Psalm 146:3-4
Put no trust in princes, in children of Adam powerless to save. Who breathing his last, returns to the earth; that day all his planning comes to nothing.
Who are the most dangerous people in the kingdoms of this world… according to the world? It is those who follow the call to holiness that God has issued. Who are most dangerous people in the kingdoms of this world… according to God? Those especially who feel they have the ability, the knowledge, the right to not only control their own lives, but to control the lives of others for them.
The opening couple of verses of Psalm one hundred forty-six (five), our Responsorial Psalm for this weekend, are: “Put no trust in princes, in children of Adam powerless to save. Who, breathing his last, returns to the earth; that day all his planning comes to nothing.” Jesus, however, is the New Adam, and only he is capable of solving the dangers of this world. But he solves them in a way that is as surprising in our day, as it was in his.
There is a challenge ALL the readings bring to us this weekend. Isaiah is writing about life in a desert that is made into a rich garden. This has never happened in Israel. I have been in that desert that Isaiah was talking about. It is VERY harsh. Isaiah is saying that the people of God are now like the desert! There needs to be a conversion of hearts so that the flowering of God’s grace and mercy may flow and renew – not only the desert of people’s hearts, but all of society, and even, miraculously, the world itself.
St. James talks about the farmer waiting for the crops. We are waiting for the fruits of the Holy Spirit to be poured out in us, enlivening our faith, making us fruitful for the sake of the kingdom of God. The closing line of James’ reading this weekend talks about hardship and patience, he is making reference to the life of the prophets, and saying that we have to expect the exact same life. There are those who do not, and will not ever understand the call to holiness that God issues. Their hardness of heart prohibits that.
And, when we look at the gospel, we realize that it is possible to end up with a hardened heart even for someone who has been on fire for God. That kind of hardening of heart comes through despair. And that is something that John the Baptist may have begun to feel while he was in prison. So he knew who to turn to… His cousin, Jesus. He knew Jesus had the answer to keep him from a hardened heart and despair.
But I don’t think it was just this sense of despair that was touching John the Baptist. He told his disciples to see Jesus. I think he sent them to see Jesus to convince them that they should begin following him, because John’s time was coming to an end. In reality, THEY were probably at more of a risk of despair than John was who was about to be beheaded.
We are now in the third week of Advent. It is called Gaudete Sunday. That is a Latin word that means praise of God. The selections from the Psalm we have this weekend call us to that praise. The expectation of transformation that Isaiah talks about also calls us to praise.
The reading from James is a little different, and calls us to patience as we await the time for giving praise to God. Finally, the gospel gives us an immediate image of Jesus breaking open this miraculous flowering in the desert that Isaiah speaks of.
Today, it becomes our responsibility to live in that HOPE that destroys despair. It is our responsibility to live with an expectant FAITH that draws people to seek this new life where the blind will see; the lame will walk; lepers, and all the sick will be cured; the deaf will hear; and finally the dead will be raised. It is our responsibility to LOVE God so much that this love pours out of us into the hearts and lives of others.
Hope… Faith… Love… These are the things that God gives so that this new flowering may happen on the earth and that the prophecies of old will be fulfilled in such a way that God’s people will truly rejoice.
But those who are not God’s people will wail in anguish because they have failed to look to God who is with us, Emanuel – Jesus, the Christ, the once and future King.
Jesus, as we continue throughout this season of Advent, open us to a flowering of in the desert of our own hearts. Give us the rejoicing that this Sunday calls for. And even go farther Lord. It is time for the world around us to wake from the sleep of the desert and to see your glory.
Prepare hearts that they may listen and receive what they need to be healed. And as we begin our final preparations for the season of Christmas, fill us with an expectation of your coming among us both as the little child and as the triumphant king. Amen.