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Sermon for The Third Sunday of Advent - Year A
Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:1-10
"The Blind See" - by Fr. Jerry Fuller

READING:  Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:1-10 
SERMON :  "The Blind See"

Father Jerry Fuller
   Each year for the Third Sunday of Advent it is our tradition to have
   a Christmas Pageant Service with the Sunday School leading much of
   the Service.  We follow it with one text of the day and a brief
   homily.  Such a service is found for this day on our "Year A

   The following is a Sermon by the late Rev. Fr. Jerry Fuller, o.m.i. 
   (padre@TRI-LAKES.NET) of St. William's Church in Gainesville, MO. 
   Fr. Jerry shared this sermon with the PRCL-List in December 7th 2001
   and gave permission for it to be posted here on December 9th 2001.  
   It is our prayer that you will find it helpful.  If using elements
   of the following in your preaching for Advent 3A, please acknowledge
   Fr. Jerry's contribution in your printed text or notes.

                           "The Blind See"

Barbara Bartocci was searching for the perfect birthday card for her
husband a few years ago.  She came across a promising one.  On the outside
it read: "Sweetheart, you're the answer to my prayers." 

Then she turned to the inside, which was inscribed like this: "You're not
what I prayed for exactly, but apparently you're the answer." [i]

For thousands of years, the Jewish people had been praying for a Messiah, a
deliverer who would conquer their enemies and establish a kingdom of
righteousness and might.  Their deliverer would be powerful, a warrior and
a king, and through his power the Jews would again reign in peace and

Then along comes Jesus, a poor carpenter with questionable friends.  He
claims to be the long-awaited Messiah who has come to set up a very
different kind of kingdom.  And so we can forgive even Jesus' strongest
supporters for asking, "You're the answer to our prayers? Really?" [ii]

St. John the Baptist had also been praying for and preparing for the
Messiah his whole life.  John had been doing this with a harsh criticism of
the ruling religious establishment and a stern call to penance for the

John's idea of Jesus was, then, one of a warrior type, someone as we said
above who would, like John, preach fire and brimstone.  John had even said
the coming Messiah would baptize his hearers with the "Holy Spirit and

In today's gospel John is in prison.  Herod had put John in prison for
criticizing him for marrying his brother's wife, Herodias.  She hated John
even more than her illegitimate husband hated John.  

John probably knew his days were numbered.  He was hearing of the conduct
of Jesus, whom he had thought was the Messiah, in preparation for whom he
had given his life.  He had heard, though, that this Messiah, far from
preaching hellfire and brimstone, was doing works of mercy.  John was
confused.  He sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one to

We sometimes have a hard time seeing Jesus in others.  Jesus said he was in
the least of his.  But we have our ideas of whom Jesus should be in, and so
we judge some people worthy of our alms and mercy, and others worthy of
hellfire and damnation.  It's not easy to see Jesus in our enemy.

It's like a woman named Marlene Nance who wrote in to Decision Magazine
sometime back.  One day, Nance's little daughter, Emma, was playing with
her paper dolls.  These were special paper dolls.  They were all Bible
characters.  Suddenly Emma realized that the Jesus character was missing. 

Marlene and Emma looked all over the house, but they couldn't find Jesus

Later that afternoon, Emma came running to her mother with some good news. 
She had found Jesus!  He was in one of her Daddy's magazine.  Emma proudly
held out her new Jesus.  Marlene gasped as she took the picture from Emma's
hands.  It was a picture of a tall, bearded homeless man dressed in rags. 
Because of his long hair and beard, he did resemble Emma's paper-doll

As Marlene reflected on Jesus' own words about the poor and powerless, she
agreed that her little girl had found Jesus. [iii]

This story was told before our present crisis in Afghanistan.  What if
little Emma had come running to her mother with a similar picture of a
tall, bearded man with large, lustrous, brown eyes and a handsomely
chiselled face and full lips.  What if she had found a picture of Osama bin
Laden and showed it to her mother, happy that she had found Jesus? 

That scenario boggles our mind for it confronts us with an avalanche of
Jesus' sayings, not least of which is his "Whatever you do to one of these,
the least of mine, you do to me" and "Love your enemies, pray for those who
persecute you and maltreat you" (Mt. 5:44-47).

In response to John's question, Jesus could simply have said, "Yes, I am
the one."  He doesn't do that, but neither does he evade the question. 

Jesus does what he so frequently does when asked a question - he throws it
back on the questioner.  This greatest psychologist of all times shows his
understanding of human nature most clearly here.  Anyone who has counselled
knows that there is no easy answer to hopes and doubts. 

A psychiatrist once told a story about himself when he had first begun his
practice.  A patient said to him, quite frankly, that she was sure he saw
what her problems were with clarity. She asked him to tell her what they
were and save her a lot of money by cutting short her therapy.  He was so
new to the profession that he did as she asked, at which point she flounced
out of his office, saying, "Well, if that's what you think of me, I
certainly don't want to work with you!" 

The answer, to be lasting and valid for the questioner, must always come
from inside the questioner, even if Jesus himself is the person answering.

The possibility of salvation for Israel and for us today perhaps seems
remote because we look for the wrong kind of salvation.  Perhaps we all
want a child's kind of Saviour - a parent who will make things "all better"
without effort on our part.  

Or perhaps we want a flashier, more global kind of Saviour, as those did in
Israel who wanted a warrior to throw off the Roman occupation.

Jesus' answer is different.  Really to hear it, we need to let the answer
to the world's ills be thrown back to us, as Jesus threw the answer back to

Look and see what a difference it can make in your own life to try the slow
way of change, of taking personal responsibility and living out the
Saviour's way of life.  We may not be able to perform Jesus' miracles in
the way he did, but we can work to bring about the prophet's visions of a
better world, where those in need are ministered to and the good news of a
loving God is made known by word and action.

This is a slower way; its results take time and work. It requires the
patience the epistle of James talks about - the patience of the farmer, who
waits for the crop to grow.  A farmer would be silly to pull up the plants
to see how the roots are doing.  The slow way requires that same patience
of each of us.  James also tells us what we are to do while we wait for the
precious crop - strengthen our hearts for the coming of the Lord, and not
grumble against one another. [iv]

A man came upon a number of cocoons from which moths were emerging.  He
picked up one of the cocoons and saw through the membrane that a living
moth moved.  Noticing that his warm breath upon the cocoon accelerated the
emergence of the moth, the man continued to blow gently upon the cocoon.

The membrane quickly opened, the struggling moth came forth, but not in the
way that the man expected.  The creature's wings only partially unfolded
while it struggled helplessly.  The man learned that it was foolish to
forcefully take in hand matters which had best wait upon subtle and hidden
powers beyond the powers of one's own will.

Jesus answered John as God answers us, not as John expected Jesus to answer

So it is in our prayers and our expectations.  We come to Jesus with our
agenda, and he gives us the Sermon on the Mount.  

Jesus sent John's disciples back to John with the very quote from Isaiah we
read in the first reading.  Jesus knew John would understand, for John was
the greatest prophet, together with Isaiah, in the Old Testament.

It's interesting to note that Jesus never directly answered John's
question: "Are you the expected One or shall we look for someone else?"  He
never gave a  straight "yes" or "no."  Jesus could have pointed to hundreds
of Biblical prophecies that his life had fulfilled.  He could have
performed some dazzling miracle that would have instantly silenced all of
John's doubts.  Instead, Jesus announced, "Go and tell John the things
which you hear and see: The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are
cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the
gospel preached to them."

Why did Jesus choose these particular things to prove his Lordship?  What
does this tell us about his priorities? 

These miracles all seem to involve restoration and compassion. Just as they
are today, the deaf, the blind, and the lame were kept outside the
mainstream of society.  They were often forced to beg to support
themselves. Others viewed their disability as a punishment from God. 
Lepers were outcasts, unclean, cut off from all social or religious
acceptance.  Jesus didn't just hear these people - he restored their place
in society.  And Jesus' restorative powers were never on greater display
than when he brought a dead person back to life. 

These answers demonstrate Jesus' compassion for the least and the lowest.
They remind us that Jesus came for the hurting, helpless, overlooked people
of society.

That's always a good thing to remember at this time of the year when our
greed and materialism are given free rein.  Don't confuse our society's
celebration of Christmas with the character of Jesus.  The two are as
different as day and night.

Lieutenant Gerald Coffee spent seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
During his second Christmas in that rotten hellhole of a camp he made an
amazing discovery.  He ha been stripped of everything by which he measured
his identity: rank, uniform, family, money. And yet, alone in a cramped
three by seven foot cell, he began to understand the meaning of Christmas. 
Removed from all commercial distractions, he was able to focus on the
simplicity of Christ's birth. Although he was lonely and afraid, he
realized that this Christmas could be his most meaningful, because now,
more than ever before, he understood the event.

We can assume that John the Baptist discovered the same thing.  As he sat
in his prison cell, stripped of all the things we think are necessary for
life, he discovered the one most important thing: hope. John glimpsed the
hope that the Messiah had come to set up an eternal kingdom, a kingdom of
justice and mercy, compassion and healing. A kingdom that was for all

No, it wasn't exactly what the people were praying for.  It was so much
more than that. 

During this Christmas season, may we all discover the same hope.

      [i] "The unexpected answer" by Barbara Bartocci, Reader's Digest,
   Sept. 1984, pp. 87-88.

      [ii] "The unexpected Jesus," Dynamic Preaching 16 (4): 61-2 (Seven
   Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville TN 37922) October,
   November, December 2001.

      [iii] "Mommy, Jesus is missing!" by Marlene Nance, Decision
   Magazine, December 2000, p. 36.

      [iv] Jean Dalby Clift, "Pastoral implications," Lectionary
   Homiletics 13 (1): 18-19 (Lectionary Homiletics, Inc., 13540 East
   Boundary Road, Building 2, Suite 105, Midlothian, VA 23112) December

copyright - sermon by Fr. Jerry Fuller 2001
            page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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