Psalms in the Lectionary
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Third Sunday in Advent Cycle A 2016

Third Sunday of Advent  Cycle A  12/11/2016
Gaudete Sunday
Isaiah 35:1-6a; Psalm 146:6-10; James 5:7-10; 
Matthew: 11:2-11
Psalm 146 is a hymn of praise or doxology.  It is also one of the last five psalms in the Psalter, and all five of those (psalms 146-150) start with the word, Hallelujah (Hallel Ja[weh], or Praise the Holy One).  We begin, however, not with the first verse, but with verse five and sing to its conclusion in verse 10. The verses we are singing today recount all the reasons why we should be singing praise.  This is a God who keeps faith forever.  He secures justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, sight for the blind.  He raises up those who were bowed down, and protects the strangers. He sustains the widow and the orphan, but the way of the wicked he thwarts.  This is a God who keeps his promises.  
We are mid-way through Advent with today’s liturgy.  Gaudete Sunday or “Rejoice” Sunday signals that we are getting closer to celebrating the divine mysteries of the Incarnation.  The opening verses of the Mass read from Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say rejoice!  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.” (Phil 4:4-5).  Shortly after the first fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, God promised that he would one day send a savior who would restore that which was lost in the garden (Gen. 3:15).  That savior would set things right again.  In Isaiah’s first reading, we hear about all the rejoicing that will go on in Lebanon and Sharon and Carmel, all places of the Lord, when God will come to save us: the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk again.  Those whom the Lord ransomed will return rejoicing!  All those who were waiting for redemption shall enter Zion singing!  In Matthew’s Gospel, John the Baptist is in prison when he hears about the Christ.  He sends word asking if he is the One for whom he has been waiting and Jesus simply replies: tell John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the dead are raised.  The promise that God gave so long ago is about to be fulfilled.  Messiah is coming.  Messiah is near.  He is not far off.  He is near.  
The refrain for this weekend’s psalm is a simple Advent cry:
“Lord, come and save us.”
verses 6-7:
The LORD God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
verses 8-9:
The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
verses 9-10:
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.
Today’s first reading from Isaiah (35:1-6a) foretells all the beauty that will emerge and all the rejoicing that will begin when Messiah comes.
     The desert and the parched land shall exult; the steepe shall rejoice and bloom.  They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; 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, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.
     Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
The Gospel from Matthew (11:2-11) is the matching bookend from Isaiah’s prophecy; now all those promises that were foretold are about to become a reality.  Rejoice!
     When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”  
     As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written: 
      Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; 
      he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
The second reading is from the letter of James (5:7-10) instructs us to be patient.  The Lord is at hand.  It will not be long now.
     Be patient, brother and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.  You too must be patient.  Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.  Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.  Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Psalm 146 is the only response one can have to such good news: unbridled praise and unspeakable joy to the Lord our God.   Hallelujah!