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October 4, 2008 - 8:15 AM EDT
"Did not our hearts burn within us...as he opened up to us the Scriptures?"
—Luke 24:32
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December 16, 2007 - Third Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)

Here is Your God

Readings:
Isaiah 35:1-6,10
Psalm 146:6-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11
(see also 'More Than a Prophet')

John questions Jesus from prison in today's Gospel - for his disciples' sake and for ours.

He knows that Jesus is doing "the works of the Messiah," foretold in today's First Reading and Psalm. But John wants his disciples - and us - to know that the Judge is at the gate, that in Jesus our God has come to save us.

The Liturgy of Advent takes us out into the desert to see and hear the marvelous works and words of God - the lame leaping like a stag, the dead raised, the good news preached to the poor (see Isaiah 29:18-20; 61:1-2).

The Liturgy does this to give us courage, to strengthen our feeble hands and make firm our weak knees. Our hearts can easily become frightened and weighed down by the hardships we face. We can lose patience in our sufferings as we await the coming of the Lord.

As James advises in today's Epistle, we should take as our example the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Jesus also points us to a prophet - holding up John as a model. John knew that life was more than food, the body more than clothing. He sought the kingdom of God first, confident that God would provide (see Matthew 6:25-34). John did not complain. He did not lose faith. Even in chains in his prison cell, he was still sending his disciples - and us - to our Savior.

We come to Him again now in the Eucharist. Already He has caused the desert to bloom, the burning sands to become springs of living water. He has opened our ears to hear the words of the sacred book, freed our tongue to fill the air with songs of thanksgiving (see Isaiah 30:18).

Once bowed down, captives to sin and death, we have been ransomed and returned to His Kingdom, crowned with everlasting joy. Raised up we now stand before His altar to meet the One who is to come: "Here is your God."

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'More Than A Prophet'

The Advent Liturgy focuses us on John the Baptist - as the herald of our Lord who made Him known when at last He came (Preface for Advent II).

But as Jesus tells us in the Liturgy for the Third Sunday in Advent, John is "more than a prophet" (see Matthew 11:9).

John the Baptist, he hints, is Elijah - the "messenger" sent ahead to prepare the Messiah's way (see Matthew 11:10).

Elijah had been swept up to heaven in a fiery chariot (see 2 Kings 2:11). But the prophets said he would return before the Day of the Lord, to "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers" (see Malachi 3:23-4; Sirach 48:4,10).

And John comes preaching in the desert, clad in the same strange garb as Elijah (compare Matthew 3:4 and 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4).

Later in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus tells us that John indeed was Elijah come to restore all things.

And Jesus predicts that He, like John, will not be recognized and will suffer the prophet's fate: "I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. so will the Son of Man suffer at their hands" (see Matthew 17:10-13).

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