|The slype leading from the monastery to the church|
at Saint Meinrad Archabbey is a middle way the monks walk through
at least five times a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
Third Sunday of Advent—A
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
The middle is a tough place to be sometimes. Middle child. Mid-life. Mid-level manager. Here, but not there. And here we are in the middle of Advent. The promise is made, but not fully realized, so we must be patient, as the Letter of Saint James says. This tension is inherent in many aspects of our lives, as it has been for people of all ages.
Hope is ultimately what sustains us on this journey, Isaiah reminds us. As God’s people, we are a pilgrim Church—on the way, but not quite there. The ancient Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years after Moses led them out of Egypt. The people of Isaiah’s day longed for a return to Jerusalem during the Babylonian exile. The Letter of Saint James was written after the time of Christ in the early days of the Church, when the Second Coming was expected at any moment.
Two thousand years later, we are still waiting.
Even John the Baptist asks Jesus in today's Gospel: “Are you the one who is to come?"
Jesus' reply points to the works he is accomplishing that fulfill Isaiah's prophecy. He is a healing Messiah, whereas the world expects a fiery, powerful messiah. His message is that we should never let our expectations stand in the way of hope. God's ways are not ours.
And the good news is that Jesus already dwells among us: “I am with you always,” he tells us (Matthew 28:20).
How? In prayer, Scripture, in the life of the Church and its members who comprise the Body of Christ, and in the sacraments—particularly the celebration of the Eucharist. He meets us along the way as we journey toward eternal union with God.
Perhaps the middle is not such bad place to be after all. Ancient philosophers from Aristotle to Aquinas taught that virtue stands in the middle course. To borrow a phrase from the lyrics of the country music song “Meet in the Middle” by Diamond Rio, “We gain a lot of ground when we all give a little. There’s no road too long when we meet in the middle.”
May we meet Christ today in the midst of hardship, fear, and sorrow, so that with joy we may herald his coming each day as a New Advent!