Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bloom with Abundant Flowers

December 16, 2007

Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday

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. Isaiah 35:1-2

Be patient, therefore, brothers, 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. James 5:7-8

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. Matthew 11:7-9


Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow. Amen. (From Creighton University)


Jesus has such a tangible “earthy” and social impact. The beauty described by the prophet Isaiah and freedoms promised by Jesus in the Gospel by St. Matthew make us wait in restless anticipation like a child anticipating the visit from St. Nick. How ironic that John the Baptist, the prophet greater than all others, is imprisoned when he hears the Good News of Jesus and his ministry!

The New American Bible notes explain that Jesus’ response to the disciples is taken from “passages of Isaiah that picture the time of salvation as marked by deeds such as those that Jesus is doing. The beatitude is a warning to the Baptist not to disbelieve because his expectations have not been met.”

These same passages from Isaiah are the basis for what some theologians call the Nazareth Manifesto also outlined in Luke 4:14-30. This passage is a public statement by Jesus that sets the agenda for his ministry telling us what he is going to do like what he recounts today.

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn. Isaiah 61:1

Today in Matthew 11, we hear Jesus express some of the outward signs that provide evidence of that ministry. According to David Couchman on his website “Facing the Challenge,” Jesus adds a new dimension to the Isaiah prophecy – His presence!

Jesus very clearly says that his agenda is different. Remember this is his manifesto. He says I have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission God has appointed for me. And he defines his mission in terms of preaching good news to the poor, and doing works of deliverance.

It is the day of the Lord's favor - this is an allusion to the Old Testament year of Jubilee: the time for debts to be cancelled. Why is it the day of the Lord's favor? Because Jesus is here. If he is not the Son of God, this is the most paranoid claim imaginable.

Jesus’ manifesto is inclusive, not exclusive. It is not that God is interested in the poor rather than the rich, or the prisoners rather than those who are free. In that culture, the poor and the prisoners were seen as the ones God was not interested in. If God blessed you, you would be rich and free. But Jesus says no, God is interested in everyone: the poor as well as the rich, the oppressed as well as the free, the non-Jew as well as the Jew. It is a message for the marginalized, and it overturns preconceived ideas and prejudices.

What more remarkable way to underline this message than by sending it your own cousin who sits in a Roman prison unknowingly awaiting what we know will be his execution? What more remarkable way to point us toward Jesus’ own torture, execution and Resurrection when all who are imprisoned by sin will be released?


What has those around us imprisoned? What can we do to set them free so they can rejoice?

What has us imprisoned? How can we be set free to grow like the flowers of spring and rejoice?

Why do we come to church? What do we expect to see? Who do we expect to meet?

Make a list of what keeps you or those you love locked up. Resolve to address one of those issues in the coming year and outline your own expectations.

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