Reflection for the Vigil of the Third Sunday of Advent
by Sister Mary Agnes Patterson, OSB
Questions and expectations fill the minds of many children this time of year. Many adults also have anticipation, maybe worry and stress. There are only 10 more shopping days till Christmas – not to mention the 60 days the stores have been promoting Christmas already.
Our readings this evening also have expectations, anticipation and questions. John the Baptist is in prison and is looking for some certainty perhaps. He has a question for Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or are we to look for another?” Jesus does not answer with a clear statement about his identity. He replies with a message for John about his works of healing, raising the dead, and teaching the good news to the poor. This is Jesus’ mission. John will be familiar with these works from the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus turns to the crowd and asks them a question: “What did you go out to the desert to see?” More questions? What are your expectations? What are you looking for? Why did you go out? Jesus gives some answers – John is a great prophet sent to prepare the way for Jesus, himself. But even John is not as great as the least in the kingdom of heaven. Are we the least in the kingdom? What is our advantage? Maybe we who know Jesus only from history have a vantage point that John never had – we have learned of the great love God has for us as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Is this our advantage?
I wonder at times if I had lived in the time of Jesus if I would have accepted him as Messiah. Would I have been looking for a different kind of messiah – one who would overthrow our oppressors? Would my expectations of the Messiah help or hinder me from recognizing Jesus as “the one who is to come?”
Sometimes I ask myself if I recognize the presence and the face of Christ in the world today. So for the last few days I have tried to look and listen to the news and to the events and people of my daily life. Here are a few examples of what I have noticed. I have heard of people donating food for the hungry and special collections by many groups to help those in need. People come together to help a family whose home burned down. I saw on TV a company making prostheses for hands lost in wars and giving them to children and adults and donating them to the people in Afghanistan. I hear and see many acts of kindness around our community: sisters reading to those who cannot see; listening to those who need a little kindness; visiting the sick and comforting the grieving. I know others volunteered to clean the home of a family who welcomed their disabled son home from the rehab center. Others signed up to ring the bell for Salvation Army Christmas appeal. Even those who cannot get out have been knitting hats and afghans and making and decorating cookies for distribution by local charities. Many of us contact our elected representatives on behalf of justice and peace.
Just like the people of Jesus’ day we are searching and are full of expectations and anticipation. We are now over half way through Advent and we the pink candle is lit. We celebrate Gaudete Sunday. We rejoice in our God and pray for the Lord to come to save us. Let us pray that the Lord will guide us to carry on the work of building the kingdom of God here and now. We can do something. We can pray and work for the kingdom of God.