3rd Sunday of Advent
Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Simple, Soulful Gospel Meditations to Ignite the Busy Person’s Spiritual Life (click to order your own copy from Amazon! Remember to rate it and leave a review!)
Gospel of Matthew 11:2-11
Jesus is the Christ for all mankind, and His coming marks the very climax and axis of history; everything prior had been preparing for this moment, and everything after would be altered – transformed by His liberating grace. Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his book Life of Christ, observed:
|“What separates Christ from all men is that first he was expected…A second distinguishing fact is that once he appeared, he struck history with such impact that he split it in two, dividing it into two periods: one before his coming, the other after it. Buddha did not do this, nor any of the great Indian philosophers. Even those who deny God must date their attacks upon Him, A.D. so and so, or so many years after His coming.”|
Jesus was expected. In addition to the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament (all which Jesus fulfilled, a statistical near impossibility), Archbishop Sheen further asserts that prophecies pointing to Christ can also be discerned from the Romans, Greeks, and even the Chinese. Sheen explains the logic behind this universal prescience:
|“Automobile manufacturers tell their customers when to expect a new model. If God sent anyone from Himself, or if He came Himself with a vitally important message for all men, it would seem reasonable that He would first let men know when His messenger was coming, where He would be born, where He would live, the doctrine He would teach…”|
In consequence, when John the Baptist sent his followers to inquire of Jesus as to whether He was the awaited Messiah, Jesus responded by citing His works, which even at the beginning of His public ministry, already fulfilled a host of long-awaited prophecies.
John the Baptist is considered the last of the Old Testament prophets. “Testament” means “Covenant” and John represents the fullness of God’s covenant with Israel, at its height and its end. This end, however, was not an eradication but rather a new beginning. Jesus made this clear when He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). John’s mission to prepare the way for the messiah also prepared the way for the New Covenant, one which fulfills and exceeds the Old to such an extent that the “least in the kingdom of heaven” will exceed the “greatest” in the old.
Up to this point, since the Fall of Adam and Eve, all of humanity suffered under the weight of sin, guilt, discord, injustice, flight from God, failure, and death. God’s preparation took time and patience to ready the human heart to receive His incarnate Son. God began small but personal. He began by initiating a relationship with one man, Abraham, and his family. Through that relationship, God revealed key aspects of His character – His truthfulness, fidelity, power, and love. Later, God formed Abraham’s descendants into a nation when He freed them from slavery in Egypt to be a free people, gave them a mighty prophet and leader – Moses, Laws to govern them – written by the finger of God, and the promised land where they could nurture their hope for a new garden of paradise. Finally, God allowed them to become a formal kingdom and promised a man from the line of king David would always be on their throne. Nevertheless, even the chosen people of God had to struggle along without the aid of supernatural grace. They knew the law and yet failed to follow it. They knew where to find happiness yet chased after futile and false pleasures. Their unified kingdom split and eventually their sin caused them to be conquered and scattered by foreign invaders.
With the incarnation of Christ, the painful wait for a redeemer had finally come to an end. The angels could sing at His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
As Isaiah prophesied:
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1),
and Jesus proclaimed of Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). With the advent of Christ came the advent of grace and the possibility of transformation, strengthening, and healing. Now every person can confidently face the trials of life. St. Paul boldly testifies from his own experience, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, RSV).
Being the light of the world is no small thing. We rely on it more than we realize. For example, at my son’s basketball tournament one day, the lights in the entire complex went out. At first the deafening noise became instantly silenced as we all felt startled. Within seconds however, iPhone flashlights lit up the gymnasium and kids began laughing, chatting, and shooting hoops while they waited. I grew up in a time before iPhone flashlights, when sudden darkness meant an indeterminate amount of time searching for a source of light, hoping someone had a lighter or flashlight stored somewhere. Whereas I felt a bit unnerved when the gymnasium went dark, the kids weren’t all that worried because their fears were instantly assuaged. Kids today experience a blessed security by always having a light source on them and around them constantly. I thought of the gift of Christ’s light within us, which even though it’s often taken for granted, it still provides an underlying sense of peace and security as it permeates our culture and our consciousness. Prior to Christ, like prior to the iPhone, that light was more difficult to come by and less stable.
We are beyond blessed to be living “in the year of the Lord” (Anno Domini, or A.D.). We live in an age of grace where Christ has made possible the forgiveness of our sins, peace in our souls, and the sight of God Himself, made visible in His Son.
Christ has come, and it has changed everything. This is why belief in Christ, as the Son of God made man, our Redeemer, has endured for over 2,000 years and persuaded peoples over the entire earth in every culture. Jesus changes us and we are witnesses to it.
- How has Jesus changed your life? In what way(s) are you different now than before?
- Consider the impact Christ has had on the world. Reflect on His power to transform hearts, minds, and lives in every place and in every
- Reflect on Christ being the Light of the World. Consider how light provides sight, warmth, peace, and protection.
- Jesus, the Word of God through Whom all things were made, is also man. He is related to all of us as our brother.
- Consider how the most important moment in history hinged on the “yes” of Mary.
- Consider the things God has done through you because of your “yes” to Him.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Each day this week, share the gift of Christ’s light with another person. It can be through word or deed. (remember the works of mercy)
- Pray and work for the conversion of someone you know. Pray for Christ to enter his or her life and to change it
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Additional Recommendations for Spiritual Reading:
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- Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe
- Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean Pierre de Caussade (a spiritual classic, my absolute favorite)
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
- The Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
- Ignatius Catholic Bible: Revised Standard Version, Burgundy, Zipper Duradera (this is the bible I use for my personal prayer. I love it)