Patience and Zeal: Third Sunday of Advent – Year A

Zeal and Patience are two essential Christian virtues
Zeal and patience are two essential Christian virtues

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.

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Central idea: God is our savior from oppression, suffering, and death.

Reading 1 Is 35:1-6a, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

  • 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 giving a divine reward to those who have suffered.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

R. Lord, come and save us.

The LORD God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.

  • 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

Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,
that you may not be judged.
Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.
Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

  • 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.
  • This time of waiting calls for patience, enduring difficulties and not complaining, especially about one another.
  • But our waiting is not in idleness but in doing good.

Gospel Mt 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
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.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

  • Why did John send his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus “was the one to come,” in other words, the promised Messiah?
    • Was John demoralized due to his imprisonment and the seeming failure of his apostolate? After all, he was facing imminent execution.
    • Did John send his disciples to Jesus so they would see that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah, preparing them to transfer their discipleship from John to Jesus?
  • Our Lord testifies to John’s disciples that he, himself, is the promised Messiah. Jesus’ evidence that he is doing “the works of the Christ” is his preaching and his miracles.
  • Then to the crowds, Jesus praises John highly. The Baptist is the divinely appointed messenger of the Messiah and the greatest man “born of women.”
  • Yet, the reason why “the least in the kingdom of heaven” is greater than the Baptist is that those baptized under Christ are born from above. We are born of God.
  • “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised”: a sound body, health, and sufficient material goods 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, or 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.”[1] This is patience as a natural virtue.
  • Tanquerey in The Spiritual Life goes one step further. He defines patience as “a Christian virtue that makes us withstand with equanimity of soul, for the love of God, and in union with Jesus Christ, all physical and moral sufferings” (§1088). This is patience as a supernatural virtue.
    • The good we wait for is eternal life.
    • The matter of patience is any kind of suffering, whether physical or mental.
    • The motive for patience is love of God.
    • Our model and companion in patience is Jesus Christ.
    • Our means of patience is our own efforts inspired and assisted by supernatural grace.
  • 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 a mortal sin.
  • There is also a vice which looks like patience but is really a not-caring, indifference, resignation, or lukewarmness. It is when one has given up on the good that’s out there. We could call it “give-up-itis” 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 our desire should rise to the level of zeal. This is the way John the Baptist and our Lord were.
  • Zeal is a kind of holy impatience. It is a fervor for something, an 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.
    • Wilbur and Orville Wright and a natural zeal for human flight and achieved it on December 17, 1903.
    • St. Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci shared a supernatural zeal to spread the Gospel to the far east.
  • 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)
  • An essential object of zeal for us, who are greater than John the Baptist, is 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.
  • Our zeal must also impel us to evangelization, to spreading this faith to those around us through example, conversations, and initiatives.


The Homiletic Directory suggests these Catechism points and themes for the Third Sunday of Advent:

  • CCC 30, 163, 301, 736, 1829, 1832, 2015, 2362: joy
  • CCC 227, 2613, 2665, 2772: patience
  • CCC 439, 547-550, 1751: Jesus performs messianic signs






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