THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
16 December 2018 - Bruder Klaus
Praised be Jesus Christ!
“Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.” These words from today’s Gospel refer to St. John the Baptist announcing the Day of Judgment. It is the Day when Christ is at the door and ready to harvest by separating the wheat from the chaff!
Rejoicing in judgment? Yes, that is today, Gaudete Sunday! It is the Third Sunday of Advent and we are joyfully thinking about how close Christ’s coming is both in terms of this year’s calendar for the Feast of Christmas and in terms of our final destiny for eternity.
On this Gaudete/Rejoicing Sunday I cannot help but comment on how, despite all the partying we hear about, people do not seem to be that happy. Even in church circles, you come across a lot of grumbling and melancholy, seemingly occasioned by things that really have nothing to do with the good news or with the essentials of the faith. That may be so, at least in part, because people have not grasped the substance of what the Baptist was announcing. He was announcing the coming of the long promised Messiah and urging all to make the Lord’s pathway straight. St. John did this by calling people to repentance, to renounce sin and accept baptism unto conversion of life.
But rejoicing in judgment you say? The Prophet Zephaniah says that judgment is about turning away your enemies and thereby rescuing us from sin, Satan and death.
“The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.”
These are glad tidings for the poor, tidings of great joy, just as what at the first Christmas the angels announced to the shepherds in that holy night!
As the Gospel of St. Luke recounts, it is normal to be a little perplexed by such a message. The people were truly at a loss at the Baptist’s words and asked him what they needed to do in response to his proclamation.
“What should we do?”… “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” …Tax collectors: “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” …Soldiers: “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
The Baptist’s message, the essential message at the heart of the Church’s life and action is bound to the great double commandment of love of God and neighbor. You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with your whole mind and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Happiness can be found here and nowhere else.
What concretely should we do to prepare for Christ, for His great baptism of judgment in the Holy Spirit and with fire on the world and on us? How does St. John the Baptist’s admonition apply to each one of us? Very simply stated, his exhortation is that we should change our ways and thereby shed our faint-heartedness. We need to stand forth gently but mightily in this world.
People say that Catholics are much more robust, when it comes to facing life’s challenges, than are non-believers. No doubt, that is true. It is probably the best reason there is to reject all the present day propaganda in favor of pluralism or multiculturalism as hallmarks of a healthy society. This claim of the dominant culture in the West just cannot be true. Hearts just cannot be set on something as dispersive as a multi-anything, let alone a multicultural anything. It is no good! It is pointless! The human heart best belongs not to something or to things but to someone and ultimately to that someone Who is God, Who made us for His own, Who created and saved us for joy.
We have a decided advantage over the people in today’s Gospel whose hearts were struck by the words of John. He took them very much by surprise, that is unprepared. We however do not have their excuse. We should know better, since we live in the light of Bethlehem, of Jesus’ teaching, of His Cross and glorious Resurrection. We have the teaching that comes down to us in the Church from the Apostles. We have the life of the sacraments; we have the Ten Commandments and the Precepts of the Church.
“Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.” If I were to be the Baptist for you today, then I should remind you to live what you have been taught. John the Baptist told his listeners to share their cloaks and food with those who have none; he told tax collectors and soldiers to play fair and not take advantage of others because of their position. One of the good deeds that people understand and appreciate today are the free haircuts and shaves given to homeless people by famous barbers and hairdressers. Maybe the biggest challenge for most of us would be to show more and better respect toward all those who are part of our daily lives. Love of neighbor, it must be by far the most daunting challenge for most of us.
Even so, the first and greatest commandment, loving God above all, needs more attention here and now in this wasted world of ours. For adults, in particular, our habits of personal prayer need enlivening. Our daily offering of all we are and do to God can easily again become the first act upon waking. Meal prayers and why not the Angelus 3 times a day! Our examination of conscience, to see how the day went, and our bedtime prayer for rest in the Lord and His protection as we sleep, not that hard! A dad of a younger family shared with me just recently how he and his wife have worked into taking time together to say the Rosary and gently invite the children to take part, at least for a decade. He told me, it is actually working. Mary, the Mother of God, at Fatima asked that people spend time with her, 15 minutes on the first Saturday of each month.
For some people, assisting at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is a big challenge. It must be faced with new resolve. Perhaps even bigger is adding regular confession to our lives. Here at Bruder Klaus most Sundays the priest is in the confessional for a half hour before Mass. It may take a sacrifice to get here by 9:00, but at least on the Sundays I have been here the line has not been long, so until it catches on, no waiting and no appointment, you are guaranteed the possibility of receiving forgiveness for your sins and failings. Nothing says “love” to those dear to us like a genuine “I am sorry”. Nothing is better than hearing the words of absolution spoken by the priest in Christ’s Name.
“What should we do?” They asked John. We all need to let our guard down and do the same. The human heart best belongs not to something or to things but to someone and ultimately to that someone Who is God, Who made us for His own, Who created and saved us for joy.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI