Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Third Sunday of Advent (Year A), December 15, 2013, (1) provides insights into the Sunday Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
Central Idea: God is our savior from oppression, suffering, and death. Doctrine: The virtue of patience. Practical Application: Zeal in living and spreading the Faith.
To view Lectionary 7, click here.
Central idea: God is our savior from oppression, suffering, and death
Reading 1 Is 35:1-6a, 10
- In Isaiah’s vision, God himself comes down to earth. The desert lands respond by breaking into life. The ransomed Chosen People return to Israel, God heals them of every infirmity, and they experience everlasting joy.
- This is also a vision for every human being of a transformation from what should never have been—from sin and suffering—to what should always be—justice and joy. The desert breaking into flower is a metaphor of human need being filled.
- Creation itself needs to be healed and renewed so it is no longer harmful.
- God vindicates by paying the ransom due and then gives a divine reward to those who have suffered.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
- This situation of injustice and suffering we experience is only temporal and temporary, that is, it is only while we live this present earthly life.
- God is just, so he will right every wrong.
Reading 2 Jas 5:7-10
- The Jewish prophets foresaw the time that God would visit his Chosen People, judge the wicked, and vindicate the just—but they had to wait.
- Christ finally appeared and also opened salvation to the Gentiles.
- The Apostle James says that the experience of Christians is like the experience of the prophets. Our waiting is for our meeting with Christ, either at death or at his Second Coming.
- But our waiting is not in idleness but in doing good.
Gospel Mt 11:2-11
- Our Lord testifies that John the Baptist is the greatest of prophets.
- He also testifies that he, himself, is the Messiah promised by all the prophets. His evidence is his good works.
- The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. Why? Health and wealth make earthly happiness possible, but divine grace makes possible the highest eternal happiness.
Doctrine: The Virtue of Patience
- Patience is the habit by which one can wait for some good without getting upset. The “upset” can be loss of peace, irritation, anger, and can be expressed by complaining, bad words, even violence. Instead, the patient person can bear “provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint.” A patient person can display “quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; and diligence.”
- In the second reading today, the Apostle James recommends this virtue of patience to his fellow Christians. The farmer works and waits for the good harvest he hopes to gain, but he cannot make the crop grow. The Children of God work and wait for the good harvest of salvation we hope to gain, but we cannot make it happen. This is why we must be patient, firm of heart, without complaining about one another.
- Impatience is the vice of lacking patience. It is a matter for confession because it is at least a defect, often a venial sin, and sometimes can be mortal.
- There is also a vice which looks like patience but is really due to not caring, indifference, resignation, or lukewarmness. You’ve given up on the good that’s out there. We could call it “give-up-it is” or “whatever-ism.”
Practical Application: Zeal in living and spreading the Faith
- We get impatient because we desire something good. We should desire good things. When the object is a great good we can and should have zeal. This is the way John the Baptist and our Lord were.
- Zeal is a kind of holy impatience. It is fervor for something, enthusiastic desire, a love so strong it must act. However, the zeal must be for something objectively good and it must not employ bad means to achieve that end.
- John the Baptist’s zeal was to prepare the Jewish people for the coming of the Messiah. Paul’s zeal was first to destroy the fledgling Christian movement and then to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every corner of the world. And Jesus Christ, being perfect man, also was filled with zeal: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!” (Lk 12: 49-50)
- A fruit of the Year of Faith must be zeal to live the faith. We see how true, good, and beautiful the Christian life is, and so we want to live it in our home, parish, place of work, and community. And as Pope Francis encourages us, our zeal must impel us to evangelization, to spreading this faith to those around us through example, conversations, and initiatives.