Reflection for the Vigil of the Third Sunday of Advent

13 December 2014

by Mary Teresa Morris, OSB

Readings: Deut. 18:15-19; John 1:6-8, 19-28

In this Sunday's gospel, we have John, the forerunner of Jesus, performing the baptism of repentance: the forerunner of Baptism of the New Covenant. John and baptism in the water signified a conversatio morum: a turning back towards the God of Israel. However, it could not bestow grace, establish a new covenant relationship, gifted by the Holy Spirit. It was not John's to do.

However, what caught my eye were the actions of the Levites and Pharisees. John was making enough of an impact to arouse interest. Could he be the One? Could he possibly be Elijah? Moses? The Messiah? As men of leadership they felt that they had a duty to 'vet' this preacher. It sounds like they had a mental checklist, or maybe a real one hammered out in a committee.

How does this guy measure up on the checklist?

Cross John off:
"Did you smell that wet camel hair?"
"He'd have us all on a locust and wild honey diet."
"I could have bought it if he said he was Elijah."
"Ignore that comment about a greater one coming after him."


On this Third Sunday, we are exhorted to rejoice as the coming of the Messiah is near. The Levites and Pharisees may have rejoiced, too, as they too awaited a Messiah who was to come at any time: just had to be sure that the Messiah met the Messiah selection criteria. What got in their way, and in our way, is the same: the checklist. Checklists can be good hings: I use them all the time. Would be more helpful if I could find them after I make them.

Checklists in finding Jesus: not so much.

Christ is in our midst: the midst with which we are comfortable. Christ is also in the midst that make us cringe. Both. Not either/or. Didn't say the search would be easy. Did give us a new covenant relationship and the Holy Spirit to give us the eyes of faith with which to see.

On the 17th, we start the Christmas novena.
Let us use it to look at our own checklists which we use to determine who Christ can and can't be.

What's on your checklist?