Sunday 11th December – Fourth Sunday in Advent – Gaudete Sunday

Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 Ps 145 Jas 5:7-10 Mtt 11:2-11

Advent is a time for waiting, but the title “Gaudete” – rejoice – reminds us that we wait for the Lord joyfully, not anxiously. I suspect that it has always been so, but I am struck by how often patience is something that seems so desired and yet is so much in short supply. In a culture where so much seems available instantly, the idea of having to wait seems almost unreasonable. Waiting for someone, or something, implies a state of dependency, of lack of control over things – perhaps that is why it makes people so uncomfortable, and leads to such frustration. The Letter of James is a writing that is full of down to earth spiritual wisdom and is given to us today to make the necessary point about waiting. The people in the Exile who receive Isaiah’s prophecy are those who wait for the Lord’s coming and are offered three insights today. The first is that they are not waiting for an unknown, but for a promise to be fulfilled, and that promise is one that brings total fulfilment. Because of that promise, that hope, the appropriate response is action: “Strengthen all weary hands . . . say to all faint hearts. ‘Courage’.”

And the third insight is to look for the signs already, here and now. In the gospel the disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus; they have been waiting for ‘the one who is to come.’ Jesus simply points them to the signs; ‘the blind see again, and the lame walk.’ Advent reminds us that we are a people who are waiting: ‘as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ’ (Communion Rite). Waiting patiently is not just a passive pursuit – it invites us to wait holding on to those three insights: we are waiting for the total fulfilment of God’s plan which will achieve all things in Christ; while we wait we are actively engaged in strengthening one another and especially the weak, and encouraging one another; and we are invited to look for, and point out, the signs that Christ is amongst us already.

Monsignor Robert Draper