In the third Sunday of Advent, the First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. The people of Israel are in exile because of their infidelity to their covenant with God. But God’s prophet announces the good news that their time of exile is about to end. The prophet is describing the joy that will come over the people of Israel who have been patient and didn't give up hope while waiting for deliverance from captivity in Babylon. God will lead his people through the desert and back to the Promised Land.
In the Second Reading from the Letter of St. James, we hear the apostle counsels the Christian community to practice patience with God’s timing and ways. People are becoming impatient because Jesus’ return or Second Coming is being delayed and because of conflicts in the community. James also urges his flock to take as models the prophets who suffered much as they spoke the Word of God. They never gave up hope.
In the Gospel Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets is in jail because he told Herod that it is wrong for him to marry his brother’s wife. John wonders if Jesus is the One who is to come―or should he look for another? Jesus’ response is indirect. Jesus is to fulfill the vision of the Messiah described by Isaiah in today’s first reading: he will bring healing to the sick and mercy to sinners.