Fourth Sunday of Advent
20 December 2020
“Sound the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh: Behold he will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.” (1st Antiphon for Vespers & Lauds)
Today, Christmas is upon us, and because of the immensity of the birth of the Saviour, the Church would have us look to St. John the Baptist preaching repentance for sins as the most important preparation for the coming of Jesus. The theme of repentance is also related to the coming of Jesus for the first time on Christmas Day as we are admonished to be ready with pure hearts for Him. This is why the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.” Lk. 2:14 We need to have our souls cleansed of any sins or evil desires. God will only give peace to men who have good hearts. This is why St. John the Baptist’s message in today’s gospel is so vital: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths. Every valley shall be levelled; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough roads shall be made smooth. And all flesh shall behold God’s salvation.” Lk. 3:4-6 & Is. 40:3-5 St. Paul says the same thing in the Epistle, First Corinthians (4:1-5): “Hence, judge nothing before the time fixed—until the Lord comes, who will bring light to hidden things of darkness, and manifest the designs of hearts.” I Cor. 4:5 When the Lord comes, he will reveal the hidden things of the human heart and uncover the darkness of sin because Jesus is the Light of the World.
“Prepare the way of the Lord....” Lk. 3:4
Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life Vol. 1, tells us how our preparation for Christmas can be enhanced by St. John the Baptist’s message: “Today, she (the Church) makes a last effort to stir up the devotion of her children. She leads them to the desert; she shows them John the Baptist, upon whose mission she instructed them on the third Sunday. The voice of the austere Precursor resounds through the wilderness and penetrates even into the cities. It preaches penance, and the obligation men are under of preparing by self-purification for the coming of Christ. Let us retire from the world during these next few days; or if that may not be by reason of our external duties, let us retire into the quiet of our own hearts and confess our iniquities, as did those true Israelites, who came, full of compunction and of faith in the Messias, to the Baptist, there to make perfect their preparation for worthily receiving the Redeemer on the day of His appearance to the world.” Gueranger, p. 233-4
“A voice of one crying in the wilderness....” Lk.3:4 (Is 40:3)
In today’s Gospel (Lk. 3:1-6), St. Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah who spoke of the coming of a precursor, whom we now recognize as St. John the Baptist. This holy Isaiah, also a precursor, but of the Old Testament, called all the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem to: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths. Every valley shall be levelled; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough roads shall be made smooth. And all flesh shall behold God’s salvation.” Lk. 3:4-6 The Jews were familiar with this metaphor of the servants going before the wealthy by making sure that the roads were smooth for their masters. Valleys would be filled, and mounds would be levelled. Isaiah spoke of St. John the Baptist who would have to prepare the hearts of men for the Messiah. He did this by preaching a baptism for the remission of sins. His baptism would not forgive sins, but it would prepare them for the Baptism of Jesus by making their hearts ready for His message. St. Bede tells us why St. John’s baptism was important for the coming of Jesus Christ: “If we seek to know why John was baptizing when his baptism was nevertheless unable to take away sins, the reason is clear; to be faithful to his ministry as forerunner it was necessary for him to baptise before the Lord did, just as he was born before he was, preached before he did and died before him. At the same time, it was to prevent the jealous wrangling of the Pharisees and scribes from seizing upon the Lord’s ministry supposing he had been the first to administer baptism. ‘Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or human origin?’ As they would not dare to deny that it came from heaven, they were obliged to acknowledge that the word of Him whom John preached was also accomplished by means of a power coming from heaven. However, if John’s baptism did not take away sins that does not mean to say that it bore no fruit for those who received it... It was a sign of faith and repentance, that is to say, it called to mind that all must abstain from sin, practice almsgiving, believe in Christ, and make haste to be washed for the remission of their sins.”
Repentance for sin
Msgr. Patrick Boylan comments on the need for repentance in today’s Gospel. He likens the preparation of the desert roads for the King to the preparation of our souls for Christ’s coming at Christmas: “He is to pass as the desert of our passions, evil tendencies, religious indifference, and sinful habits. To us the Voice cries out, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” Lk. 3:4 In the preparation we are asked (a) to make straight the crooked paths; (b) to fill up the valleys; (c) to level the hills; (d) and to make the rough ways smooth. (a) The crooked ways are our habits of falsehood, detraction, dishonesty, and idle speech. The paths of injustice and deceit are not paths on which our King will approach they are twisted, devious, and perverse. They must be straightened out by a good confession. (b) The valleys of our slothfulness and indifference must be filled in with zeal for the duties of our state, frequent and fervent reception of the Sacraments, constant effort to realize, and to live up to, the Catholic ideal in our public as well as our private lives. (c) In our soul’s life there are mountains of pride and vanity, self-complacency, worldly ambition. Over these the King’s highway cannot pass. They must be brought low by penance, humility, graciousness and gentleness. He that comes is mild and gentle, and to His own He comes. (d) The rough ways of our unkindness, our uncharitableness, our carelessness of our needy brethren, our jealousy, our envy, our hatreds, must be made smooth.” (The Sunday Epistles and Gospels, Vol. I & II, p. 39-40) Let us prepare for Jesus’ coming at Christmas by purifying our hearts of all uncleanness.
“Oh, the joy of thy coming, dear Jesus!”
Dom Gueranger reminds us of the great joy of Jesus’ coming once we purify our hearts. “....Oh, the joy of thy coming, dear Jesus! How great it must needs be, when the prophecy says it shall be like an everlasting crown upon our heads (cf. Isaiah 35). And could it be otherwise? The very desert is to flourish as a lily, and living waters are to gush forth out of the parched land, because God is coming. Come, O Jesus, come quickly, and give us of that water, which flows from Thy sacred Heart, and which the Samaritan woman, the type of us sinners, asked of Thee with such earnest entreaty. This water is Thy grace; let it rain upon our parched souls, and they too will flourish; let it quench our thirst and we will run in the way of Thy precepts and examples. Thou, O Jesus, are our way, our path, to God; and Thou are Thyself God; Thou art, therefore, both our way and the term to which our way leads us. We had lost our way; we had gone astray as lost sheep; how great Thy love to come in search of us. To teach us the way to heaven, Thou hast deigned to come down from heaven, and then tread with us the road which leads to it....There is but one thing which makes us sad; our preparation is not completed. We have some ties still to break; help us to do it, O Saviour of mankind. We desire to obey the voice of Thy Precursor, and make plain those rugged paths, which would prevent Thy coming into our hearts, O divine Infant! Give us to be baptized in the Baptism of the waters of penance; Thou wilt soon follow, baptizing us in the Holy Ghost and love.” Gueranger, p. 235-6
Christmas Novena of Masses from Christmas Day 25th December 2020 to 2 January 2021 This Novena of Masses will be for all of the benefactors, friends and relatives of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of St. Mary’s Church in Gosport and St. Columba’s Church in Bridge Mary. Thank you for all of your kind donations of alms and providence for us here in St. Mary’s and St. Columba’s