Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Blessing of the Advent Wreath
”Let a man so
account us as servants of Christ,
and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Those of you who were able to attend
Mass yesterday no doubt noticed that there was an unusually large number of
readings; seven in all. This happens 4 times a year, at each of the Saturday
Ember days. In Catholic cathedrals all around the world, these Saturdays are
the days on which men are ordained to the priesthood and to the lesser orders
that lead up to it. One order is conferred before each of the readings; porter,
lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, and finally the priesthood.
This Mass of the 4th Sunday of Advent is
then very often the first Mass offered by a newly ordained priest, or the first
time a man ordained to one of the lower orders has the opportunity to exercise
that order at holy Mass. The Gospel today is the same as that recited
yesterday, and it seems that the Church has structured the rest of today's Mass
to remind us and the newly ordained of the nature of their priesthood. In fact,
we can say that it is to remind us that we all play a role in the functioning of
our Lord's Church on earth.
You will notice that the Gospel recounts
the names of those who ruled at the time; the Romans who ruled the known world,
the Jews who ruled the land where our Lord was born, and the high priests who
ruled from the Temple where sacrifice was offered to the one true God.
Saint Luke is following the custom of writers of the ancient world when they
wanted to mark a very important event. Written record keeping was often
non-existent, but it was possible to identify the approximate time something
took place by mentioning the important people of the period. Everyone knew who
the king or the emperor was, and most adults had an idea of who the rulers were
before them, at least for a few generations going back.
Here we see Saint Luke documenting the
beginning of the public life of Christ in much the same way as he documented His
birth in the previous chapter.
And, Luke is doing this—mentioning the important Pagans and Jews, laymen and
clergy—to emphasize that our Lord truly became one of us and entered into human
history; that His life was lived in a real place at a real time.
Our Lord was quite unlike any of the
pagan gods, who existed only in the minds of those who worshipped them. And He
and His priesthood were different from the pagan priests who appointed
themselves to worship their imaginary gods. They were different, even from the
Jewish priests, who had only imperfect sacrifices to offer to God. Our Lord
was, at the same time, both God and man; His priesthood is likewise of divine
origin; and the sacrifice offered by His priests is perfect because by His
institution they offer He Himself to the Father.
It should go without saying that this
extends to the laity as well. By virtue of His Incarnation, Christ took human
nature and became one of us. By virtue of our Baptisms, all of us have become
part of Christ's Mystical Body. And again, this is a real relationship; not
just something imagined in pagan literature or custom.
For all of us, our Faith should be
something that is real. It is not enough simply to call ourselves Christians;
it is not enough to regard our Lord as some abstract deity who has no practical
effect on our lives. It is not enough to profess the Faith to say “I believe
in God the Father almighty….” and then to go off and act like those who don't
Together with Saint Paul and any of
those priests and deacons who might have been ordained yesterday, we need to
recognize that we are “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God”—trustworthy
stewards, guarding a real treasure in the Faith.
Through John the Baptist and the Prophet
Isaias, God was addressing us. He was not speaking of any imaginary pagan god,
but rather of His own Son when He told us to “Make ready the way of the Lord, to
Make straight His paths … that all mankind shall see the salvation of God.”
In all actuality, God sent His only
begotten Son into the world for our salvation. In return He makes some demands
on us. We are to prepare the way of the Lord, both in ourselves and in those
around us. We must know Him and know His ways through study and prayer and
meditation. We must do all that we can to unite our will with His will; through
penance and sorrow for our failings and frequent reception of the Sacraments.
Just as He really became a part of mankind in the Annunciation, and on Christmas
day, Christ must become a real part of our life.
And to the degree that Christ is a
reality to us, we will make straight His path in the world. It is impossible to
bring others to Christ if Christ is nothing but a fiction in our own lives; the
people around us will be no more drawn to a fictional Christ than they would be
to Zeus or Venus. But if Christ is a reality in our own lives, the people
around us will be drawn by the reality of the true God acting through mankind.
Pray especially for good and holy
priests. Perhaps nothing “makes crooked the way of the
Lord” more than indifferent priests who think of Jesus Christ as nothing more
than an inspiring legend, or bad priests who deny him through their actions.
Pray that on future ordination ember days the cathedrals of Christendom will be
filled with men in whose hearts Christ dwells as a reality.
the way of the Lord in your hearts,
so that all mankind can see the salvation of God.”