Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Second Sunday of Advent--December AD 2014

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Blessing of the Advent Wreath

Archbishop Humphreys' Advent 2014 Pastoral Letter

But what went you out to see? a prophet?
yea I tell you, and more than a prophet.:”[1]

    John the Baptist can be thought of as the final prophet of the Old Testament.  As our Lord tells us today, it was John to whom the prophet Malichias referred when He wrote:  “Behold I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face.”[2]  You may recall that it was Malachias who recorded God’s words about accepting a “clean oblation” from the Gentiles (the non-Jews)—a sacrifice that would be offered around the world “from the rising of the sun even to the going down” [3]—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that would be instituted after God’s chosen people rejected Him.

    An apocryphal book known as The Lives of the Prophets lists the twenty-three major prophets of the Old Testament, including six who were martyrs:  Isaias, Jeremias, Ezekiel, Micah, Amos, and Zecharias.[4]  These men were all martyred because they dared to speak God’s truth, even when those in power did not want to hear it.  John the Baptist would be the seventh of these prophets.

    In today’s Gospel John is said to have been in prison, having sent his disciples to meet Jesus and see His miracles for themselves.  Elsewhere in the Gospels we learn that John was in prison because he proclaimed God’s truth to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee:  “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.”[5]  Herod was living in adultery, as his brother, Philip, was very much alive.  We all know the story about the brother’s wife getting the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  John would be the seventh prophet martyred for “speaking truth to power.”

    Today, our Lord commended John, who was then still alive:  John was not “a reed shaken by the wind.”  A reed is a tall slender thing, and even a light breeze will move it back and forth.  To be “a reed shaken by the wind,” was to be a man who would go back and forth in his speech—a man who would tell his listeners what they wanted to hear—particularly if they had power or wealth.  It was like saying that what the person believed depended upon to whom he was speaking.  But John was a man of truth, no matter who might be listening.

    “But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments?”  There is nothing wrong with wearing nice clothing, but often—particularly if it is too nice—and particularly in Jesus’ time—“soft garments” might denote a man who did nothing for a living, but supported himself by being a hanger-on in the house of someone important.  Again, very likely, such a person maintained his position at court by telling the important one what he wanted to hear.  And, again, John was a man of the truth, no matter who might be listening.

    John was “more than a prophet.”  He not only foretold God’s truth, but he had a hand in making God’s truth come to pass.  It was John who prepared the coming of Jesus by preaching in the desert and baptizing in the Jordan, moving people to confess their sins.[6]  Jesus was the one spoken of by Isaias, but it was John who introduced Jesus to the people of Judea.  It was John, standing with Andrew and another disciple who identified Jesus as the “Lamb of God”[7]  And Andrew would then tell Peter, and they would tell Philip, and they would tell Nathaniel.[8]  In today’s Gospel we read that John has sent two more of his followers to join Jesus.  When John was martyred, “his disciples came and took the body, and buried it, and came and told Jesus.”[9]  At least five of the Apostles came to Jesus through the influence of John the Baptist;  it seems that others were numbered among Jesus’ disciples.  John’s contribution to the formation of the infant Church is second only to that of the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

So, John the Baptist’s contribution was twofold:  not only did he preach the truth, but he prepared many others to receive it.  Saint John is an important example for modern day Catholics.  For most of the Church’s existence, indeed since the time of the Greek philosophers, most of Western Civilization recognized the existence of objective truth.  Men like Aristotle and Aquinas went so far as to identify Unity, Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Being as “transcendental” aspects of the same thing (and identifying them with God).  In Catholic Civilization man’s wellbeing was tied up with knowing God’s truth, and in man truthfully knowing his own nature.  Man had rights to seek goodness and truth—rights that came from Nature and Nature’s God.

Loss of this objective truth in modern society has severely curtailed the rights of men and women to seek that goodness and beauty and truth.  The idea of a God-created-human-nature is hotly disputed in many quarters.  Modern man boasts of creating his own nature, as he (and not God) chooses to create it, through his supposedly “authentic” actions.  From conception to death, pleasure and convenience try to replace goodness, beauty, and truth.  The unborn child, the mentally handicapped, and the old and feeble are made to be “less than human” in the public mind.  Marriage is separated from the procreation and education of children, and replaced with perversion and infidelity.  Productivity belongs not to “the makers,” but to “the takers.”  The rule of law has been replaced by the rule of power, and influence, and thuggery.  The Bill of Rights and the Ten Commandments have suffered very similar damages.

The modern Church and modern State are in dire need of modern day John the Baptists.  As John the Baptist was the final prophet of the Old Testament, all of us must strive to become the prophets of the New Testament.  I don’t mean that we must foretell the future—it will suffice that we know God’s Truth, Goodness, Being, and Beauty—but we must not keep them to ourselves.  As practical Catholics we must always seek God’s truth, preach it through our good example, share it with those who are interested, correct those who are confused about it, and refuse to be swayed by those who deny it.

Like John the Baptist, we must try to be even “more than a prophet”!



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