Third Sunday in Advent
"Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?"(Mt. 11:2-11)
In our Gospel reading for this third Sunday of Advent, let's look at one of the most troubling Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount while seeing John the Baptist in prison. A disturbing scene naturally comes when viewing John the Baptist arrested because of false allegations. Incorporating this Beatitude, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted," can bring comfort to our souls. The challenge, though, is to understand what it means to mourn.
The type of mourning we see in this text from Matthew five is unlike our experience when our beloved transitions to the gates of Heaven. There is another aspect of mourning we tend to overlook. We rarely mourn for the experience of segregation, degradation, isolation, or the spiritual darkness in the world. We are stagnant when mourning the outlandish violence in the streets. The prophet Jeremiah said, "Death has come up through our windows, has entered our citadels, To cut down children in the street, young people in the squares" (Jer. 9:21). Do we care, do we mourn, do weep for our world?
For this reason, when reflecting on John in mourning concerning the Beatitude, he seeks comfort while in jail. While mourning and longing for comfort, John sends his disciples to Jesus. They ask Jesus this strange question, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Note that John avoided perhaps his human instinct by not asking for a prison break-out. My instinct, my first question for Jesus, would be, "What is the plan to get out of prison?" John asked the unthinkable, "Are you the one, or should we look for another? John is showing compassion for those living in darkness even though his life is behind prison bars.
John mourns for those who may never know Jesus. His mourning and our mourning this Advent Season must show compassion for individuals blinded by Satan's actions or living behind spiritual bars. The devil imitates angels and prowls "... like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour" (1 Pt. 5:8). We must mourn for people who depend on fleeting happiness. We must mourn for our government when it fails to make laws to protect our children from gun violence. And we must mourn for all faith communities that continue to perpetuate the sin of racism. Church, the time is now for us to mourn for friends and family members. John was mourning in prison, looking for comfort. Are we mourning for our loved ones? Are you someone who can help others to live a good human life, or should we look for another?
Fortunately, Jesus sends some good news to John and us on Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the ancient Latin word for Rejoice! Jesus sent John's disciples back to him, rejoicing with a record of the blind, the lame, the deaf, the dead, and the poor having the good news proclaimed to them. Church, this same kind of rejoicing must indeed be our attitude. We must use our gifts to proclaim the good news, the Kerygma. The Kerygma is the salvation story. It is the mystery of our faith; Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. We must say to those who are absent from the Church, those who are in Church, and those who don't know Christ, Rejoice! Jesus is coming to heal those who are desperate or lonely.
So, as we mourn for people who don't know Christ, let us find comfort in knowing that soon we are going to see the King. Let us rejoice; there will be no more crying and loneliness because we will see the King.
Let us pray: Dear God, help us to follow the wisdom we heard from the letter of James in this weekend's Second Reading, calling us on to "Make [our] hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand." Let Isaiah's words of affirmation be on our lips, "Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Yes, Lord, this is our season to rejoice because our salvation is at hand.
Are you the one, or should we look for another?
Author: Evang./Prof. Michael P. Howard, MACS. Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF, University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online,
Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Loyola Marymount University, Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry
"I ate it, and it was sweet as honey" (Ez. 3:1).