Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Second Sunday of Advent—5 December A.D. 2010

“And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me.”[1]

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

    That seems to be such a strange phrase—why would anyone be scandalized by our Lord?  Scandal comes only when we see someone doing something that they should not be doing.  For example, if we were to the parish priest praying in a synagogue, or if we were to see our father romancing a woman other than our mother, or if the Governor were to appear in public, drunk.  What was our Lord doing that anyone might be scandalized—indeed, what could He ever do that would shock or shame us?  The Gospel today tells us that He made “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, and the poor to have the gospel preached to them.”[2]  How could anyone take scandal at seeing such miraculous good works being performed?

    What our Lord was suggesting was that there would be people who were expecting a different kind of Messias, and who would take scandal at our Lord's humility, His practice of poverty, and His lack of haughty behavior.  There were some who expected the Messias to come as a sort of warrior-king, who would crush all the enemies of Israel, making them pay tribute and reparations for any of the harm they had done to God's chosen people.  The were looking for a well armored man, on a horse or a chariot, with a sword in his hand, and surrounded by a cohort of armed troops.  To people with such expectations, the Son of a carpenter—wearing plain sandals and a simple robe, and associating with sinners and the poor—must have seemed like a betrayal of the noblest aspirations of Israel.  It would have seemed even more so if they knew in advance the manner of His death—the idea that a King of Israel would be willingly put to death on a cross as a common criminal would be the ultimate scandal.

    On some level, the people may have been misled somewhat by the poetry of King David, the Psalms.  David was, himself, a warrior-king, and some of Psalms seem to reflect his own aspirations.

    The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool.  The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: rule thou in the midst of thy enemies....  The Lord at thy right hand hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.  He shall judge among nations, he shall fill ruins: he shall crush the heads in the land of the many.  He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.[3]

    But, the Christ, who would indeed sit on the throne of David and Solomon, would do so in a more figurative way.  His rule would be in the hearts and minds of men, exercising justice and good will over men and nations.  Rather than “crushing heads,” He would reign by the grace that penetrates the human soul, making men and women the adopted sons and daughters of His Father.  As we heard a few weeks ago on the Feast of Christ the King, His kingdom would be “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”[4]  If the Messias was to come and crush heads, it would be the head of the Devil, as God promised in the Garden of Eden:  “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”[5]  (And, at least in this translation, it does seem to be the Mother of the Messias who is to be the head-crusher!)

    But, blessed were those who were not scandalized.  Certainly, the expectation of a military Messias was a a prominent part of Jewish culture—even seemingly reflected in the Sacred Scriptures.  It would be hard to fault those who held on to this nationalistic hope.  Yet, praise is due to those who were able to see beyond the kingdom of Israel to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Praise is due to the disciples of John the Baptist, who left John to follow Jesus—praise is due to the simple men and women who followed Jesus in His earthly ministry, who stood at the foot of His Cross, and who took over the ministry after His Ascension into Heaven.  Praise is due to all who imitated His humility and His practice of poverty.  Praise is due to all who laid down their lives in witness to His truth.

    It would, of course, be entirely wrong to suppose that our Lord was referring only to those in His own time.  “Blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me” refers to the blessed of all ages who would imitate Christ in His humility.  Many years ago, when I began to study for the priesthood, it was recommended to me to read Thomas à Kempis' little book, The Imitation of Christ.  (I gave copies to all of our parishioners a Christmas or two ago.)  I read it rather rapidly, and I must admit that it did not have much effect on me—but, then, I was told to read it more slowly, perhaps a chapter a night—and to take it as a personal admonition, and not merely some writer's theological speculation.  To be a Christian, one must imitate Christ, and to imitate Christ, one must imitate, especially, His humility.

    Make no mistake:  Jesus Christ is God, the Son of God,  “but [He] emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men....  He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.  For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names....”[6]

    If we are to be exalted with Christ, we must first be humble with Him.  And, I would suggest to you that this humility and exaltation is the vocation of every Catholic person.  If we are to be the adopted sons and daughters of God, we must strive to be like Him—particularly in His humility.  And if we are successful, we will be exalted with Him in Heaven.  If we are unsuccessful, or do not even try, quite the opposite fate may await us—for those who are filled with pride can be exalted only by the Devil.

    And, what is humility?  Well, the best way to understand humility would be for you to read The Imitation of Christ, perhaps a chapter a night—and to take it as a personal admonition, and not merely some writer's theological speculation.

    But for the moment, let me suggest that humility is a twofold form of honesty—first, a form of honesty in which you never falsely make yourself out to be something either more or less than you actually are.  If you have great talents, don't be afraid to use them for good purposes—or, if you have no talent in a particular area, don't make believe that you have it.

    And, secondly, humility is a form of honesty that always gives credit where credit is due.  No matter what our human achievements might be, they are virtually always derived from what we have acquired from others—we would not exist without our parents, and no matter how hard we might practice, we would not have any talents if we had no others before us from whom to learn.  Indeed, the debt goes back through many generations, each learning a little from the previous generation:

“Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.”[7]

Ultimately, of course, “every good gift that we have comes down from the Father of Lights”—that is to say that we would not exist without God, and would have no talents at all without His creation—that is to say that the humble person acknowledges God in every good thing he does.[8]

    Blessed are those who are not scandalized in the humility of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And blessed are those who in humbling themselves with Him in this world, are exalted with Him in the world to come.


[1]  Gospel:  Matthew xi: 1-11 (verse 6 cited)

[2]  Cf. Ibid. verse 5.

[3]  Psalm cix: 1, 2, 5-7.

[6]  Phillipians ii: 6-9






Dei via est íntegra
Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
Authentic  Catholic Mass, Doctrine, and Moral Teaching -- Don't do without them -- 
Don't accept one without the others!