December 17, Third Sunday of Advent, Discerning: a Sunday Scriptures blog

Like in last Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist is the focus of our Gospel today. When the priests, Levites and Pharisees asked the Baptist who he really was, he quotes Isaiah the prophet: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.” We might ask, why did people need to ask who John was? Later they also will ask Jesus the same question — who are you, really? Should we look for another? Just as in our own times, in biblical times there were false spiritual leaders, people who claimed that the Spirit of the Lord was upon them. Paul and other disciples warned early Christians against trusting every spirit, spiritual gift, every person claiming to be guided by the Spirit. Instead they were to discern or test or evaluate spirits to see if they were of God (cr 1 Jn 4:1; Ep 6:12; 1 Cor 12:10; Rom 12:2). How did they do that? One way was to see if the spirited person and their teaching was consistent with tested beliefs from their tradition, already in their minds and hearts. So in our Hebrew Scripture today, we have another selection from Isaiah. Isaiah speaks about what the true savior will do — bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives… . Jesus will read this very Scripture in a synagogue service and then say, “this day this Scripture is fulfilled,” thus identifying himself as the suffering servant who Isaiah wrote about. Jesus also used other images to keep his listeners alert to discerning or judging, for there always will be wheat and weeds, sheep and wolves, hard ground and fertile ground. Discerning and judging properly are spiritual gifts that good disciples need in every age, including ours. Discerning and judging properly are gifts we need to nourish in our young. Every powerful personality is not spirit led; every persuasive idea is not spirit led; every seemingly good piece of legislation is not something we can support; every solution to a personal problem or crisis is not the most godly one. Spiritual advisers say that good discerning takes time. Advent is about taking time, about waiting, until finally we come to the inner peace that says “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” What in your life needs discernment?

— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia; photo by Jennifer, Rail Fan Guides

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