Matthew 11:2-11, Third Sunday of Advent
The late Fr. Donelan, SJ writes… “Waiting is a mystery – a natural sacrament of life – there is a meaning hidden in all the times we have to wait. It must be an important mystery because there is so much waiting in our lives.” Waiting is such a common event in our lives that we take it for granted. We wait for breakfast to be served. We wait in traffic as we drive to school or work. Then, we wait for school or work to end. Within these moments of waiting are other instances of waiting until we finally wait for sleep to visit us to end our day; but waiting continues the next day! As if this is not enough, life’s milestones are also replete of waiting.
Despite these experiences of waiting, we never get used to it. We still get flustered, restless, or doubtful. We seek for some certainty—whether that which we are waiting is really worth the wait. Ask a single woman, who in her mid-30s continues to wait for her lifetime partner. Ask a young man waiting for years to be accepted in a diocese or a religious order. Ask a couple waiting for a child after more than a decade of marriage. And in these trying times of waiting, how can we rejoice, as this third Sunday of Advent promotes?
“Are you the One? Or shall we wait for somebody else?” Scripture is not clear and scholars are divided whether this question is John’s way of teaching his disciples or of seeking vindication for what he has been fighting for all his life especially with the reality of his impending death in the hands of Herod.
Doubt, as in the case of John, is not always negative. It spurs us to deeper faith. How does doubt bring us to deeper faith in these times of waiting? The readings today propose three ways. First, the Second Reading suggests that we be patient and look back when we doubt. Consider the prophets who struggle to understand and accept their predicament just to speak in the name of the Lord. In times of doubt, we are invited to look back, to recognize and learn from the prophets, the models of our faith. James’ invitation can also be stretched to mean looking back at our own history of struggling and finding faith in God.
Second, Jesus, in the Gospel today, responds to John’s question by pointing to the manifestations of the Reign of God amid John’s imprisonment and pervading hopelessness and fear: “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.” Amid our doubts, we are invited to find little and big manifestations of God’s faithfulness and assurances in the here-and-now. Mind you, God’s assurances of his presence are abundant despite the pervading confusion, fear, and doubts we are experiencing!
Third, the First Reading and the Psalm today speak of the promise of a future “too-good-to-be-false.” The promise of this God who was faithful to us and who remains faithful to us today will soon be realized in our midst! By focusing on God’s faithfulness in the past and his abiding presence in the here-and-now, we can hold on to God’s promise for our future. This faith compels us to re-focus our attention from doubting to recognizing the sources of our doubts – our sense of insecurities and woundedness, our sinful patterns and tendencies that make us blind, deaf, paralyzed, and mute to God’s overwhelming assurances every day. And Advent is a good time to be reminded that when confronted with such disabilities: “Be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” By then, our eyes will see, our ears will hear, our limbs will leap, and our mouths will praise the greatness of our God. And this reality, my friends, is the cause for our rejoicing in this season of waiting… and doubting!