Second Sunday of Advent—7 December AD 2008
of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Blessing of the Advent Wreath
Romans xv: 4-13
then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to
please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to
edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written,
“The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.” What
things soever were written for our learning: that, through patience and the
comfort of the Scriptures, we might have hope. Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one
mind, one towards another, according to Jesus Christ; that
with one mind and with one mouth you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ. Wherefore,
receive one another, as Christ also received you unto the honor of God.
For I say that Christ Jesus was the minister of the circumcision for the truth
of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. But the
gentiles are to glorify God for His mercy, as it is written,
"Therefore will I confess to Thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles
and will sing to Thy name." And again, He says, "Rejoice
ye Gentiles with His people." And again, "Praise the Lord,
all ye Gentiles, and magnify Him all ye people."
And again, Isaias says, "There shall be a root of Jesse, and He shall
rise up to rule the Gentiles; in Him the Gentiles shall
hope." Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in
believing, that you may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost.
Matthew xi: 2-10
At that time, when
John had heard in prison of the works of Christ, sending
two of his disciples, he said to Him, "Art Thou He that
is to come, or shall we look for another?" And Jesus, answering, said
to them, "Go and relate to John what you have heard
and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the
deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to
them: and blessed is he that is not scandalized in
Me." And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the
multitudes concerning John, "What did you go out into the
desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see?
A man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed
in soft garments are in the houses of kings. But what went you
out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a
prophet? For this is he of whom it is written, 'Behold I send My angel
before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.'"
“Behold I send My angel before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way
To put things in perspective, today’s
Gospel finds John the Baptist in King Herod’s prison, not long before John’s
death by decapitation. John has sent his disciples to Jesus, ostensibly on
a mission to determine whether or not Jesus was the expected Messiah, “the one
who is to come.” Now, common sense tells us that John already knew
exactly who Jesus was. John is the one who had been baptizing in the
Jordan River, who told the crowds that he was there to “make straight the
way of the Lord,” quoting the messianic prophet Isaias..
It was this same John, who on seeing Jesus approach, identified Him as “the
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world”—meaning that Jesus
would be offered as a sacrificial lamb, a victim for our sins:
“The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”
This is the same John who saw the heavens open, the Dove descend, and the
Voice say, “this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
John, whom we can recognize as being the
last prophet of the Old Testament, knew precisely who Jesus was. John was
he of whom it is written, “Behold I send My angel before Thy face, who shall
prepare Thy way before Thee.” To the very end of his life, John prepared
the way of the Lord. In this case he sent two of his own people, making
them think that they were on a mission to discover Jesus’ identity, so that by
encountering and investigating Jesus for themselves, they would be far more
secure in their belief in Him, than they would have been if they knew Jesus only
through the words of John. People tend to retain belief far more in what
they have discovered for themselves, than in what they have been told by others.
During the Advent season, as again we
will be in Lent, we are exposed to New Testament readings which quote the
messianic prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus Himself, and the writers of
the Epistles and Gospels, quoted these prophets in order to demonstrate to the
Jewish people that our Lord’s role on earth was that of the Messiah promised
and described in many of the books of their holy Scriptures.
The quote about God “sending His angel
before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee” was from the Book of
Malachi, a prophet who lived at the end of the Babylonian Exile, when the Jews
were beginning to reclaim Jerusalem and the Temple. God sent him as an
angel—a messenger—to warn the returning priests and levites that in the
Temple of God the sacrifices were to be offered exactly as prescribed in the
Law—and that only true doctrine was to proceed from their mouths to the ears
of God’s people.
God sent Malachi as an angel—a
messenger—to warn the returning people that they must give up the adultery
which had become so common among them in captivity, when they exchanged their
lawfully wedded Jewish wives to marry idolatrous foreign women. Through
Malachi, God spoke against divorce with vehemence not found elsewhere in the Old
Testament—a vehemence that would return only with the coming of Christ.
God will be “swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, the adulterers,
the perjurers; those who defraud the hired man of his wages, those who
defraud the widow and the orphan; those who turn away the stranger;
those who cease to fear” God Himself.
“Authentic worship, doctrine, and
morality,” God demands through His angel messenger Malachi.
But our Lord’s reference to John the
Baptist as the “Angel sent before His face,” is most significant for those
of us who are not the descendents of Abraham. Malachi would be the final
prophet before John the Baptist to speak of the part of the Gentiles—the
non-Jews—in God’s plan of salvation. In the letter we read today to
the Romans, Saint Paul quotes both David and Isaias prophesying the inclusion of
the Gentiles among God’s people.
Malachi goes a step further, revealing
that God might be displeased with the sacrifices of the Temple, and that
He would look away toward the Nations. “For from the rising of the
sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every
place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for
my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Malachi thus prophesied nothing less than the Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass—the “clean oblation” without the stench of burning flesh as at
Jerusalem—a Holy Sacrifice that would be offered everywhere from east to west;
not just at Jerusalem; not just for Jews, but for Gentiles as well.
Malachi thus prophesied nothing less
than the “Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world.”
Let me leave you with two thoughts for
this second week of Advent. The first thought is embodied in the beginning
of the Epistle as I read it to you this morning (those of you reading your
missals noticed that I read a few extra verses at the beginning):
“We then that are strong ought to bear the
infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of
us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ
pleased not himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of them that
reproached thee fell on Me.” That is to say, they fell upon
In Advent, we are waiting for the coming
of the Christ, the one who would take upon Himself the reproaches that are due
to us because of the way in which we sometimes reproach God—we are waiting for
the Redeemer who would take the sins of mankind upon Himself; thereby
pleasing the redeemed; thereby pleasing His Father; but doing
nothing which brought Him pleasure in the earthly sense, but much toil and
suffering. Saint Paul asks us to imitate Christ, doing good for out
neighbors; doing what we can to bring about their salvation; at the
expense of the worldly happiness that so many crave, even before the birth of
our Savior when everyone should be happy. As we have discussed before, the
joy of Advent should be found in penance, prayer, and good works.
The second thought for this second week
of Advent relates to the way Saint John sent his remaining disciples to
Jesus—urging them to find out about Jesus for themselves, so that their faith
might be strong. Those of you with young people at home might well do the
same. Give them the opportunity to learn more about Jesus Christ.
Bring them to Mass and religious instruction, of course—but go beyond that.
Read them the accounts of our Lord’s birth in the Scriptures, answer their
questions, pause to take note with them of the nativity scene in your living
room (or in the church, or over at the fire station), let them explore the
faith, and help them to understand the “reason for the season.”
Even if there are no children at home,
do these things for yourself, getting to know Jesus better for the strength of
your own faith; for the good of your own soul.
I send My angel before Thy face,
who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.”
each and every one of us has the opportunity
to be a messenger‑angel, like the Prophet Malachi of the Old Testament
or Saint John the Baptist in the New.
Do good for the
edification of your neighbor.
Help someone to
discover Jesus Christ—discover Him for yourself!