without profound misunderstanding. His Messiahship would not be their Messiahship. So, Jesus asked John’s disciples to describe to John what they were experiencing, to report what they have heard and seen: 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…" It was for John, then, to ponder what their experience signified, to come to see how their experience was rooted in the prophecy of Isaiah, and so to discover the wisdom that God in Jesus is acting in a radically new way. How long did John have to ponder? How much of the mystery of Jesus did he come to understand in the little time left to him?

We, too, stand before God with our questions. Like the people of old, we may feel our hands feeble, our knees weak, our hearts frightened. In these difficult times of uncertainties: of lost jobs, of schools and libraries closing, of low income housing threatened, of social services cut back, of parishes merging, of neighborhood violence, we, too, can become fearful, and ask, "How will we survive?" "Where are we going as a community, a Church, a nation? "What does the future hold for our children?" "What can I possibly do in the face of such gigantic issues?" These are overwhelming questions! The God of Isaiah does not answer our questions directly, but says, "Be strong, fear not. Here is your God. … He comes to save you." What does it mean that God is saving us today? Once again, an invitation to ponder, take time, be patient.

More concretely, we come now to the question proposed for this Third Sunday of Advent:

"What new birth and saving graces are Jesus, Mary, and Joseph offering to our hearts for

our families,

our communities,

our weary violent world?

During this week, take time to ponder this question, -- and be patient. The wisest responses lie deep within us.

And, of course, trust, -- trust that our God in Jesus will show us the way to move forward through mystery and wisdom to fuller life. For this is Jesus’ desire when He says to us, "I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly." (Jn. 10.10)

Kenneth J. Hughes, SJ

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