On this Gaudete Sunday, we rejoice because the Lord is near. Most of us grow a little impatient at this time of
year-long lines at the store, traffic congestion, mandatory parties, and even Christmas Muzak-all of which can lead to frustration. The key here is to be patient because we know that the Lord is near and we can rejoice in his birth.
Some years ago, a magazine article stated that there are more family fights at Christmastime than at any other time of the year. Because people have unrealistic expectations of Christmas, and often because those expectations are not fulfilled, tensions arise, and then fuses blow leading to family fights. As someone once told me, “Learning patience takes a lot of patience.” Maybe as we reflect on who Jesus is and what type of Messiah he chose to be, we can learn to patiently allow him to lead us to a deeper appreciation of the season-frustrations and all.
As we rejoice this Gaudete Sunday because the Lord is now very near, we continue to prepare for Christmas by looking at the Lord’s birth as the birth of the Messiah. While his disciples and John the Baptist himself awaited the Messiah, they came to realize that Jesus is that Messiah. So too, we realize that the infant born on Christmas is the Messiah. But what kind of Messiah do we have? Matthew tells us that the very presence of Jesus and his concern or the poor are true signs of the arrival of the Messiah. Herein lies a message for us as well. Look around and see the presence of God despite the difficulty you are in. Look around you and see the blind seeing again, the lame walking, the deaf hearing, and the dead being raised to life. Remember the last line of the message Jesus sent back to John in prison, “Happy the one who does not lose faith in me.” When our hopes are dashed, let us turn to Jesus.
Once we allow Jesus to expand and explode our expectations of him as Messiah, then we also allow Jesus to expand and explode our expectations of ourselves and others. Jesus does not sell us short, so why should you sell yourself short? We must make the transition that John and his disciples made with new, exploded vision. Here we earn that the disciples came to believe that Jesus was the true Messiah. Jesus also wants to expand and explode our understanding of him as the Messiah.
Jesus is answering John and saying: Yes indeed, I am the Messiah. But I’m the Messiah for all, especially the poor. I’m not going to be a military leader-those people are wrong. The Messiah is for everyone, especially for the weak, the poor, and the needy. If you are going to be a follower of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel, you have to accept the Messiah on his terms. And his terms are that he’s going to be a Messiah for the weak, for the poor, the lonely, and the disabled. Jesus is Messiah for the rich and powerful also. But his very way of coming challenges such people to realize that they, too, are really poor in God’s sight. If you are going to accept Jesus Christ, then who you are accepting is the Messiah.
As we transition to the Eucharist, let us remember that God is coming to save us. We must be filled with joy, and must patiently prepare ourselves for his arrival by repenting and turning ourselves around. Our Advent is both a nostalgic event and one which also looks forward to a future glory. We need to experience the healing and the wholeness which Jesus can bring into our lives. When we do this patiently, we can truly welcome him at Christmas as the Messiah. Rejoice!