Third Sunday of Advent (A)
When a farmer plants, he goes through several stages of preparing the ground, planting, watering, weeding, pruning when necessary, etc., and for the greater part of the life of the plant, waiting for days, weeks, months, and even years to reap the produce and the fruits of his labor. A fisherman is also in a similar situation: he has to prepare and clean his paraphernalia, labor and wait for hours for the fish to come and take the bait or swim into the cage or net, and many times all night long; then he patiently, yet happily, separates the good and the not so good kind, and sells or cooks the fish for his family. A student studies for hours to learn and pass many examinations, waits for years to graduate, and practices what he has learned, seeks for a job and hopefully lives his professional and personal life profitably. Each one of us has to do something worthwhile according to our responsibilities in order to be productive, not only for oneself, but most especially for the good of others. Without consideration of the latter (the good of others), anything that we do or say will always have a selfish tone or ego-centric trips; and most often, whatever we do to achieve something in life is done in the atmosphere of waiting and expectation. Even God waited for a long time to deliver His promise of the Redeemer. God also sent the Redeemer’s precursor, John the Baptist whom Jesus Himself described as more than a prophet, and among those born of women there has been none greater than him; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (cf Mt 11:9-11 ). Despite this long preparation, the world still seemed cold to God’s promise, and St. John, the evangelist, had to declare: “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:10-12).
In his letter, St. James encourages and teaches us the following:
1. Don’t complain about one another that you may not be judged (Jas 5:7-10). Not everyone knows the same thing; not everyone eats the same food; not everyone has the same capacity for the same work. No one can claim to be a sole standard of anything in the world. Despite the glory God gives to man, he is just one part of God’s immeasurable creation.
How can we complain about anyone or anything if we have received everything as gift? Despite the many capacities we have, we are just a fraction of the whole of God’s creation. We are mere servants, who only do what we have to do. Anything that we have to do is not a thing to boast of or complain about. We cannot complain just because others are not like us or do not do things according to our style, “for as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Rom 12:4-5).
2. Make your hearts firm (Jas 5:7-10). To be firm is not to be unchangeable. In fact, there is only one reality in this world, and that is change. To be firm is to be focused on the Lord, who is unchangeable in His love and mercy for His children. We have to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ and be rooted in Him, for apart from Him we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5). Jesus would also confirm this when He said to Peter, upon this rock I will build my Church (Mt 16:18). Jesus is the sure, firm foundation on whom we can depend and build a happy and hopeful life.
3. Be patient (Jas 5:7-10). Each one has his own pace of growth, his own unique experience, and his own distinct expression. Not all trees grow at the same time; not all men move and grow at the same pace. To be aware of this is the beginning of wisdom and gratefulness. We need patience to study and learn, to grow and be healthy, to practice in the arts and gain expertise and grace. We need patience to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us in silence and in prayer, so that we may acquire the inner strength we need in our relationship with others and in our responsibilities.
We wait for the Lord in prayer, personal and with the community, even if at times it seems nothing is happening. When we pray, God is making His plans happen in us, for prayer is God’s gift to us and His work in us, as when we pray: Our Father…. your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Remember, with Mary who also waited for the salvation of Israel, the Lord ardently waits for us more than we wait for Him, for He indeed has already come, so we can celebrate.
So we come to celebrate the Eucharist, to listen to and receive the Lord. Let us be awake, not asleep because of selfishness and indifference, or drowsy because of greed. Let us participate and be involved in the celebration, as well as, be examples and symbols of the life of Jesus to the world. As we receive Him in the Eucharist, and as we prepare for Christmas, let us open the eyes of our faith and love in our hearts to receive Him in one another, and bring peace and goodwill to all. He is the reason for our life, for our work, for our apostolate, as well as the reason for our dying in order to live with Him again. So, Isaiah says: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God…. with divine recompense he comes to save you” ( 35:4).