3rd Sunday of Advent – Year A


Isaiah 35:1-6,10
Psalm 146:6-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

Study guide for today’s readings:


Overall messages: 

Happiness by Fr. Cantalamessa

Everyone wants to be happy. We all seek happiness. But if all of us are searching for happiness, why are so few truly happy and even those who are happy are only happy for such a short time? I believe that the principal reason is that, in our climb to the summit of the mountain, we go up the wrong side, we decide to take the wrong way up. Revelation says: “God is love,” but man has tried to reverse the phrase so that it says: “Love is God”!

Revelation says: “God is happiness,” but man again inverts the order and says “Happiness is God”! But what happens here? On earth we do not know pure happiness, just as we do not know absolute love; we only know bits and pieces of happiness, which often become mere passing stimulation of our senses. Thus, when we say, “Happiness is God,” we divinize our little experiences; we call the works of our own hands or our own minds “God.” We make happiness into an idol. This explains why he who seeks God always finds joy while he who seeks joy does not always find God. Man is reduced to looking for quantitative joy: chasing down ever more intense pleasures and emotions, or adding pleasure to pleasure — just as the drug addict needs bigger and bigger doses to obtain the same level of pleasure.

Introit:  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.

Gaudete Sunday, in the preconciliar delineation of the liturgical year, was regarded as a day of particular joy with Advent half over and Christmas soon to follow. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Introit (Entrance Antiphon) “Rejoice”, taken from Philippians 4:4-5.

Isaiah 35:1-6,10

A hymn to joy. “The desert and the wasteland rejoice … They sing with joy and jubilation … They will be crowned with everlasting happiness; they will meet with joy and felicity and sadness and mourning will flee.”

James 5:7-10

In the reading for today, these Jewish Christians are reminded of the need for patience, both in bearing the sufferings of human life and in their expectation of the coming of the Lord. When the Lord comes, it is then that they will receive their reward.

“The just judge will give you the rewards of your patience and will punish your adversaries with what they deserve. He sits at the door where he can watch everything you do, and he will come quickly to give each one whatever he or she deserves.” [Saint Bede the Venerable (ca. A.D. 700), Concerning the Epistle of St. James]

“James tells us to look to the prophets, who never did anything wrong and who spoke the words of God’s Spirit to the people but who nevertheless suffered a terrible end at the hands of unbelievers – Zechariah, Uriah and the Maccabees, for example, not to mention John the Baptist, Stephen, James the son of Zebedee and many others in the new Testament. They did not complain at such an end but were willing to endure it. Others put up with long labors without complaining, for example, Noah who spent a hundred years building his ark, and Moses, who took forty years to lead his people out of slavery and into the promised land.” [Saint Bede the Venerable (ca. A.D. 700), Concerning the Epistle of St. James]

Matthew 11:2-11

Recall our first reading from Isaiah 35:5-6. Although this is not a formal claim of messiahship, these are allusions to the phenomena in the Old Testament which were associated with the messianic era. Note that it is not a messiahship of judgment and wrath, nor the establishment of an empire over all the kingdoms of the earth, nor a war of extermination against the enemies of the elect people. It is a messiahship of the healing of ills and the conferring of blessing.

yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

John lived and worked before the messianic reign. Therefore, even the least in the messianic reign, who will have the light of the gospel and the communication of the power of faith, will accomplish greater works than John.

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

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.

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