Monday, December 8, 2014

3rd Sunday of Advent - December 14, 2014

First Reading Commentary
The prophet Isaiah here is speaking of himself and his mission of consolation in which he foretells a future glory for Zion; therefore, prophetically his words point to Christ, thus making Isaiah a figure of the Messiah.  Jesus is the fulfillment of these words and proclaims them in Saint Luke’s Gospel when He reads the prophet’s words in a synagogue (cf. Luke 4:16-21). 

“A year of favor” refers to the Jubilee year in which slaves were set free.  “A day of vindication” is the judgment that will come on those who oppressed God’s people; and so, the freedom of slaves and the judgment of oppressors represent Christ’s work of redemption. 

Isaiah expresses his joy over the prospect of salvation as if it has already been attained.  As a figure of Christ, Isaiah represents the community as wearing “a robe of salvation and wrapped in a mantle of justice” which is compared to the diadem of a bridegroom and the jewels of a bride.  The joy of salvation, then, is being compared to the joy of the wedding day.  God is faithful, therefore, salvation will come as surely “as the earth brings forth plants and a garden makes its growth spring up.”
Second Reading Commentary
It’s difficult to believe that Saint Paul would call for such a demanding Christian life: one of constant rejoicing, ceaseless prayer and refraining from evil unless Paul himself displayed these qualities.  Maintaining the standard of a good Christian life is very difficult in the world in which we live but cheerfulness is a characteristic of true virtue.  Authentic Christian joy is unshakeable and permanent.  Certainly we all experience sadness from time-to-time as it is a part of life; but Christians endure sadness, sorrow, and strife with Christian joy which means that in suffering trust is given to God’s care and promises. 

To “quench the Spirit” is to oppose the interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are His graces.  “Prophetic utterances” are the Holy Spirit’s exterior gifts.  To “test everything” means to be prudent and cautious so as not to be deceived. 

We may seek an intimate union with God but we have an enemy seeking to separate us from God.  Because of original sin we are not immune from deception.  Human beings can deceive and be deceived, but the Spirit of God can neither deceive us nor be deceived. 
Gospel Commentary
It might get a little confusing if we were all named “John” but aren’t each of us called to “testify to the Light?”  This is evangelization and the call of every Christian.  Saint John the Baptist is a perfect example of what our response should be to the greatness that God calls us to.  John was quick to point out that “he was not the Light.”  John would also say elsewhere that “He [Jesus] must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30). 

It would be very easy for us to let our egos soar because of the wonders that God does through us.  Recognize, though, that this is the tempter saying: “Look at what you can do; you don’t need God.”  Ah, but the reality is: we can’t do it without God.  Jesus Himself assures of this when He said: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

“The Jews from Jerusalem” were priests and Levites who most likely were sent and deputed by the Sanhedrin to ask of John the Baptist, who was held in great esteem, if he was their Messiah.  They knew by the predictions of the prophets that the Messiah was to come about that time.  John declared to them he was not.  To their next question, if he was not Elijah?  He answered, he was not because in person he was not, though our Savior (see Matthew 11:14) says he was Elijah, but in spirit and office only.  Their third question was, if he was a prophet?  He answered, no.  Yet Jesus (see Matthew 11:9) tells us, John was a prophet, and more than a prophet. 

In ordinary acceptation, prophets were called such because they foretold of things to come.  John then, with truth and humility, could say he was not a prophet because he was not sent to foretell the coming of the Messiah; but instead to point him out as already here and present among the people of God. 

When John the Baptist says, “There is one among you Whom you do not recognize,” he is not suggesting that Jesus was at the present time standing amongst them, but these words may be understood in two different ways.  In regard to His Divinity, Jesus was always by His Divine Presence among them; or in regard to His Humanity, He lived among their countrymen.  Once a year, however, Jesus was physically present among them because He was accustomed to go up to Jerusalem on the festival of the Passover.  Imagine what must’ve been going through the minds of John’s hearers.  Who would even be enthused at the thought of untying another man’s sandal strap?  And yet, what would go through your mind if you were told you’re not even worthy enough to untie this mysterious Man’s sandal strap?