Church of Jesus Christ of the Universe
17 November 2022
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Is 7, 10-14; Ps 23; Rom 1, 1-7; Mt 1, 18-24
With the readings of the fourth Sunday of Advent, we enter the last week before Christmas. The readings of the last few days, repeatedly spoke of John the Baptist. Today’s readings speak of St. Joseph and St. Paul, showing the attitudes of these figures.
Jesus defines John the Baptist with these words: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” John the Baptist recognised Jesus already when he was in his mother’s womb: when Elizabeth met Holy Mary, she felt that he leaped. With that leap in her womb, John the Baptist became a prophet since he led Elizabeth to say: “Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1,43). John the Baptist announced the presence of Jesus to his mother. Then, the Gospel says: “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit“ (Lk 1,41). We may see the greatness of a soul, who has already given his response to God, his “yes”, in the maternal womb. At that moment, the action of the Holy Spirit, who became the central actor, began. Among Holy Mary, Jesus, Elizabeth and John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit was the central actor. Mary said the “Magnificat” and Elizabeth the words I have just said. This is the concrete proof of Jesus’ words: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them“ (Mt 18,20). This also happens now. When two or three are in the same spirit, in their response to God, the Holy Spirit must intervene; He becomes the central actor and touches every man and every woman.
In a passage of this week’s readings, John sent his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you the One who is to come?” (Lk 7,19). Let us not doubt that perhaps John did not know it; in fact, he knew it since he was in his mother’s womb. Even then, he knew the will of God, and thus sent his disciples, for they had to recognise Jesus, the Son of God. He understood that the best way was to send them to Him, because he, John, had to withdraw and Jesus had to grow. Thus, he said, “Go and ask Him.” It is wonderful to see that there was already communion between John and Jesus, who replied, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard…” (Lk 7,22). Yet, they did not return the way they were before, as they had understood who Jesus was. This happened because even with a prophet like John, on a human level, there was a risk that they would become attached to him rather than to his announcement of the coming of the Son of God.
In today’s reading, Isaiah told Ahaz to ask for a sign, but it did not happen like between John and his disciples. Ahaz said: “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isa 7,22). Here, too, we may think: “What a good man he is! He does not want to tempt God”. Unfortunately, this answer – which we, at least a large part of the Earth, also often give – shows that Ahaz did not want any signs, because if he had seen and recognised them, he would have had to change his life, his ideas and the resolutions he had already taken.
Unfortunately, this reluctance to recognise the signs has manifested itself towards many apparitions; I could name many more than those of Medjugorje. They do not want to accept Our Lady, because if they do, they have to change their life. What Our Lady says is not a problem. It is not about analysing whether She is theologically right or wrong. The problem is that if they welcome Her, they will have to change their life, but they do not want to. It is far easier to say, “That is not true.” It is easier to analyse everything for forty-one years – they may continue with it for another forty years. The Lord will have already returned, but they will still be there, reflecting and analysing, because they refuse to welcome Her.
The same has happened with all saints. While they are alive, they bring the life of God and bear testimony to God; yet, they are not recognised. They are recognised much later when no one feels obliged to change their life anymore, for the presence of grace no longer compels them. When we recognise that a person is a saint, we have to follow and listen to that person; we have to get involved. Otherwise, we do not recognise that saint. Thus, we respond like Ahaz, “I don’t want to tempt my God”, and thus we do not change our life.
Jesus experienced the same when they asked Him for a sign and He replied, “I’m going to ask you a question. If you answer me, I will answer you, otherwise not. Who was John the Baptist?” Also in this case, they thought about it first: “If we say that he is a prophet, he will say, ‘Why don’t you follow him?’ If we say that he was not a prophet, the crowd comes against us. So we will say, ‘We don’t know.’” Why am I saying this? Because it is a temptation, I call it that, to which we are all exposed. How many signs we have received! Do we want to take up the challenge? The Gospel gives the example of St. Joseph. St. Joseph had his righteous way of thinking, didn’t he? He did not want to repudiate Maria, and he decided to leave Her secretly. St. Joseph had his own view of the situation, but an Angel appeared to him and gave him a sign, to which he fully responded: he got up and did everything the Angel had told him. This is participation in God’s signs. When we do this, we put our whole life at risk after recognising God’s sign, God’s presence, and understand that God makes Himself present in our life, He who is Life.
In today’s letter, St. Paul says that, by grace, Jesus has made all of us apostles so that we may proclaim what Jesus has done for us. We are all apostles, not just St. Paul. Yet, St. Paul knew how to recognise signs. You know who he was and what he did. He fell from his horse and the sign occurred by which he became blind: “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9,1-21). When he heard the Lord’s voice, he totally changed his life and his conduct. This is true participation in grace.
Today I wanted to look at St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, St. Paul and then look at ourselves. Signs are not lacking in these times. We are living in a time when signs and graces are more abundant. Still, how much do we get involved? To what extent do we change our life? Let us see if we have the same readiness as them, if we are ready to leave our old self. Let us leave our old self to become new men and women. Are we getting ready to encounter new things? This is the meaning of Christmas; not the gifts, the feasts, the songs or the Christmas atmosphere that makes us all become better people. Christmas is going towards the novelty, because the novelty has only one name: Jesus Christ.
Thus, I believe that preparing for Christmas is making a summary of our life. This week we want to examine how much we respond to this, how ready we are to welcome the signs. Let us examine how swift our response to grace is; let us go towards Jesus, towards the novelty, and reawaken the hope in His promises, in all that He has told us, all that He has already done for us. It is a remembrance that must reawaken faith, hope and love in us. It is a revival of everything that has been sown into us since conception. This is Christmas; this is the novelty.
Great joy must rise and explode in us at the things God has done for us, which we must remember, not with our mind, but with our heart: God has given us His Son. Let us remember that the Son of God saves us, that He comes out of love without accusing or judging anyone, but calling all of us to LIFE. Then, this is a sign. How do we respond to this sign? Are we uniting our life with His? Are we ready to leave the old self? Christmas is the awakening of faith; it is life that begins anew. Why does it begin anew? Because we have been given a child and that child is the Son of God.
I will leave you to this week and wish you a Merry Christmas in advance; Christmas Day, next Sunday, may lead us all to experience the great joy of dying to the old self in order to be resurrected in Christ, or rather, to be raised to life.
May Mary accompany us together with Joseph and bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
 See Mt 11,2-19. 17,10-13. 21,23-27; Lk 7,19-30; Jn 5,33-36
 See Lk 7,28; Mt 11,11
 See Lk 1,39-55
 See Lk 1,46-55
 See Isa 7,10
 Mt 21,23-27, paraphrased