3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A ON DECEMBER 15, 2019 (R. 1: Isaiah 35: 1- 6a, 10; Psalm 146: 6- 7, 8- 9, 9- 10; R. 2: James 5: 7- 10; Gospel: Matthew 11: 2- 11)
– FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
JOYFULLY WAITING IN PRAYER
A while ago, I was on Interstate 5, South-Bound, when a car passed me on abnormally high speed. I immediately said to myself, “Where on earth is this driver going to?” Interestingly enough, there was heavy traffic building up about two miles ahead, so the driver had no choice but to drastically reduce his speed since he could not fly over the cars ahead of him. About two minutes later, I saw myself right behind the car in question, and I noticed a car bumper sticker on the car with the inscription, “Give me patience, O Lord… but hurry!” It is said that “Patience is something you admire greatly in the driver behind you, but not in the driver ahead of you.”
Today’s 2nd Reading begins with the 7th verse of the 5th Chapter of the Letter of James. In the six verses that precede today’s passage, St. James is very hard on the rich who oppress the poor. He makes it clear that such rich people will not go unpunished. Having finished with the rich, he turns to the poor to encourage them to imbibe the virtue of patience. He assures them that God will certainly intervene. He urges them to learn how to be patient like a farmer. The farmer does not just sit idly and wish the crop to grow. He cultivates the land, plants the seed, weeds the farm, and leaves the growth in the hands of God. Similarly, the poor are expected to do only what is within their limit and to leave the rest in the hands of God.
In the Gospel passage, we find what might be termed an example of impatience. John the Baptist, who is in Prison, sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Commentators have given two different explanations for this question. The first group wanting to defend and preserve the reputation of John suggests that the question did not come from John the Baptist but his disciples. These commentators do not want it to sound like John is expressing doubt or impatience, so they explain that the question came from his disciples, and he decided to send them to the source, namely Jesus Christ, that they may find out for themselves.
The other commentators do not see anything wrong with it if the question is from John himself. They feel it is ok for John to become impatient with Jesus and even to doubt. Remember that last Sunday, John was in the desert, calling people to repentance. He made it clear that the one who is to come would not take any nonsense or rubbish. He explained that the ax was at the root of the trees and that every tree that did not bear good fruits would be cut down and thrown into the fire. But contrary to that, John, who preached is now in prison, Jesus has arrived, and instead of throwing the sinners into the fire, Jesus is busy eating and drinking with them, and even openly declaring that he came for the sake of the sinners. With such occurrences, it is not out of place for John to begin to wonder what was going on.
In response to the question brought by the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus directed them to today’s 1st reading, to see what it says about the signs that will mark the arrival of the Christ and to compare them with what is happening now, “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 good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Do we not sometimes find ourselves in situations where we wonder if Jesus is the Christ? Do we not also ask questions like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Do we not wonder if God exists when we see the wicked “prospering” while the righteous suffer? I have a close friend, whenever a good person dies, he comes to me to say, “If only God consulted me before this good person died, I would have given God a long list of bad people who should have died in place of this good person.”
Advent is a season of patiently waiting for the answers to prayers, the solution to our problems, and our salvation. It is a season of hope. On the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when we use Rose (not pink) color of vestments, the Church reminds us that our waiting is not in vain; the Church calls us to rejoice today because our salvation is very near.
My dearly beloved in Christ, I am not sure of the exact problem you are facing at this moment. I have no idea what is keeping you awake at night. I don’t know what is making you doubt the existence of God. I do not even know the name of your boss, who is lording it over you. I do not even know that in-law who has sworn that “over their dead body” for you to enjoy your marriage. But I strongly believe in the scripture that says, “Those who put their trust in God will never be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3). I urge you, do not give up on yourself; do not give up on God, for God is not done with you. Remember, “Good things come to those who wait, but better things come to those who pray while they wait.”