In September 2005 Jean and I visited our son and daughter-in-law in Alaska. This was one of many trips we had gone up to see them. On this trip we took a hike up Palmer Creek Road to the back country. The road went from a smooth gravel road to a rather poor gravel road filled with ruts and rocks. We parked their truck and looked up this rather steep mountain---the mountain we were going to climb. Even though it was September we had our winter coats and gloves. There was no snow yet but we each had ski poles for balance. As we started out I remember Jean asking, "How do we get up there?" Our son Dave replied, "One foot in front of the other." The trail was steep. To our right was a sheer cliff. Had one fallen there was no stopping until you rolled to the bottom---probably severely injured if not dead. Upon reaching the top of the climb I remember looking down to see where we had come from. Dave's truck looked so tiny I could hardly make it out. Once reaching the top the trail opened to a flat area where we gazed at one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. The water was crystal pure and sparkling; the water was extremely cold; the water tasted more pure and clean than I had ever tasted before. What a delightful and exhilarating experience. It was through patience and persistence that we arrived at our goal. It was in trusting and waiting for the journey to unfold that we arrived safely. That is what this Advent Season is speaking to us. Be a people of patience and persistence. Arriving at the top of this mountain and seeing the beauty that awaited us was our cause to REJOICE---GAUDETE.
The second reading we heard this morning was from the letter of James. This reading contained 7 sentences and in that short reading the word "patient" was used 4 times. We have all experienced impatience in our life at various times. However today we are urged to be patient and if we are patient the long awaited expectation will come to fruition. We also know we must be persistent in our patience. Ask and you shall receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.
In our Christian tradition the third Sunday of Advent is referred to as GAUDETE Sunday----it is a time of rejoicing; a time of celebrating; a time of feeling the patience we have had has paid off; we are almost there. It is the time of year when many will ask you "Are you ready for Christmas?" Usually that question centers on the Christmas cards being mailed out; the gifts being purchased; the house being cleaned and decorated; the cookies being baked; fresh sheets put on the beds for relatives to stay. This is all well and good for the secular needs of the season. But the secular needs of the season are rather shallow and quickly fleeting over time.
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah describes what is to come for those who wait with faith: "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, who comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you."
In the Gospel of Matthew we have the wonderful story of John the Baptist sending some disciples to speak with Jesus. John had been preaching for a long time of the "one to come"---the one whose sandal he was unworthy to tie. John had heard of this man whom was called Jesus. John wanted to find out if Jesus was the expected prophet or were they to look for another. John was looking for a military presence; a person who will bring vindication and restore political power to the people who had suffered unjustly for generations. Jesus told the disciples of John to go back to him and tell him what they had seen: the blind see; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised; the poor have the good news preached to them. Jesus did not need titles to "prove" his worth. Jesus did not simply "talk the talk" but he "walked the walk". Jesus went about doing his ministry rather than just talking about it. How easy it is for us to "talk the talk" to say the right words to the right people. It is a different thing to "walk the walk"-to be a person of action to be a person to put into practice what we say. Jesus had no need for personal titles and acclamation.
Jesus challenged the crowds to ask themselves what they were looking for in the "one to come": was it a person like a reed swayed by the wind? A person easily swayed by the most current trend. Was it someone dressed in fine clothing and living in royal palaces? Are we that kind of person who needs the best and the finest money can buy? What are we looking for in our life that will make us happy?
Jesus confirms that John indeed was the prophet sent to prepare the way for the messiah and there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Many people can get caught up in the search for meaning in their life and spend much time and money in this search. It is through the presence of Jesus in our heart and soul that our every need will be satisfied and our search will be completed.
We each are commissioned to be the messenger crying out in the desert and preparing the way. People are looking to you and to me to be that messenger and to show them the way. In our sophisticated society we depend on our computer; "map quest"; "GPS"-global positioning satellite--- to find our way. Take the time this year to read the scriptures; to meditate; to reflect; to pray. This Advent and Christmas season is the right time to once again find our way: to REJOICE, be PATIENT, and be the MESSENGER.