Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

December 15, 2019 – by Rita Rodríguez

“The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers… They will see the glory of the LORD,” the prophet Isaiah tells us in today’s first reading. It is a beautiful image, but I can hardly imagine it.

When we speak of the desert, the first image that comes to mind for me is not flowers and lilies blooming, but what I see in photos and videos of immigrants trying to cross the southern border into the US. I do not see flowers in this desert, but people in great need, people held in detention centers, and the fallen who did not survive the harshness of the desert.

John the Baptist knew much about life in the desert. While in prison, we are told in this Sunday’s Gospel, he told two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” In Isaiah’s words, this question to Jesus might be, “Are you the one who will let us see the desert bloom?” Echoing Isaiah, Jesus responds to John: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” In other words, Jesus responds that Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled in him and states surprisingly that some will be disappointed by his response.

We have an advantage that John the Baptist did not: We know that Jesus is the resurrected Christ and our savior. We know that Jesus is the Messiah that God had promised. This is our faith. But, have we let God open our eyes and ears to see the possibility of the desert covered in flowers? Am I helping those who are not able to walk alone? Am I living a new life in the love of God for those who are dying of sadness and abandonment, and the poor who are enduring many needs? Am I helping and advocating for the human rights of immigrants arriving in our country and those people suffering here because they are undocumented? If I do, I will be helping the desert to bloom not only for these people, but for the whole world — the presence of God alive in the world. And when others see me living this way, they will see a disciple of Jesus who is not disappointed by him, and who, like Jesus, is working to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah that the whole world will see the glory of God.

“Be strong, do not fear!” the prophet tells us.

Rita M. Rodríguez lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a spiritual director and helps coordinate the Hispanic ministry at the Jesuit Parish of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

This reflection was translated from Spanish.

Recent News

In this live online program, Dr. Karen Shields Wright will reflect on the commandment “Love thy Neighbor as Thyself” and what that looks like in the midst of a pandemic. What is the spiritual call to care for self and how does honoring that call, in momentary and intentional ways, naturally support flourishing and balance in body and soul? What are the ways to access the peace that surpasses understanding and, in doing so, maintain balance in this time of collective uncertainty?

These 40 days of Lent are an opportunity to deepen our spiritual lives and, as St. Ignatian would say in the Exercises, “to reflect and to take advantage” of the richness of the readings that we will hear. Watch these short video reflections on the Sunday Gospels.

Resources from across the Jesuit and Ignatian community to accompany you during this time of uncertainty.

March 5, 2020 - This month Pope Francis is asking us to join him in praying for Catholics in China. "Let us pray together that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity."

March 4, 2020 — We invite you to join us in praying the Novena of Grace of Saint Francis Xavier (March 4-12).

March 1, 2020 - Last year, the Jesuits announced four new Universal Apostolic Preferences. One of these preferences was "To collaborate in the care of our Common Home," a call to protect the environment. To help answer this call, we will be sharing a series of monthly ecology reflections.

February 27, 2020 – The Lenten season is a journey that invites us to reflect more deeply on the life of Christ and the mysteries of our faith. In preparing for this journey, the spiritual traveler needs tools, resources and direction. If you're looking for assistance in your journey this Lent, you're in the right place.

view all news

Search news

Ignatius House Retreat Center
For more than 50 years, the Ignatius House Retreat Center has been open to individuals of all faiths seeking a closer relationship with God.