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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Dec. 15, 2013

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

December 15, Third Sunday of Advent

Cycle A. Readings:

1) Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10

Psalm 146:6-10

2) James 5:7-10

Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Having spent all of my formative years on a farm with a father who raised field crops, I became intensely aware of the importance of rain -- as well as the timing of its arrival. My dad was almost obsessed with the daily weather forecast, and for good reason. If rain didn't fall soon after the planting, either the seeds didn't sprout at all or the young seedlings weren't able to put down adequate roots.

Another critical time was when the plants were maturing and forming the seed heads that were to be harvested. Thus, in drier years the corn crop was often characterized by scorched, stunted stalks and underdeveloped ears of grain, all for lack of moisture.

Faith can be likened to a crop in that it requires nurturing to help it grow. Much talk focuses on the important role of parents as primary educators of their children in the faith. The practice of baptizing young children rests upon the assumption that parents, grandparents and godparents will continue what the waters of baptism have begun, helping youngsters to develop deep roots of trust in God that will serve them later in life.

However, our historical emphasis on catechizing children has often caused Catholics to neglect the "late rains" that enable adult faith to mature and bear fruit. It's a familiar story -- adults who were "sacramentalized" as children but who left the church soon after confirmation, never to return, or parishes that expended most of their resources on programs for young people, with nary a thought to the faith development of their adult members.

Advent calls us to a patient waiting for the coming of the Lord -- but not a passive one. As the seeds in the earth receive heaven's moisture at critical times, taking it in and developing to full potential, so too must we eagerly receive the life-giving grace of God that is available to us as adults, nurturing the transforming presence of Jesus in our lives through communal worship, prayer, works of service and even study.

Only then can we become as fruitful as God intends. Only then can we become, like John the Baptist, the messengers who truly prepare the way for Christ in the world.


As an adult, what have you done to intentionally nurture your faith and help it mature? What do you find most helpful to your growth in Christ -- communal worship, private prayer, works of service or study?


"See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains." -- James 5:7


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