3rd. Sunday of Advent (B)
The great prophet Isaiah spoke most assuredly about God’s coming work of salvation in Israel, and in today’s reading he tells of figures yet to come:
Who was Isaiah foreshadowing there? Who would be able to speak like that? Surely, only Our Lord Jesus Christ, speaking of His humanity.
Isaiah then went on:
Like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
He speaks there of Mary of Nazareth, bedecked with the blessings of her Immaculate Conception.
And the ultimate reason for all this rejoicing? It is indeed a most sublime reason, pre-eminently worthy of such rejoicing, because it fulfils and answers both the loving purpose of Our God, and mankind’s deepest longing since being cast out of Eden and away from God’s presence:
The Lord God will make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.
And yet, when that promised Coming One -- Son of the Virgin Mother -- was about to begin His work of making ‘justice and praise spring up’, the greatest of all the prophets, John the Baptist who was uniquely close to our Blessed Lord Jesus on the very cusp of Israel’s fulfilment, found himself confirming Isaiah’s prophecy by making use of much more sober language in order to reveal with all clarity a truly disconcerting reality:
I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord; for there is One among you Whom you do not recognize, the One coming after me, Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.
That is the setting for our Advent preparations to welcome the Lord coming to His spouse -- Mother Church – this Christmas to make her more like ‘a bride bedecked with jewels’.
Dear People of God, look all around you this Advent time at the great majority of Christmas celebrations and you will have no doubt about the truth of the Baptist’s words:
There is One among you Whom you do not recognize.
Why is Jesus not recognized today by those, so many of them, who were formerly professing Catholics or Christians? It is, to a certain extent, because many have succumbed to the lure and enticements of popular sin, or have fainted or despaired under the burden of personal and worldly cares.
There is, however, another cause for Jesus being unrecognizable for too many of our fellows, be they nominal Catholics or Christians or just present-day unbelievers, and that is because they have long been out of touch with, and have become unaware of and insensitive to, the Jesus of Mother Church’s teaching and tradition.
Dear Catholic People of God, as Catholics we are the original Christians, members of the original body established by Jesus as His Church on the foundations of His Personally chosen and endowed Apostles, to whom He uniquely said:
I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told YOU everything I have heard from My Father. (John 15:15)
Moreover, He promised those original Twelve:
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name — He will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you. (John 14:26)
Those original Apostles are thus the source of Mother Church’s doctrinal teaching and traditions, and it is absolutely necessary that those Apostolic memories of Jesus’ words, addressed Personally and directly to them as His friends for the good of further friends to come through their ministry, that those Apostolic traditions learned from Jesus’ very actions and attitudes witnessed by their own eyes and heard by their own ears, remain intact and appreciated in Mother Church today. No one -- not even Pope -- can sever us from Jesus’ love and guidance handed down through the ages in those Apostolic doctrines and traditions.
There are difficulties today for a faithless generation wanting to justify itself and confirm its worldly popularity: it tries to confuse issues by subtly ‘updating’ texts, by teaching in accordance with modern preferences while, on the other hand, simply trying to consign to oblivion what cannot be thus ‘updated’.
This is due to the fact that (as Jesus Himself said, John 14:17):
This is the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you.
The world cannot receive the Spirit of Truth because it does not, will not, believe in Jesus:
And when He (the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth) comes, He will convict the world in regard to sin, because they do not believe in Me. (John 16:8–9)
The Apostles, on the other hand, know the Spirit of Truth, because He already abides with them as the future Catholic (universal) Church of Jesus, and will be in them individually, as faithful disciples of and witnesses to Jesus their Lord, their Master, and their Saviour.
The season of Advent is a time of great expectancy, because we are looking forward to the coming of Our Lord and Saviour; and, being certain that His coming anew this Christmas will be for our blessing, we beseech His most Holy Spirit to prepare us to welcome Him with hearts and minds authentically attuned to Him in the Apostolic purity of Mother Church’s teaching and traditions.
We are also aware that at the appointed time -- we do not know when -- He will come in glory to judge the world, to triumph over all His enemies and cast out Satan; and then, after having ultimately established the Kingdom of God, He will lead all His faithful ones to worship, and rejoice in, the supreme Lordship of His Father. This is what St. Paul explained when writing his first letter to his converts in the great Greek seaport of Corinth:
As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For, He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet; the last enemy that will be destroyed is death, for, "He has put all things under His feet." (1 Corinthians 15:22-26)
This season of Advent is, consequently, a time of joyful expectancy, because the true disciple of Jesus, although being fully aware of his human weakness, ignorance, and personal sinfulness, nevertheless, most assuredly hopes and trusts that he will ultimately be purified of that sinfulness and called to share in His Lord’s heavenly glory and experience with Him eternal blessedness in His Father’s Kingdom, for Isaiah (40:10) rightly spoke of the Lord God coming to His People with an abundance of blessings:
Behold, the Lord God will come with might; behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him.
And therefore, even now this very day, all true disciples of Jesus can share, take part in -- with all confidence and simplicity, humility and sincerity -- that blessing enshrined in Isaiah’s great oracle:
I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my GOD IS THE JOY OF MY SOUL.