December 15, 2019, Third Sunday of Advent. A reflection on Matthew 11:2-11
We are now on the third Sunday of Advent and the Candle of Joy is lit. The third candle is pink and symbolizes joy. It is also the “Shepherd’s Candle,” and it is pink because in several traditions, rose is a liturgical color for joy.
And what was the reason for joy?
Under the rule of the empire, the political leaders who were puppets of Caesar of Rome – King Herod, Governor Pilate and the religious leaders in the Sanhedrin – the priests – Annas, Caiaphas, scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees the Israelites (of the old, not the Israel of today) were in economic poverty and whose freedom as citizens and people are trampled upon. It was for this context that groups were founded like that of the Sicarii and the Zealots to mention a few. The Sicarii, known as the dagger-men were Jewish nationalist and rebels who opposed the Roman occupation in their land. There were also the Zealots which was a political movement against Rome. These movements produced the first Jewish – Roman War or better known as the Great Revolt in 66-73 CE.
In the religious parlance, there was John the cousin of Jesus born of Elizabeth and priest Zechariah, who calls for repentance and to prepare the way of the messiah, and was imprisoned for his critic to the King and the sins of the leaders of the land. Last Sunday we knew about how harsh were his description on the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Except for the rulers of Judea, the Jews were in a quest for freedom and were waiting and anticipating for a savior, a messiah to come – who would even fight for them as they did against the rulers.
Answering to the disciple of John about the question if He was the messiah or should they wait for another, Jesus said, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me (v4-6).” Alas! Jesus had just described the works of a messiah, a God who will liberate His people from all the miseries they were experiencing.
Then what is our reason for joy?
As the Christmas celebration is nearing, there is a reason for joy because we already have surpassed the half of the waiting period and we are almost there. Rejoice for we now even smell the aroma of success, the finishing line – the end is near. It is like the joy of a graduating student who found his name in the roll of graduates. It is the feeling of being assured that something good is to happen.
Yes, something good had happen in the first Christmas and as we anticipate the celebration of Christmas this year and every year, we must also look beyond. Looking beyond the celebration, looking around us and try to foresee good things to happen which could be a reason for joy.
A portion of Jesus’ answer to John through the disciple, “and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me – at my poverty and lowliness of life and reject me.” Now the good news to the poor was and is that God was and is at the side of the poor whom He was identified with in the very beginning. He opened up their eyes to see the situations and the powers that caused their poverty and helplessness. He challenged the rulers and the powers that be. Like John, He used harsh words to describe Herod as He defied the King’s order for Him to vacate the city. He went to the temple and he lambasted the business of the elites, the church leaders – priests, Sadducees, scribes using religion and victimizing the religious believers through many unscrupulous forms of taxations and the sale and exchange of goods for offering and the use of exclusive temple currency which is another load for the people who use the yet imperial and oppressive one currency.
We should shout for joy because the messiah that was born identified himself with us and in our struggle for social emancipation, of the victims of human rights violations, of the victims of the bureaucrat capitalists and the oligarchs who rule our land. We should shout for joy because the people of God did not and will not remain a victim and be silenced by the powers that be. We should shout for joy because the messiah grew matured in the history of the people and inspired the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized to see their strength who are now standing up and linked with each other in unity, growing strong as inspired by the Lord of history and of liberation and will join the many millions of people and march to build the Kingdom of God here on earth.
With our alternative Psalm for today (Luke 1:46b-55), let us shout for joy with Mary who said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant… He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Until next for the fourth Sunday of Advent