Third Sunday in Advent

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Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to St. John the Baptist

God, You raised up St. John the Baptist to prepare a perfect people for Christ. Fill Your people with the joy of possessing His grace, and direct the minds of all the faithful in the way of peace and salvation. Grant that, as St. John was martyred for truth and justice, so we may energetically profess our Faith in You, and lead others to the Way, the Truth, and Eternal Life. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who see how your people

faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,

enable us, we pray,

to attain the joys of so great a salvation

and to celebrate them always

with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 35:1-6a, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult;

the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers,

and rejoice with joyful song.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,

the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;

they will see the glory of the LORD,

the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,

make firm the knees that are weak,

say to those whose hearts are frightened:

Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God,

he comes with vindication;

with divine recompense

he comes to save you.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,

the ears of the deaf be cleared;

then will the lame leap like a stag,

then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return

and enter Zion singing,

crowned with everlasting joy;

they will meet with joy and gladness,

sorrow and mourning will flee.

APPLICATION

Even if we took this prophecy of Isaiah as relating to the return from Babylon only, it would still be a source of consolation to us, and a reason for thanking our good God who, in this return of the Jews from Babylon, was preparing the way for the coming of his divine Son among us. The Exodus from Egypt in the 13th century, and the liberation from Babylon in the 6th, were big steps taken by God on the road to our eternal liberation. But as we know from our Lord’s own interpretation (Mt. 11:5), these words of the prophet referred also to God’s greatest act of love and mercy—the Incarnation of his divine Son, which was to liberate all mankind from the slavery of sin and worldliness, and make men citizens of an everlasting homeland, heaven.

How can we ever thank God for this, act of infinite love for us? The answer is that we cannot. All eternity itself will not be long enough for us to praise and thank God. Just as our creation was an act of sheer generosity, so this greater gift, our elevation to adopted sonship, is an act of infinite generosity, for which all that he expects in return, is our true appreciation of the gift and honor conferred on us.

Christmas, each year, brings vividly before our minds this proof of God’s infinite love. Every time a sincere Jew saw the rebuilt Temple and city of Jerusalem, he must surely have thanked God for having released his people from the slavery of Babylon, and for having given them, once more, a homeland of their own, and a temple where they could worship him freely. How much greater should be our gratitude when the Christmas crib reminds us of all that God has done for us? The statue of the small Baby, lying on a wad of straw in a stable, is but a feeble representation of the self-humiliation willingly accepted by the Son of God, when he assumed our human nature, in order to raise us up to the dizzy heights of divine sonship. All we can say is, “thank you, God, you have surely shown your love for us, would that we could show you some real love in return.”

Jerusalem with its temple, God’s earthly abode, and the land of Canaan, were God’s gifts to the Chosen People of old. They were but symbols of the reality he has promised to us. God grant we may all inherit that reality.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

Lord, come and save us.

The LORD God keeps faith forever,

secures justice for the oppressed,

gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets captives free.

Lord, come and save us.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;

the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.

The LORD loves the just;

the LORD protects strangers.

Lord, come and save us.

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,

but the way of the wicked he thwarts.

The LORD shall reign forever;

your God, O Zion, through all generations.

Lord, come and save us.

READING II

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Jas 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers and sisters,

until the coming of the Lord.

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,

being patient with it

until it receives the early and the late rains.

You too must be patient.

Make your hearts firm,

because the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,

that you may not be judged.

Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.

Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,

the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

APPLICATION

“The coming of the Lord is at hand.” These words of St. James are true for all of us, in two senses. His first coming, which we shall be commemorating in ten days or so, is very near. I am sure you are all busy already, making preparations for this great family feast-buying presents and greeting cards, putting your homes in order, getting ready to welcome and entertain relatives, friends and neighbors—all of which is becoming and right. The sincere Christian is, or should also be, busy putting his spiritual home in order, so that he may be able to welcome and entertain the greatest friend man could ever have. Christmas is the anniversary feast of his friend’s coming among us, to become one of the family, and enable us to become, for evermore, members of his.

The sincere Christian, who prepares thus, need have no fear of the second coming of Christ as his judge–the coming of which St. James speaks today. One of the hardest things, even for a devout Christian, is to convince himself that death–the moment when eternal destiny is decided–is not yet years and years away. Not one among us will deny the existence of such escapism. Death, therefore, for all of us will be unexpected when it comes. Even for the vast majority of those who die after a long illness the end is not in fact expected.

But death need not be unexpected, that is, unprepared for. This is really what matters. The man, or woman, who heeds the words of our Lord : “stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Lk. 12:40) will strive to be always ready, by attempting to live always at peace with God.

Ours is a God of mercy. He will never try to catch, in one of their moments of weakness, those who are striving to live in his love and grace. Nor does he fail to send forearming, even to those who not only forget him but continually offend him. Those warnings can, of course, fall on deaf ears. St. James’ words today are such a warning. If anyone among you has hitherto neglected his duties to God, let him listen now to that warning and put his conscience right with God. The sinner who will do so, will have a holy and happy Christmas. He will welcome Christ becomingly at his first coming, and Christ’s second coming will have no terrors for him.

 

GOSPEL

 

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Mt 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,

he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,

Are you the one who is to come,

or should we look for another?”

Jesus said to them in reply,

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 the good news proclaimed to them.

And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,

Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,

What did you go out to the desert to see?

A reed swayed by the wind?

Then what did you go out to see?

Someone dressed in fine clothing?

Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.

Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?

Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

This is the one about whom it is written:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way before you.

Amen, I say to you,

among those born of women

there has been none greater than John the Baptist;

yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121116.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.1 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.2 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.3 But his miracles can also be occasions for “offense”;4 they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.5

CCC 549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,6 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,7 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.8

CCC 2444 “The Church’s love for the poor. .. is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.9 Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.”10 It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.11

1 cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38.

2 Cf. Mk 5:25-34; 10:52; etc.

3 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.

4 Mt 11:6.

5 Cf. Jn 11:47-48; Mk 3:22.

6 Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.

7 Cf. Lk 12 13-14; Jn 18:36.

8 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.

9 CA 57; cf. Lk 6:20-22, Mt 8:20; Mk 12:41-44.

10 Eph 4:28.

11 Cf. CA 57.

APPLICATION

The Church brings John the Baptist, the man who prepared the people for Christ’s public mission, before our minds today, as an example that we should follow, even if only from afar. John prepared himself for the task of welcoming and introducing Christ to others, by a life of self-mortification and penance. He told the people that the first essential for meeting Christ, and profiting by his coming, was that they should turn away from sin and give up any evil ways, which hitherto they had followed. He himself practiced what he preached and his preaching, therefore, bore fruit among many of his hearers. Four of the twelve Apostles became followers of Christ because of the Baptist’s example and preaching.

John is calling on us too today, to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming this Christmas, by turning away from sin, and by the mortification of ourselves in many ways. We are not expected to wear the rough camel-hair dress he wore, and eat nothing but locusts and wild honey. But each one of us can restrain the excessive luxuries of the palate, in which we often indulge, and use the money, thus saved, to help those who are short of the necessities of life, in far too many parts of today’s world. Many of us, too, could look through our wardrobes and find garments we can well do without. These could help to keep the wintry blasts from our poor, shivering fellowman or women this Christmas.

Most of us feel touched, when we see the Baby Christ lying, half-naked, on the rough straw in the stable. But to do something for him, we need not wish we were there on that first Christmas. We can do it for his suffering brothers this Christmas, and he himself tells us if we do that we are doing it for him.

In repenting of our sins, the first necessary step if we want to welcome Christ into a pure heart and into our Christian homes, let our conversion and resolutions be firm, as was the resolute stand of John the Baptist. He was not a reed that was shaken by every wind, and we too must stand firm against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, if we are to remain worthy of the name of Christian. John the Baptist suffered martyrdom for his faith and convictions. Few, if any, of us will be called on to lay down our lives for our faith, but we are all called on to live for it, and with it, every day of our lives.

This may demand sacrifice nowadays, when our permissive society derides and looks down on those still trying to live according to the old-fashioned ten commandments. But we must not only be ready to accept this derision; we must do all in our power, by word, prayer and example, to get our erring neighbor to see that virtue does pay in the end.

We have much in this story of John the Baptist which should help us to welcome Christ properly this Christmas. Think of the Baptist today, and listen to the message he has for you. If you do your best to put it into practice, the good, merciful Lord himself will do the rest for you. He came to save sinners. He came to save you. If you cooperate and do your part, you will hear, on your judgment day, the joyful words of Christ : “You are more than a prophet, you are a citizen of heaven–a saint.”

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Genuine Joy

It is in fact true, is it not, that all joy which arises independently of Christ or contrary to his will proves insufficient and only thrusts the person back down into a confusion in which, when all is said and done, he can find no lasting joy? Only with Christ has authentic joy made its appearance and the only thing of ultimate importance in our lives is to learn to see and know Christ, the God of grace, the light and joy of the world. Our joy will be genuine only when it no longer depends on things that can be stripped from us and destroyed and when it has its basis rather in those innermost depths of our existence which no worldly power can take from us. Every external loss should turn us back to these innermost depths and better dispose us for our true life… To celebrate Advent means to bring to life within ourselves the hidden Presence of God. It takes place to the extent that we travel the path of conversion and change our cast of mind by turning from the visible to the invisible. As we travel this path, we learn to see the miracle of grace; we learn that there can be no more luminous source of joy for human beings and the world than the grace that has appeared in Christ. The world is not a futile confusion of drudgery and pain, for all the distress the world contains is supported in the arms of merciful love; it is caught up in the forgiving and saving graciousness of our God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Praise to God (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us and let Your face shed its light upon us.

So will Your ways be known upon earth and all nations learn Your saving help.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;

let all the peoples praise You.

Let the nations be glad and exult for You rule the world with justice.

With fairness You rule the peoples, You guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;

let all the peoples praise You.

The earth has yielded its fruit for God, our God, has blessed us.

May God still give us His blessing till the ends of the earth revere Him.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;

let all the peoples praise You.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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