for the third Sunday of Advent
Is 35:1-6, 10 - Jas 5:7-10 - Mt 11:2-11
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The signs of the times
Is 35:4-6, 10
Is 35:4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, «Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.» 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. 10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Today, the Prophet Isaiah, tirelessly announcing the imminent coming of the Messiah, invites his listeners to not lose courage and to confidently await that coming. To this encouragement he adds a description of the signs that will indicate, surely and persuasively, that, truly, the Lord God is finally here! For if the Messiah is here, then, without any doubt, his presence will be revealed by these signs: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy."
In this Sunday's gospel, Jesus, for his part, clearly indicates to John the Baptist's disciples which signs will mark the Messiah's presence among men: "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them." Faithful to his Mission, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies that had been made about him: He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them!
Following in the footsteps of Jesus, who is the unique Prophet of God, and in the footsteps of the Prophets of the Old Covenant, the Church also acts as a Prophet by ceaselessly announcing the second coming of Christ the Messiah. Now, within herself, and among all the members who compose her, the Church prophesies, in a manner that is eminent and unequaled, in the person of the Virgin Mary! As the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Christ, is she who tirelessly cries out to the entire world: "Come!" "The Spirit and the Bride say, «Come.» " (Rev 22:17)
In 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, in Lourdes, France. Is it not there, in Lourdes, that we can see, even today, and there more than anywhere else, the blind recover their sight and the lame walk? Are these not new signs of the times? Without going into detail, let us cite this thought of Saint Maximilian Kolbe: "We have fought for seven centuries for the truth of the Immaculate Conception to be acknowledged; this struggle was crowned with the proclamation of the dogma [in 1854] and with the apparition of the Virgin in Lourdes. Now we are in the second phase of this history: sowing this truth in souls, watching over its growth and harvesting the fruits of holiness." (Letter to Father Cornelius Czupryk, February 28, 1933)
Jas 5:7 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Saint James invites us, along with the Christians of his time, to be patient: "Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord." For the faithful of the Apostle's time knew very well that the Lord was there, with them, just as he is here with us today: "I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matt 28:20) Indeed, the Lord truly is here, with us, and we need to have great patience knowing that he is here while not yet being able to see him! So the return of the Messiah means that he will soon openly manifest himself to us, as Judge of the entire world: "Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors."
If the first coming of Christ realized the presence of the Son of God among us, a presence necessary for the Gift of the Holy Spirit to be accomplished, then the second coming of Christ will realize his full and complete manifestation among the men and women of good will, in view of the universal Judgement and of total Resurrection in the Spirit of God. So, if some signs of the times can being recognized, thanks to the Holy Spirit, it will be the ones announcing the manifestation and the apparition of the Lord Jesus, the Judge of all flesh! The second coming of Christ will thus be accompanied by its proper signs, such as those described by Jesus himself: "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven..." (Matt 24:29)
Mt 11:2-6, 9-11
Mt 11:2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, «Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?» 4 And Jesus answered them, «Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.» 9 «Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee." (Mal 3:1) 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.»
I would not want to end this homily on the signs of the times without speaking of the climatic warming of our planet Earth... I write these lines on November 24, 2007, and it is possible that future events will confirm or contradict what I say. In any case, how can we not see the connection between these words of the Lord: "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven..." (Matt 24:29), and current climate changes? The Virgin Mary, who in recent times miraculously protected Pope John Paul II from death, on May 13, 1981, did she not make the sun dance, before the eyes of thousands of people, at Fatima, in Portugal, on October 13, 1917?
By means of the Holy Scriptures and by means of the Holy Eucharist received in communion, may veneration of and devotion to the Virgin Mary continue to be propagated throughout the world! May God the Father, through his beloved Son, in the Holy Spirit, eternally welcome us into his holy dwelling place! Amen !