Thursday of the Third Week of Advent Father Shawn Aaron, LC
When the messengers of John the Baptist had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. "What did you go out to the desert to see — a reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom scripture says: 'Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God, but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.)
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I long to see your face. Though I cannot see you now with my eyes I believe in you with all my heart. I know that you are smiling at me and that you're waiting to lavish your graces on me, so I open my mind, heart and will to you now. Here I am, Lord, to do your will. Teach me: I'm ready and longing to be with you alone for these few precious moments.
Petition: Lord, grant me the gift of fortitude.
1. What Did You Go Out to the Desert to See? "Words admonish, examples move" (Slovak proverb, cited by Pope Saint John Paul II, Homily in Rožňava, Slovakia, September 13, 2003). John was a faithful witness. His fidelity culminates in the shedding of his blood to do God's will. His ultimate greatness is precisely because he followed God's plan generously even when everything was not clear. He trusted God because God is trustworthy. For this reason, every year at Advent the Church still "goes out to see John" as a tribute to his heroic witness to God's salvific plan. We look to him as an authentic hero of fortitude so that we can be inspired to imitate this virtue in our daily lives.
2. A Reed Swayed by the Wind? Quite the opposite! The people flocked to the desert to find a prophet, a rock solid witness of truth, a beacon of hope and a man of God, just as today they still flock to see the Pope for the same reasons. These are men whose strength of character has been forged in the fire of fidelity. "The real strength of a man lies in the fidelity of his witness to the truth and in his resisting flattery, threats, misunderstandings, blackmail, even harsh and relentless persecution. This is the path on which our Redeemer calls us to follow him. Only if you are ready to do this, will you become what Jesus expects of you, that is, 'the salt of the earth' and 'the light of the world' (Matthew 5:13-14)" (Pope Saint John Paul II, Palm Sunday Homily, March 24, 2002). In what aspects of my life am I tempted to "give in" instead of holding on tenaciously to what I know Our Lord is asking of me?
3. The Least in the Kingdom of God is Greater than He Behold the dignity of the baptized soul. The dignity of the human person is derived from our being created in God's image (imago Dei) with an immortal soul endowed with reason, free-will and a conscience. Thanks to Christ's redemption, baptism elevates us from the already lofty position as imago Dei to the unthinkable grace of being a child of God. Even before we have ever accomplished the smallest morally good act, our dignity as children of God already far surpasses all of John's greatest virtues combined. Once we conceive the value of our lives from this perspective, would we ever jeopardize this dignity with anything that could separate us from God? Do I grasp that love and gratitude for this precious gift of new life in Christ can be a strong motivation for carefully protecting my faith and seeking to make it grow? I am convinced that my faith will grow by my spreading it to others?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, it has pleased you to call me to the Catholic faith. It has pleased you to give me the grace I need to be a hero and a saint. Give me also the courage to cooperate with your grace when my human nature would rather take a different path than that marked out by your will. Mother Most Pure, make my heart only for Jesus.
Resolution: Today I will make one sacrifice at each meal for those who need the grace to come back to Jesus.