Third Sunday of Advent

December 11, 2022

December 11, 2022


December 11, 2022

Third Sunday of Advent



Hanlon Rubio

Hanlon Rubio

Prophetic Patience

I have always loved Advent. I grew up with the purple and pink candles at the dinner table. As a young mother, I knew this was something I wanted to do with my children, as I encouraged them to love the anticipation of Advent and wait on Christmas music, trees, and parties. To embrace waiting, resting, patience.

Patience is a theme in this week’s readings. A virtue. But while patience seems appropriate when I’m thinking about resting in Advent rather than rushing to Christmas, but when patience is presented as an anecdote to impatience with injustice, I worry. Though it may seem as if this week’s readings do exactly this, I wonder if something else is going on.

Note the flow of the readings-

        -We start with Isaiah 35, a beautiful description of the whole earth awakening when God comes to save: the desert and parched land exult, bloom, sing, rejoice.  The feeble are strengthened, the blind see, the ears of deaf are cleared, the frightened leap for joy.  

        This salvation is promised—healing of physical infirmity, yes, but also of fear, weakness, blindness, sadness; of a lack of desire to sing, to dance. Help for parchedness and a failure to bloom. God promises all of this.

        -But Psalm 146 takes us back and forth between assertions of God’s saving power (“The Lord God … secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry...sets captives free”)

And the urgent plea--

“Lord, come and save us.”
God come now, we need you, where are you?

The repetition is striking.

God is amazing.

God come now, we need you, where are you?

It continues right to the end.

“The Lord will reign forever”

“Lord come and save us.”

God come now, we need you, where are you?

        -And then comes the second reading, from James, about patience. It seems like an answer to the back and forth of Isaiah. Just wait.

See how the farmer is patient, even when the rain doesn’t come.

Make your hearts firm

Don’t complain about each other

God is coming.

Some commentaries suggest that patience under affliction or suffering is being upheld here, and perhaps that is part of it.

But even though the farmer’s patience is lauded, it is another model of patience that we’re called to emulate.

The author of James counsels, “Take as an example of patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”

The prophets. Be patient like the prophets.
What is that?

Though the gospel gives us John the Baptist, my mind turned to another prophet who spent time behind bars, Martin Luther King, who had his own take on patience.

In his famous letter from a Birmingham jail, King wrote, “For years now, I have heard the word, “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant, “No.”

We have been waiting he said.
When you have seen what I have seen, patience is no longer reasonable, he said.

He closed the letter to white ministers, “If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates on unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.”

Prophetic patience, it seems, does not mean settling.

John the Baptist, Jesus, Martin King—all looked to the prophets of old ‘who spoke in the name of the Lord’, who communicated God’s judgement and God’s promise. We need to listen to these prophets to understand the way they practiced patience.

Listen to Amos 5: 23-24

23 Away with the noise of your songs!
   I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
   righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Listen to Sr. Thea Bowman, talking to the US bishops in 1989,

Today we’re called to walk together in a new way toward that Land of Promise and to celebrate who we are and whose we aren’t.  If we, as a Church, walk together – don’t let nobody separate you – that’s one thing black folk can teach you – don’t let folks divide you up – you know, put the lay folk over here and the clergy over here – put the bishops in one room and the clergy in the other room – put the women over here and the men over here – The Church teaches us that the Church is a family of families and the family got to stay together and we know, that if we do stay together– we know that if we do stay together – if we walk and talk and work and play and stand together in Jesus’ name – we’ll be who we say we are – truly Catholic and we shall overcome – overcome the poverty – overcome the loneliness – overcome the alienation and build together a Holy city … where they’ll know that we are here because we love one another.  

Sr. Thea Bowman was not practicing a “settling” kind of patience. She was clear. She was joyful. She was prophetic. She called her brother bishops out, on neglect of poverty and racism, on clericalism, on sexism, on divisions of all kinds. She also got them to link arms and sing a protest song, to envision a better church and a better city. Her prophetic patience grounded her, giving her the strength to call out, the strength to sing, the strength, yes, to wait through the “not yet ness” of the church and the world.

This Advent, when we’re lighting candles, and singing songs about waiting, perhaps we should remember our prophets, John the Baptist and Amos, Martin Luther King and Sr. Thea Bowman, and pray to be patient like they were.

First Reading

Is 35:1-6a, 10


Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

Second Reading

Jas 5:7-10


Mt 11:2-11
Read texts at

Julie Hanlon Rubio

Julie Hanlon Rubio

Julie Hanlon Rubio is the Shea-Heusaman Professor of Christian Social Ethics and Associate Dean at Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. Previously, she taught at St. Louis University for nearly two decades. Her research focuses on Catholic social thought, family, feminism, and reconciliation. She is the author of four books, including Family Ethics: Practices for Christians (Georgetown University Press, 2010) and Hope for Common Ground: Mediating the Personal and the Political in a Divided Church (Georgetown University Press, 2016), and has co-edited two volumes of essays. Her essays have appeared in Theological Studies, the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, and the Horizons, as well as America, The Conversation, and National Catholic Reporter. She and Paul Schutz are the principal investigators of “Beyond ‘Bad Apples,’: Understanding Clergy Sexual Abuse as a Structural Problem and Cultivating Strategies for Change.” Her new book, Can You Be a Catholic and a Feminist? will be published by Oxford University Press in 2023.


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