Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudéte Sunday)—11 December A.D. 2016

The Mass in Latin and English
Third Sunday of Advent
Dominica Tertia Adventus

Ember Days in Advent

“I am not the Christ … I am not Elias … I am not the Prophet …
I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
make straight the way of the Lord.”[1]

    Today is Gaudéte Sunday, from the opening words of the Introit, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”[2]  “Gaudéte—Rejoice.”   But, why are we being told to rejoice in the midst of the penitential season of Advent?  Well, for one thing, we have completed half of our penance—Advent is two weeks old, and we will go another two weeks until Christmas.  Yet, knowing human nature, the Church knows that not all of us have kept these past weeks in true penance, so It tells us to take the day off, and then get back in the penitential mode until the end.  Indeed, It imposes more on us, with the three Ember Days, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this coming week, and with the Christmas Vigil fast and abstinence to be observed anytime during the following week

    So, let us get back to preparing for the coming of our Lord, a very short two weeks from today.  But let us remember that fasting and abstinence are not ends in themselves—they must be done with humility, and indeed, ought to be used as a means toward deepening our humility—they must be signs that we have humbled ourselves to do the will of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Centuries ago, Pope Saint Gregory the Great gave a sermon in Saint Peter’s Basilica on this morning’s Gospel.  In it, he praised Saint John the Baptist for his humility.  The Jews all expected the Prophet Elias to come back to this earthly life to usher in the reign of the Messias.  Elias, you will recall, was taken up alive into Heaven by a whirlwind, and not seen again.[3]

    John lived such a holy and ascetic life in the desert, that may who encountered him thought that he might be the returning Prophet.  Pope Gregory went through the various references in the Gospels, pointing out that even our Lord made the connection between John the Baptist and Elias.  Had we read a few more verses last week we would have heard him say so in the Gospel.[4]  And after Elias appeared with Moses at His Transfiguration, our Lord referred to John the Baptist (already dead[5]) as Elias who had returned.[6]  Certainly, Jesus Himself cannot be mistaken.

    We find the explanation in words of the Angel, telling Zachary that He will soon become the father of Saint John, in the very beginning of Saint Luke’s Gospel:

    He shall be great before the Lord … and be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother' s womb.  And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he shall go before Him [the Christ] in the spirit and power of Elias.[7]

    John, going before Christ “in the spirit and power of the Lord” is not the same as being Elias—it is being like Elias.

    So, John was not the Christ, not Elias, and not the Prophet (Isaias)—he was a simple, honest, and humble man who had been sent by God to perform the functions of the latter two (Elias and Isaias).

    Pope Gregory seizes on the fact that John certainly had to know the importance of the function he was performing.  He points out that John’s virtue of humility kept him from feeling self-important by virtue of this knowledge.  No matter what we do and no matter how well we do it, we must always avoid the temptation to think that we are more important than those around us.  Pope Gregory states it elegantly:

    But any works, although they be good, are as nothing unless seasoned with humility. A great deed done boastfully, lowers rather than uplifts a man. He who would gather virtue without humility, carries dust in the wind; and where he seems to possess something, from the same is he blinded and made worse.[8]

    In my sermon on the feast of the Immaculate Conception I said:

    It is said that Mary’s humility drew her Son down to Earth to receive His human form from her—such humility would also be necessary to conquer the devil who was filled with pride “Non serviam—I will not serve,” and tempted human beings by appealing to their false pride, “you shall be as Gods.”[9]

    That is what we want to be doing for the next two weeks—drawing down her Divine Son to Earth with our humility, ever imitating the humility of Saint John the Baptist, and the Immaculate Mother of God.

    Only with their humility will we be able to say with Saint John:


“I am not the Christ … I am not Elias … I am not the Prophet. 
I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
make straight the way of the Lord.”



[2]   Introit: Philippians iv: 3-7

[8]   Pope Saint Gregory the Great  homily VII on the Gospels in Fr. M.F.Toal, D.D., Sunday Sermons of theGreat Fathers, page 66-70

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