Make Way For The Lord And His Immaculate Mother

Make Way For The Lord And His Immaculate Mother

3rd Sunday of Advent – Gaudete

On this day holy Mother Church invites us to rejoice. The motive for our joy? Very simple: the Lord is near, Dominus prope est. Let’s not pass over this thought too quickly. In chapter four of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses proclaims to the people: For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? (Deu 4:7). In Psalm 147 we sing: The Lord hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them. So already in the Old Covenant, we see the special closeness of God to His people, a closeness that is not given to all. Indeed, whereas the gods of the Gentile nations, who were really demons, remained aloof from those who invoked them, lording it over them with power and oppression, the God of Israel made Himself close to His people. He led them out of Egypt with a mighty arm and through the desert with the pillar of fire, providing for their needs and carrying them, as it were, in His arms. Such closeness, however, was but a prefiguration of that even greater closeness that has been given to us ever since the Sone of God took our flesh and walked our earth. And this is the great event that we now are invited to anticipate with joy.

To help us in this, St John the Baptist is once again on the scene in today’s Gospel, and he gives us two words. When the delegation from the chief priests presses him to declare who he really is, the Baptist proclaims that he is Vox Clamantis in Deserto, the Voice of one crying out in the desert. But what is this voice to cry? Dirigite viam Domini – Make straight the way for the Lord.

This “make straight”, which we could expound upon by adding such expressions as “clear out the way”, “remove the obstacles”, “straighten the curves”, gives us one of the more fundamental points of preparation for Christmas: we need to get rid of many things that clutter up our souls and put order in our lives.

The first things that need to go are our sins and sinful attitudes. The lifestyle of the Baptist, by its sheer austerity, points our attention to worldly vices such as luxury, sensuality, greediness, self-centredness. We all have much to examine ourselves on in this regard and, as we approach Christmas, no doubt have any number of points to bring to a good confession, keeping in mind that when we confess, it’s not about general attitudes only, but about specific actions and desires. How and in what am I greedy, sensual, lustful, luxurious, etc?

But there also many other things that, without necessarily being sinful, tend to clutter up our lives and take away from our time with the Lord. At the top of the list, there is no doubt for most of us the vice of curiosity which, in this day and age, leads us to spend too much time on our electronic devices. Even when these devices are not used for anything downright immoral, so much time is wasted on them. This vice of curiosity is, according to St Thomas, one of the principle causes of a lack of studiousness, which is the virtue by which we apply ourselves to learning those things that we need to know according to our state in life. The Lord will demand an account of the time wasted in futilities. An excellent act of penance, as we make way for the Infant God who comes to us in great poverty and simplicity, would be to call for an electronic fast, severely limiting the hours spent online, in order to devote more time to spiritual reading. Let us relearn the art of reading from books and of writing letters by hand, wholesome activities that develop natural talents and make us useful for the spread of God’s kingdom on earth.

That brings us to the other word of St John the Baptist on this day: The latchet of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose. Mindful that Our Lord Himself told us that among the men born of a woman, there is no greater than John the Baptist, his expression of humility on this day cannot fail to move us. The greatest of the sons of men deems himself unworthy to loose the sandal on the foot of the Son of God. And how about us? How worthy do we feel to be here? And not only to be here, but to be called to receive the Lord in our hearts, which is a privilege by far greater than that of loosing His sandal? The Baptist died before ever receiving Holy Communion. In the Roman Rite of Mass, as he shows the consecrated Host to the people before Communion, the priest borrows St John the Baptist’s words, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. So, when we hear those words, let’s recall those other words about the sandal, and approach Our Blessed Lord with the greatest humility and devotion, eminently signified by the traditional manner of receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue.

On this subject, Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently said words to the effect that the biggest problem in the Church today is Communion in the hand. Who could possibly disagree? When you spend time meditating on the attitude of St John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, or that of Our Lady kneeling humbly to receive the announcement of the Incarnation from the mouth of the angel, or when we consider that the Blessed Sacrament is truly the most sacred possession of the Church containing the Lord of glory Himself, not to mention the real and frequent profanation of the Sacred Species falling to the ground from the unpurified hands of the faithful – albeit unintentionally –,  the conclusion seems to impose itself. Nor does it have anything to do with holiness. The priest is not necessarily more holy than the faithful, but he has been set apart and consecrated to consecrate and administer the Sacred Species, and the careful rubrics of the traditional liturgy help him safeguard what is most holy in our faith.

We began this homily by pointing out that the Lord is near, that He has deigned to come very close to His people. And now we can see how far His love for us goes. If  the people is blessed whose God approaches it with word and wonder, what must we say of ourselves who are privileged to have the Lord of glory in person on our altars, and to receive Him every day if we so wish and are well-disposed? Such closeness, far from opening the door to unbecoming familiarity with the Lord, should on the contrary, only inspire sacred veneration and respect.

Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and in the proper Mass for the feast we will run across that verse from Psalm 147 quoted earlier: He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and His judgments he hath not made manifest to them. Indeed, not all have the privilege of knowing God’s secrets, of receiving the personal visit of His Immaculate Mother. We, who have the grace to believe the witness of those who have seen her, have every right to be grateful, to delight in her maternal presence. If the Lord is near indeed, we know that His presence is also mediated through that of His Mother, and no one is closer to Jesus than the one who stands with Mary.

In conclusion, let us once again take to heart these consoling words that Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to St Juan Diego:

“Know and understand well that I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows…. Hear me and understand well, my little son, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within the fold of my mantle? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything”.

These consoling words of our Blessed Mother seem to echo these other words that we will sing as we go to Holy Communion today, and which are given to each of us to renew our courage:

Say to the fainthearted: take courage and fear not: behold our God will come and save us. Amen.