The reading from Isaiah describes the events that will take place and the joy that will fill the people on the day when they will be liberated from the Assyrians. Like many prophecies it was one that was not to be fulfilled immediately, but for a long time. Meanwhile, Isaiah calls the people to prepare for their liberation by rebuilding their hearts and returning to the Lord, and to wait patiently for their deliverance. Isaiah describes the beauty of that day and what they have to look forward to: the eyes of the blind will be opened, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, the mute will speak. The people will find joy and gladness, while sorrow and mourning will depart from them. This is truly something to look forward too and the people did so while periodically reminded to be patient. First they saw their land restored, then centuries later they experienced the miraculous presence of the redeemer.
The Gospel gives us confirmation of the fulfillment of this prophecy. When John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus if he is the one who is to come, He answers, not with a simple yes and no, but by pointing out the manifestations that Isaiah spoke of in describing the true liberation of the people. “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.” This response can be seen as a confirmation to John the Baptist that what he saw and heard the day he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River did indeed mark the beginning of the ministry of the Messiah. Jesus makes it clear to John that he is “the one.”
After confirming who he is, Jesus goes on to confirm who John the Baptist is. He is the one sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. His rhetorical question, “what did you go out to see….” points out that there were those who were expecting a Messiah who would be high class, wealthy and a political leader. Jesus shows us that this is certainly not God’s plan for the Redeemer. John the Baptist, in preparing the way for Jesus, does so in the same simple and humble manner as Jesus himself would do. There were those who were surprised, disappointed and unable to accept the thought that the Messiah would be a poor carpenter from an insignificant village who was very comfortable associating with tax collectors and sinners. As the ministry of Jesus continues and his identity becomes clearer, it is incomprehensibly for many to believe that the Messiah was also the Son of God – The word made Flesh. Why would almighty God humble himself to become a frail man? Very simply, because; “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son…..” Jn 3:16
This is a message that should bring great joy to our hearts. The church celebrates this on the Third Sunday of Advent, we’re halfway through, by calling this Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete literally means, “Rejoice.” And is the first word of the traditional Introit for this Sunday. This is a day for us to “lighten up”, liturgically we go from purple to pink today, and enter into the joy of God’s love for us and our redemption in Jesus. These last weeks of Advent are an appropriate time to recall all the good things God has done for us, and to rejoice. May we continue our journey to Christmas with renewed joy in our hearts.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.