A Cycle – 3rd Sunday of Advent 19
Is. 35: 1-6a, 10
As he sat across from me, I could see sadness hung on him like an ill fitting coat. His wife had died one month ago; I had presided at her funeral service and I knew her from listening to him talk about her. Our meeting was a normal follow up with those who are grieving. His first words were to question God’s goodness. “Where was God during her illness and why did God allowed him to let down his barriers, years after his first wife died and let her into his heart, only to watch her suffer with cancer and then die. What kind of God does that? What did he do to be punished, inflicted with pain?
That man’s question is now uncommon, for many people have posed that question after some tragedy, some disaster or setback. Their pain, fear and sense of loss cause them to dread the Christmas holidays because their situation dealing with memories of what used to be is too painful.
Advent, that time of preparing to encounter the greatest gift of love given to us by God: Jesus Christ calls for us to rejoice for our salvation is near. On this third Sunday of Advent, many cannot see how they can rejoice for they doubt God’s goodness. Their situation calls us to be witnesses of something they desire in their life but fail to grasp how to attain it. How can we respond to people like him as they attribute their pain to be caused by God who is punishing them or teaching them something?
The answers as are all things of God is found in the scriptures. In fact, the readings of today answer his questions. The people Isaiah was prophesying to were beaten down, they were despairing without hope and God to them was silent as He punished them. Isaiah knew God was offering them restoration even if they did not realize God was there with them. Isiah knew God was offering to strengthen them, helping them overcome the trials and pain of their lives caused by forces beyond their control. Unlike them we have the revelation of salvation history to understand God’s mercy is always being offered us. However, the reality is life’s trials and tribulations can cause us to lose heart when we do not see or feel God’s presence.
How easily we slip from having faith to doubting what we believe is true. Just look at John the Baptist who appears for the second time since Advent started. In his first appearance, John the Baptist gave us a glimpse of his understanding of God’s coming. If you do not repent, God’s wrath was going to be swift. Not only would it be swift, it would be beyond anything we have experience in life. It would be unleashed on us by forces we can only imagine.
Earthquakes, volcano’s erupting, floods, drought, parched land, no food, boils and sores, fire and damnation would be unleashed. Only repentance could change the outcome, because sinners needed to be punished. Repentance was needed or you would pay the price. In today’s gospel, time has passed, and John knows none of the coming wrath he spoke about had come. Instead of the wrath of God, he saw Jesus, offering forgiveness to sinners. He saw Jesus offering a way to satisfy all our needs, to satisfy our thirst for a meaning and a purpose in our lives. This we see in the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.
We see Jesus, going to the lost, touching the untouchable outcasts – the lepers, the woman with the hemorrhage, tax collectors and those possessed by demons. God’s wrath was not evident in anything Jesus said or did. Jesus showed us God desires our heart not our intellectual accent to who He is. Why, because we can only trust those whom we have loved and allow them into our lives.
John after seeing Jesus reveal a merciful, loving, forgiving God who offers the guilty pardon had to be questioning his understanding of his mission. He was to “…prepare the way for the one who was to come.” His question to Jesus, “are you the one”, reveals his own lack of understanding of the vision of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Jesus responds to John’s question directly and points to the things which revealed the love of God and how we are to respond to that love.
We like John need to look at the life and work of Jesus and we will understand God’s desire to restore us to wholeness. Jesus said, tell John what you hear and see. Instead of listening to your own voices of doubt, look and see the response of God to those who do not feel the presence of God. The cripple by the pool, said there was no one to help him enter the healing waters. Jesus responds by offering him healing. The lesson is clear, we look for help in the wrong places. We fail to see the help of God offers us even when it is right in front of us.
How do we move from the pain of loss? The answer is by trusting God who said “He can work good our of all circumstances we find ourselves in.” How do we move from the tribulations of sickness and loneliness, by embracing the message of Jesus to come to hm and allow Him to give us what we are seeking?
To do that we must be seeking the answers to our questions of life from the source of life itself. Prayer is needed to seek the heart of God and to seek understanding to know and apply God’s promises to our situations. Before Advent started, I invited you to approach this Advent by reading the gospel of John and paying attention to the words and actions of Jesus Christ.
All we seek is found there if only we do exactly what John did in today’s gospel. Ask Jesus if He is the one to help you understand and you will hear those same words John heard. You will hear how we who are blinded to the presence of God will be given sight to see Him. You will hear the lame walk; those crippled by the pain and struggles of life will find strength to leap mountains. You will hear those who cannot hear the gentle voice of God will have their ears opened to hear God offering them hope, forgiveness, love and mercy. God will come to us through others, in songs, in visions, in the words spoken to us by a child and will fill our hearts with hope, love, forgiveness, joy and peace.
Yes, Good can work good out of all things. Even the loss of someone you love because God’s plan is to restore what was lost and that is the Kingdom of God on earth where we walk in the presence of God daily. What can life do to us, nothing for we are in the hands of God.