Skip to main content
Let's live and transmit the Gospel!Sin categorizar

Making straight the way of the Lord

By 16 December, 2017January 3rd, 2023No Comments
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By F. Luis Casasus, General Superior of Idente missionaries
Commentary on the Sunday Gospel of 17-12-2017, Third Sunday of Advent (Isaiah 61:1-2a.10-11; Luke 1:46-48.49-50.53-54; 1Thes 5:16-24; John 1:6-8.19-28).

1. A problem of identity. A man went on a retreat and when he checked in, the receptionist asked him how he hoped to benefit from the retreat. I want to know who is God, and who I am. When the retreat was over, the receptionist was bidding him farewell and asked: Did you find the answer to your two questions? Oh yes, he replied, I now understand that Jesus is God and I am not!
When the Jews asked John the Baptist: Who are you? he replied by telling them who he was not: I am not the Christ. Knowing who you are not helps us to know who you are. This is not just an effort we make, but rather an important part of the work of the Holy Spirit who purifies us and bring us a new vision: I am not my suffering, I am not my past, I am not my mind or my thoughts or my emotions…not even my good deeds, because I understand more and more clearly that if anything good I can do for my neighbor, it is as a poor instrument of our Lord.
A very useful way to remember every day who you are is immediately on awakening to say just one word: Father. That will most certainly make us realize just how loving and all powerful is God and just how dependent we are on Him, and also our true relationship with others. This is the best way of beginning every day.
John the Baptist knew he was not the Christ, nor Elijah nor one of the prophets. In the view of others he may have been extraordinary, but in his own estimation he was simply a voice and a very humble one. a voice crying in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord. 2. What is it to be ready for the coming of Christ?
On the one hand, it is to be at peace with God, reconciled to Him, saved. In a sense, death is a coming of Christ to individuals, for it ushers us into the presence of God. What is it to be prepared for death? No one is prepared, who has not accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, finding forgiveness of sins and new life and love in Him. Nothing could be more painful than the coming of death to one who has not repented of his/her sins, and who is thus unprepared to meet his God. There is a story of man who had wasted his life and who at last, near the
end, found peace in believing. A friend said to him: Are you afraid to die? He answered: No, I am not afraid to die; but I am ashamed to die.
On the other hand, the promise is not that He will save His people from hell, but that He will save us from our sins, and we need that right now. Sin is a present reality, and for salvation to have any relevance to our immediate lives, it must address itself to that fact. We not only need to be delivered from the punishment of sin at the end of life; we also need a Savior who can deliver us from the power of sin in the midst of life.
We need to be saved from specific concrete sins that beset our lives today. We need to be saved from selfishness, from greed, from sins of omission, and we need to be saved from hate and bitterness and resentment. We need to be saved from our Dominant Defect. And this is the kind of salvation that Jesus came into the world to accomplish. You can see it on every page of the Gospels: Christ saving people, cleansing them from their sin, lifting them above their littleness, giving them hope, and making them different. John made it clear that preparation for the coming of the Messiah demanded conversion of heart and transformation. He exhorted his listeners: Give some evidence that you mean to reform (Lk 3:8). It is not enough to stop sinning. The real fruits of repentance must be apparent in the way one lived. Our ascetical life should be a consistent answer to the mystical life we receive unceasingly.
The First Letter to the Thessalonians makes us pay even more attention because it is a prayer that we will be blameless and perfectly holy for the coming of the Lord. For example, it is materially impossible to remember all my sins of omission; please, think about that. This can only be through our welcoming and acceptance of the divine intervention. We ourselves are not capable of this and yet it is the prayer of the Apostle Paul for our openness to the Holy Spirit.. But the grim reality is that the division within us affects our peace, state of mind and most of all, it impedes our intimate relationship with God. He is among us, but usually we do not recognize him.
3. John points to someone who is to come after him, one whom they do not recognize. Too often, however, we fail to recognize that God’s gifts are right there in front of us, often staring us in the face. They come in the guise of those who love us, who care for us, who have our best interests in mind: our family, our friends, the ‘prophetic’ voices who offer us critical advice and keep us on the straight and narrow, lest we lose our way. Too often, our ways of understanding things, conditioned and determined by our past experiences (good or otherwise), our upbringing, and often, even our very character, temperament, and disposition, prevent us from seeing and acknowledging the presence of these gifts.
* In many occasions, we have to live with or serve persons who are rather and difficult deal with, until one day, for some special reason (grace), we begin to see the these persons in a totally different light: not simply as difficult people we have to face, but human being who is in inner distress and has been sent to us that we might learn the virtues of patience, kindness, and gentleness.
* At other moments, we fail to recognize that these gifts are not always what we expect them to be. Sometimes, these gifts, blessings and graces come in the form of challenges,
hindrances, difficulties, tough experiences. One of my most embarrassing moments as low-ranking officer in the military service was when the Colonel of our Regiment arrived to the Headquarter where I was on guard duty. I made a very serious mistake in the protocol greeting and, although the Colonel was very discrete and compassionate, he publicly pointed out my mistake. I could not sleep for several nights, thinking of the embarrassment he put me through. What are the other officers and the soldiers going to think of me now? I kept thinking until I came to realize the value of humility in learning something for the first time. I realized that absent-mindedness, the lack of attention was (…is) one of my serious faults and limitations. It was a lesson I had to learn the hard way; but it was grace, a tough gift…something I did not so easily recognize.
* At other times still, it is the fact that our sight is constantly set, not on what we have, but on what we do not, or do not yet have, that causes blindness to these gifts and we are blind and ungrateful. If we want to give thanks to God in all things and live a life of hope, we must have a deep sense of gratitude. This was the case of Mary when she sang the Magnificat. A grateful heart receives everything with joy. When there is gratitude, everything that comes our way is received with joy as it is seen as something that is undeserving.
We are like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: we do not recognize the Lord who is with us. You and I can be blinded by all of the things that are unnecessary; all of the things that are sinful; all of the bad and good things that are not of God. They can obliterate – or at the very least – dull our vision of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our fellowmen, in our midst now.
4. Advent is a season of hope and joy. Particularly, the focus of this Sunday is on joy and especially the joy of Saint John the Baptist, who comes to proclaim another who is greater than he. We have to remember that hope is not just a “personal sign”, something secret and strictly for our use. Listen to the words of Pope Benedict XVI: Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too, As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well (Spe Salvi).
Moreover, we know that the keynote of Idente missionary life is the shared aspiration to holiness—i.e., the aspiration to live out and convey the Gospel so that all may know and love the Blessed Trinity. By living holy and blameless lives, we give them hope and confidence.
You are I are invited to be voices in the desert. We are invited to rejoice in the Lord today on this Gaudete Sunday. Because of Christ, we are people of Hope and hence our task is to give hope to people. Christ is our hope in a world that is hopeless over the future.
What is the source of our joy? We read a few days ago how the 70 disciples rejoiced upon their return from their mission. And Jesus said to them: Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. And Jesus praised God for using Him to restore the world back to order through the healing miracles and overcoming the work of the Evil One when He remarked: Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and
never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it. Through His works and words, Jesus revealed to us the love and mercy of His Father for us. He said: Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father. Our joy should be the same joy of Jesus: it consists in knowing our election, knowing that our names were written in heaven from before the foundation of the world. The joy of having your name written in heaven includes the joy of knowing that you are precious to our Heavenly Father.
We should not lose sight of the fact that having the ability to cast out demons is not even proof that one is saved. We would assume from the fact that Judas was one of the twelve, that he was successful in casting out demons, as were the others. The words of our Lord in Matthew’s gospel, make it quite clear that unbelievers were able to cast out demons: Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name; and in Your name have cast out devils; and in Your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity. Observe that this warning speaks not of a few, but of many.
In 1 Corinthians 4:2 we read: It is required of servants that they be found faithful. Note it does not say successful, but faithful I am so thankful that success in the Christian life is being faithful, whether we are experiencing visible success or not. So long as God is with us, we can be happy and joyful at all times because we know He will look after us. And even if we suffer, we suffer with joy because we suffer for the love of Him and for those whom He invites us to reach out to.
We can rejoice in our relationship with Jesus and that our place in Heaven is secure even when our circumstances are not great and we feel like failures. Only in Heaven will we see the fruit that was born when we feel like failures. Mary’s Magnificat, her song of praise when she visited Elizabeth, which we sang as our Psalm today, also reminds us that only God is our joy.
On the other hand, due to our instinct for happiness, it is so easy to rejoice in success. And then the danger, of course, is that it is not God who is being worshiped. Our own wonderful acceptance by God himself no longer moves us, but only our apparent success. And when we begin to idolize success we surreptitiously end up idolizing ourselves. Few false gods are so deceitful. It is desperately important to rejoice for the best reasons: our sins are forgiven, and that by God’s own gracious initiative our names have been written in heaven. This is something which we did not acquire through our own hard work or earn through merit. God did them for us. This is the real reason for rejoicing.
If John the Baptist could be the voice that carried the Word, it was because he too spent his life in the desert in prayer and fasting. The secret of true joy is always prayer and fasting. Just remember the equation: Prayer + Fasting = Continuous Prayer. _________________________________________