Saint John the Baptist - Titian, 1540 A.D.
Saint Paul tells us in this morning’s epistle that the
redemptive work of our Lord was not for the Jews only, but benefited also the
Gentiles—the non-Jews who received the word of God.
While God’s covenant with Abraham specified that Abraham’s numerous
descendants would be God’s chosen people, the Old Testament writers
occasionally wrote about the inclusion of the Gentiles as well. Today
Saint Paul quotes from the Psalms and from Isaias but there are other such
passages in the Old Testament as well.
My favorite would be the Prophet Malachias, who also predicted the change in
worship that would accompany the incorporation of the Gentiles: “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.”
The redemption of the Gentiles was as much a part of
God’s plan as was the redemption of the Jews—a fact which ought to be a
great consolation to us—that God loves us in spite of our sinful natures and
our many failings. Saint Paul urges us to take heart in this love of
God, “that through the patience and the consolation afforded by the
Scriptures we may have hope.”
Particularly in these weeks before Christmas it is
appropriate that we read from Prophet Isaias, who told the Jews so much about
the Savior who was to come. If you have not read Isaias before, expect
to be pleasantly surprised by the number of passages which point to the coming
Savior. And also try to read the first few chapters in the Gospels
according to Matthew and Luke.
This morning’s Gospel introduces us to Saint John the
Baptist. Just think of the great honor accorded Saint John—to have God
Himself praise him, and then to have that praise recorded in Sacred Scripture!
In some measure, we can share that praise if we make ourselves like John the
Baptist, emulating his humility and detachment from worldly things: “What
did you go out to see? Those who wear soft garments are in the houses of
Our Lord praised John for his detachment from worldly things—something that
ought to be a part of our Advent observance. Our Lord also praised John
for preparing His way as He began His public ministry. Saint John did
that through his preaching and his baptism for repentance along the shore of
the Jordan River—we can also prepare the way of the Lord by showing the good
example of our Christianity to those around us in our daily lives. Good
example may very well be the most powerful form of preaching there is.
You might also give some thought to the possibility of
bringing someone who has fallen away from the Faith to Mass on Christmas or
during the Christmas season. Christmas and Easter are sometimes
occasions when you can corral a friend or a visiting relative to come along
with you. (Palm Sunday works well too—people seem to like the idea of
The Gospel also points out that Jesus is, indeed, the one
from whom we are waiting during this Advent vigil. In a sense, we see
our Lord “presenting His credentials.” John’s disciples ask: “Are
you the one who is to come, or should be we look for another?” And our
Lord answers by pointing to the miracles that permeate His ministry: “The
blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead
rise again, [and even] the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Our Lord came with power to bring about the redemption of mankind—and the
Good News of that redemption is accompanied by a display of that power.
We are already at the second Sunday of Advent—Christmas
will soon be here—so we need, rather quickly, to get about this business of
emulating Saint John the Baptist. Our Lord loves us in spite of our
sinful nature and often errant behavior—we can and should read about the
love in the pages of Holy Scripture. We should take great consolation
from the fact that our Lord came with the power of Almighty God to arrange for
our salvation and to offer the same gift to all who are willing to receive it.
Remember that He wants us to pay more attention to the spiritual life, and
less to the ways of the world. Remember that He wants us to prepare His
way into the hearts of men and women through our good example of a holy life.