Third Sunday in Advent Year A
May we walk gently on this land.
Readings of the Day
Reading I Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
Reading I I James 5:7-10
Gospel Matthew 11:2-11
‘All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God!’
Penitential Rite [normally the lighting of the Advent Candles takes precedence]
· Jesus, you gave sight to the blind. Make us see the distress of the poor. Jesus, have mercy.
· Jesus, you made the deaf hear. Open our ears to the cries of the weak. Christ, have mercy.
· Jesus, you made the lame walk. Make us lift up those crippled by their fears and failures. Jesus, have mercy.
God of Compassion,
as the wilderness blossoms at your touch,
our broken lives are made whole,
and our fearful hearts grow strong.
Open our eyes to your presence
and waken our hearts to sing your praise.
To all who long for Christ’s return
grant perseverance and patience,
that we may announce in word and deed
the good news of the Reign.
God of hope and joy,
you come among us in Jesus, your son.
May he become visible
when we are near to one another
and bring hope and justice
to the poor and the vulnerable.
Introduction: We pray to the God of Jesus who calls us to live more deeply and makes our hearts stronger. We pray in response: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world where many deserts are created by the absence of love, may God make our deserts fertile and let them bloom with the joy of love, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world where we have refused to dialogue with one another, may God open our ears, give speech to our silent lips and bring us unity and understanding, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world that increasingly becoming corporatised, may the church not allow itself to be drawn in and walk over those it is called to serve and minister to, especially the First Peoples of this land and all who weak and vulnerable, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world where we build prisons for one another, may the God who sets prisoners free, restore the freedom of all people, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world where we declare war against one another, may God extinguish all hatred and bring peace into our lives, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world where we the poor go hungry, may God move us to generously share our food and resources with one another, especially with East Timor, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world where hope is diminishing, may God open eyes and our hearts to the Spirit that calls us from our fears, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world where the environment is abused causing the suffering of innocent people as in the Philippines and Kiribati, may world leaders take a global approach to healing the earth, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
· In a world that is increasingly closed to the stranger, may our government recognise the serious consequences of deporting Christians to Iran, we pray: Come, O Jesus, come.
Concluding Prayer: God of Compassion, without you we are powerless, but with you we can overcome all fear. Strengthen us in our resolve to bring about your Reign in our hearts and in our world.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of Compassion,
in this eucharistic celebration
Jesus comes among us
to share himself with us
in the bread that is broken
and the cup of joy shared.
Give us the courage to do for others
what he did and still does for us,
that he may be alive among us
now and for ever.
God is with you
And also with you.
Let us lift up our hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to our loving God.
It is right to give God our thanks and praise.
It is indeed right to give you our thanks and praise, O God,
for your mercy embraces the faithful,
one generation to the next.
You are the creator of heaven, earth and the teeming seas.
You promised mercy to our ancestors
and sent prophets as an example of suffering and patience
to prepare the Holy Way before of you.
In Jesus Christ we saw your promises take flesh
as the blind saw the light,
the deaf heard the music,
and the lame danced with joy.
When he was put to death, you raised him to life
and through him your good news still comes to the poor
like springs of water to thirsty ground,
uplifting the downtrodden
and filling the hungry from the richness of your table.
And so with thankful hearts we patiently wait,
knowing that the day is near
when all the earth will see the fullness of your glory.
Therefore with .....
Adapted from ©2001 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net
Deliver us, Holy One, from all sin,
from the blindness
that prevents us from seeing you
and to the needs of our sisters and brothers.
Open our ears to your word
and to the needs of those around us.
Make us walk in your ways
and set us free from selfishness.
Help us to prepare in joy and hope
the liberating coming among us
of Christ Jesus, our Saviour. . R/ For the kingdom...
Prayer after Communion
God of Compassion,
you have entrusted to us,
the mission of Jesus, your Son.
May we strengthen the weary,
give hope to the discouraged,
be near to the poor and the weak
and lift up those left on roadside of life.
‘We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? Then, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.’
Meister Eckhart, 14th century Rhineland mystic
‘A people is never defeated until the hearts of the women are on the ground.’
The things I thought were so important - because of the effort I put into them - have turned out to be of small value. And the things I never thought about, the things I was never able to either to measure or to expect, were the things that mattered.
Traditionally Advent is a time of waiting. In a flurry focused on family and friends, we wait for Christmas to unwrap our gifts and wrap our lives with meaning. In our churches and in our spiritual lives, we wait for Christ to come again to fulfill the hopes that remain unfulfilled from that initial coming. Spiritually, we are waiting. Well, it seems to me, as I look around, that we have waited long enough… It is our responsibility to attend to all that was left undone by the One who was sent to prepare a way of justice and compassion. We, as disciples of Jesus, are not only his followers. We are leaders charged with a mission, believers filled with his spirit, messengers sent, as he was sent, to do the will of God.
Miriam Therese Winter
Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.
Archbishop Oscar Romero, from his last homily just before his assassination, March 23, 1980
My Lord God
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really understand myself.
And the fact that I think I am following
Your will does not mean I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope I have the desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the
right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may
seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me and
you will never leave me to face my troubles alone.
The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts.
Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, #1
It is clear that economic and political decisions and strategies must increasingly be guided by a commitment to global solidarity and respect for fundamental human rights, including the right to adequate nourishment. Human dignity itself is compromised wherever a narrow pragmatism detached from the objective demands of the moral law leads to decisions which benefit a fortunate few while ignoring the sufferings of large segments of the human family. At the same time, in conformity with the principle of subsidiarity, individuals and social groups, civil associations and religious confessions, governments and international institutions, are all called, according to their specific competencies and resources, to share in this commitment to solidarity in promoting the common good of humanity.
Pope John Paul II, December 5, 2003, FAO Conference
The present situation of the world, from the point of view of development, offers a rather negative impression . . . Without going into an analysis of figures and statistics, it is sufficient to face squarely the reality of an innumerable multitude of people--children, adults and the elderly--in other words, real and unique human persons, who are suffering under the intolerable burden of poverty. There are many millions who are deprived of hope due to the fact that, in many parts of the world, their situation has noticeably worsened. Before these tragedies of total indigence and need, in which so many of our brothers and sisters are living, it is the Lord Jesus himself who comes to question us (cf. Mt 25: 31-46).
Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, #13
Sing aloud and shout
with only a few more days to shop
Sing aloud and shout and rejoice with all your heart
that our Christmas cards are mailed and presents are wrapped
Sing aloud and shout for joy for God has taken away the judgments against you
for the fruits of repentance are radical generosity and faithfulness.
Sing and shout, rejoice and proclaim good news to all . . .
Let us bear the fruit of our baptism--in trusting our lives to God completely,
let us bear the fruit of our baptism--sharing our resources, our time and talents,
our very selves with the world,
and let us bear the fruit of our baptism--as the Spirit ignites our hearts with love.
We light three candles on the wreath.
The first reminds us to watch and to proclaim justice and peace.
The second calls us to prepare.
The third candle invites us to dare to let this light shine upon all the darkness within and turn around to follow God's love again.
Let us sing, shout, and be joy-filled people,
sharing the good news from rooftops and steeples,
until all nations know that they are loved by God and God’s people.
Breath of Life, shine your light into our hearts. Help us to be faith-filled as we live with one another. Forgive us for the hurts we caused by words and deeds. And may we be a forgiving light to those who have hurt us. Amen.
Taken from www.rca.org
We praise you, Lord,
and our spirits rejoice in you – our Saviour;
For you take notice of the unnoticeable,
and transform them into the blessed;
You are strong and true to yourself and all that is good
in everything you are and do and say;
and you do great things for us;
Through the ages you have shown compassion
to those who trust you,
And in your strength you have scattered
those who are arrogant and abusive;
You have made the thrones of tyrants topple
and you have made humble people into leaders of many;
You have cared for and provided for those who have nothing,
and you have left the over-satisfied with empty hands;
You have always been a help to your people,
and have shown mercy when we have gone astray;
You made this promise to our ancestors,
and you continue to stay true to it even now.
We praise you, Lord,
and our spirits rejoice in you – our Saviour.
The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues, and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else....Their purpose, in brief, is to make docile and patriotic citizens, to pile up majorities, and to make John Doe and Richard Doe as nearly alike, in their everyday reactions and ways of thinking, as possible.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American Journalist
With God on your side
Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I’m taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.
Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.
Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
It's made to memorise
With guns in their hands
and God on their side.
Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.
When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.
I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.
But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.
In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.
So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.
The only theology worth doing is that which inspires and transforms lives, that which empowers us to participate in creating, liberating, and blessing the world. This is a basic tenet of feminist liberation theology and it is also Anglicanism at its best.
Love is a choice -- not simply, or necessarily, a rational choice, but rather a willingness to be present to others without pretense or guile.
As we come to experience the erotic as sacred, we begin to know ourselves as holy and to imagine ourselves sharing in the creation of one another and of our common well-being.
Carter Heyward, Touching Our Strength
In the Spirit which draws us into honest engagement with one another, including those who may be very different from us in various ways, God calls us to wake up and learn how to love and respect one another, period.
Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2007) Canadian-born economist, Harvard professor
You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.
Clarence S. Darrow (1857-1938)
The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.
Paul Johnson, British Catholic journalist, historian, speechwriter and author
Our tradition is one of protest and revolt, and it is stultifying to celebrate the rebels of the past while we silence the rebels of the present.
Henry Steelecommager (1902-1998) from Freedom Loyalty and Dissent, 1966
The ordinary man is passive. Within a narrow circle, home life, and perhaps the trade unions or local politics, he feels himself master of his fate. But otherwise he simply lies down and lets things happen to him.
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair] (1903-1950) British author.
The most powerful tool in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.
Information is the currency of democracy.
When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.
The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment.
We are beckoned to see the world through a one-way mirror, as if we are threatened and innocent and the rest of humanity is threatening, or wretched, or expendable.
Our memory is struggling to rescue the truth that human rights were not handed down as privileges from a parliament, or a boardroom, or an institution, but that peace is only possible with justice and with information that gives us the power to act justly.
It is an obscene comparison - you know I am not sure I like it - but you know there was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around people's necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck, Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions...
...It starts with a feeling of patriotism within oneself. It carries through with a certain knowledge that the country as a whole - and for all the right reasons - felt and continues to feel this surge of patriotism within themselves. And one finds oneself saying: 'I know the right question, but you know what? This is not exactly the right time to ask it'.
It's unnatural and unhealthy for a nation to be engaged in global crusades for some principle or idea while neglecting the needs of its own people,
Sen. J. William Fulbright
Can we truly expect those who aim to exploit us to be trusted to educate us?
Eric Schaub Individualist, writer, activist, speaker.
He is free who lives as he wishes to live; who is neither subject to compulsion nor to hindrance, nor to force; whose movements to action are not impeded, whose desires attain their purpose, and who does not fall into that which he would avoid.
Epictetus (ca 55-135 A.D.) Greek philosopher.
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must….undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
People never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction
Most gracious God,
be with us as together we seek to transform
the systems which oppress so many.
Strengthen our resistance not to conform to the status quo and
encourage us to question our own change movements,
their goals and means, and what it means to lead and follow faithfully.
Reflections on the readings
The readings today suggest encouragement and hope but also joy. The latter is rarely seen as being restorative and liberating. In our church communities, soberness, seriousness and even cynicism can seem to be the marks of maturity and true spirituality. Today’s readings, despite the grief and suffering we see around us, challenge this thinking, and call us to consider joy being the mark of faith, spiritual maturity and working for justice. If our work for justice and peace bring little or no joy to us or those we walk with we do not being liberation. In this way, we model the Jesus who drew others to himself not only because he was ‘a man of sorrows’ but also able to celebrate life in company with others.
We might ask what ‘joy’ means in a world of suffering, inequity, war and terrorism, and climate change or how God’s reign might be seen as an invitation to joy for the weak and vulnerable of our world. Joy has in the past been seen as a distant hope after death and inspired and sustained the exploited and the poor, but it cannot be used to excuse injustice or silence in the face of it. God’s reign is seen in the way God’s people find joy in whatever circumstances they face, and it is seen as they spread joy around them through healing, uplifting, and proclaiming Good News. This has been so evident among people in places like Kiribati threatened by climate change, the Philippines where people face extreme poverty and neglect, and other such places in the world.
For two weeks we have followed John and Jesus and saw their vision for how the world might look if God’s reign was to be established and embraced by us. John was sent to prepare the way, but not like a highway but the rocky road for a suffering servant. The human Jesus will inevitably always go where the pain and humanity is – not where the power or pleasure resides.
In today’s gospel John has doubts about Jesus and sends his followers to ask Jesus: “Are you ‘the one who is to come’ or do we look for another?’ He thought that Jesus may be more like himself, more like an avenger, in his own image, rather in the image Jesus presented.
Jesus’ response is believe what you see. What’s happening? The question to Jesus ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ is also put to us: is this the one we are to follow or do we prolong business as usual for a while longer while we wait for someone else to come? We know Jesus by looking at those he approaches and reaches out to. We know Jesus as the one who lived active nonviolence. He never sought power or glory but to be followed which involved being with others in their suffering and offering hope for the poor.
The lesson that John the Baptiser needed to learn, and which we need to learn each day is that Jesus is always going to be where the pain is, not where the power or pleasure is. Human suffering and
human joy attract Jesus’ presence and love. Human suffering is like a pheromone to Jesus, it draws his heart inexorably. To answer John’s disillusionment, and the crowd, Jesus asks, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet?’ What do we expect from those who speak for God? We may watch them,
What do we want from the wild men of God? We watch them, or be baffled by them, or even entertained by them but quite comfortable when they are muzzled or in, John’s case, imprisoned. Jesus asks, ‘What did you go out to see?’ ‘Did you expect amusement or real change?’
John’s had doubts that his dream for God’s reign would come to nothing and that Jesus would continue it. We might think that our dreams for a better world where peace and justice prevail might be thwarted by fear, prejudice, hatred, judgementalism, racism, civil strife and hard-heartedness towards the vulnerable. But, we are asked to take note of Jesus’ response to John’s disciples: A revolution is taking place. God is continually taking flesh in the world and we can by our lives bring God to flesh by bringing more light to the strangers in our midst, to our neighbours, our friends and family members. If we could open our eyes and open our ears to truth we might also be able to point out the ways people have brought new life into every arena of society, including the church. Do we see people empowered and able to live lives of dignity?
Miracles and wonders occur every day as people struggle to be nonviolent peace practitioners in violent and conflict situations; they occur as countless disciples and visionaries who are spending themselves bringing sight to people in isolated villages in Africa and Papua New Guinea; they occur within West Papua and outside the country to bring peace with justice and freedom to the people; they are occurring at this moment as Indigenous people at Standing Rock continue to persevere as ‘protectors’ of their land and water and have war veterans to stand with them in solidarity; they continue as people despite being vilified, labour and lobby to bring freedom to asylum seekers in detention centres; they occur as thousands of homeless people are feed and cared for on the streets of first-world cities; they occur as religious persons and others continue to bring power and water and education to people in Timor Leste and the Sudan and Afghanistan. Look around and see God’s reign in the making!’
John was imprisoned for having told the truth but his prophecy was judgmental. Rather than judging people, Jesus oozed mercy, compassion. He was attracted toward the most miserable people. He showed that God lives daily with us in the world of the oppressed, the hungry, the captives, the blind and lame, the deaf, the poor. His constituency, in the words of Rev Jesse Jackson, was ‘the desperate, the damned, the disinherited, the disrespected, and the despised?’ Whom are we aligned with? Or are the friends of Jesus stumbling blocks for us?
So Jesus reveals his identity by his deeds. ‘Tell John what you have seen’. People are healed. People are standing against the contemporary movers and shakers who seem to have little or no self-critical capacity or who use religion to legitimate their vested interests. Jesus says clearly that the good news is for the poor - for people suffering from all kinds of slavery. God's reign would be inaugurated not by violence and retribution but by healing and the restoration of integrity. This is where John had to do a seismic shift in thinking. In contrast to John, the deepest symbol of God's nature for Jesus is not judgment but healing, not fire but friendship, not punishment but transformation, resurrection and life.
Last week Isaiah invited us to imagine a different world and a different way of being together by using images of a world restored. The advent vision of a peaceable realm is not about just a lion and lamb together, but also about something equally unimaginable – people living justly and peacefully together and in harmony with creation. That dream can come to life in terms of fair housing, employment fairness, just wages, hope for the young, refusal to vilify and demonise/scapegoat people different to us. Let’s not forget the cry of the earth for a break from our abuse that affects the earth and always the poor.
Many of us who want change and work for it, will like John not see the world changed in our lifetime. The point is that it is worth doing. It is not about the outcome. Dashed hopes and shattered expectations are not strangers to us. But our challenge is to offer world something new. If we are to ask the poor, the stranger, the outcast in society and the church how would they respond if they saw us? What would others see and hear in us?