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The Perfect Gift Is the Grace and Mercy of Jesus

The Perfect Gift Is the Grace and Mercy of Jesus

We rejoice on the Third Sunday of Advent. (photo: Shutterstock)


User’s Guide to the Third Sunday of Advent

Sunday, Dec. 11, is the Third Sunday of Advent. Mass readings: Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; James 5:7-10; and Matthew 11:2-11.

Today’s Gospel is best seen in three stages, as we are encouraged to understand that the perfect gift is not one of our own imagining but of God’s true offer.



“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?’”

This is a strange question, given what St. John had already done! With delight, John had pointed out Christ as he approached, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). He encouraged his disciples to follow after the One who was mightier than he. Is John puzzled? Is he discouraged? Or, does he, as many Church Fathers think, ask this as a kind of rhetorical device to encourage his disciples to resolve their doubts with Jesus?

Consider John’s words from last Sunday’s Gospel: “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. …. He will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:10-12).

John is now in prison, so where was the hoped-for deliverance? Where was the exaltation of the lowly and the casting down of the mighty? Where was the axe being laid to the root of the tree? John, whether puzzled himself or not, voices the puzzlement of many. Many of the poor longed that “judgment will run down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).



Jesus gives an answer to John’s disciples that draws from a different tradition of Messiah texts than those John had emphasized. Jesus thus gives the following answer to those sent by John: “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.”

In this answer, Jesus stitches together many quotes and prophecies about the Messiah, mostly from Isaiah. For example, consider the following: (Isaiah 29:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-3; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 35:5-6).

To those who are disappointed in his lack of wrathful vengeance, Jesus says something quite remarkable: “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

Many of us have been hurt by others or have been deeply troubled by the fact that the wicked seem to prosper while the just struggle. “When will God act? Why doesn’t he do something?” we wonder. It is very easy for us to be puzzled, discouraged or even offended by God’s seeming inaction.

To all this Jesus simply says, “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”



And thus we see that the perfect gift is the grace and mercy of Jesus. It is not the destruction of our enemies. It is not a sudden, swift ushering in of justice before God’s chosen time. The perfect gift is the grace and mercy of Jesus, which all of us, without exception, desperately need.

One day the perfect justice of God that we all seek will roll in. But unless and until you receive the perfect gift of grace and mercy through Jesus, you will not be able to endure the perfect justice of God. So until that time, it has pleased God to offer us the perfect gift of his Son, who by his grace and mercy will prepare us for that day.


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