Rom. 15:4-13; Mt. 11:2-10
The 1962 Missal is filled with insights for us. Today’s Gospel features St. John the Baptist, but it is not about him. It is fitting, since the whole purpose of St. John the Baptist was, “He must increase, I must decrease.” His call was to point out and prepare the way for the Messiah, and this he does even in today’s Gospel.
What has happened is that St. John the Baptist is in prison, for having warned Herod that it was not right for him to live with his brother’s wife. For this, he will eventually be martyred. But the darkness of prison has its temptations. He is aware of all the expectations in his day, that he would be a powerful military leader, that he would expel the Roman occupation of Israel, that he would present himself with great signs and displays. But any of these is too small for the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord.
Rather, in response to the question of St. John the Baptist, are you the one or are we to await another, He quotes from the Old Testament Book of the Prophet Isaiah, which St. John the Baptist would certainly have known, declaring the signs of the Messianic times: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the poor have the Gospel proclaimed to them. The Lord tells us the kind of Messiah He is.
St. Teresa of Avila said everything is a grace. Even our desire for God is God’s desire for us. And this is fulfilled in this Mass as we come to be united with God in a communion of love, a desire which He has first inspired in us, out of love. In every other religion, it is the people who seek reconciliation with God, and sacrifice animals and beasts to do so, which are ineffectual. In our Catholic faith, it is God who reconciles His people, and it is the Son of God who sacrifices Himself for our redemption, the acceptable sacrifice. He seeks to persuade us to conversion by His love. In this life, His mercy is free for the asking. All we need do is to recognize any moment as a moment of grace and conversion, to go to the sacrament of Confession, to heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost within us leading us and guiding us along His ways.
As we celebrate a First Communion today, our thoughts go to the Eucharist, the sign of our redemption, given at the Last Supper, the sacrament of our Lord’s cross and resurrection. Love always unites. When we love someone, we want to be with them, and when we are apart from them we miss them. So it is with God, that when the time came to give us the gift of redemption, out of love, He did not stay in His place in heaven. He did not give us a token. He gave us Himself, setting aside the crown of His glory. And so it is with the Eucharist. In our desire to love, we give gifts, tokens of ourselves. But God, whose love is perfect, gives us the perfect gift, not a token, but the gift of Himself, because where there is love, no lesser gift will do, and His love is perfect.
And so, in this Advent Season, we are reminded of the nearness of the Lord, His mercies, the reason for which He was born and died, our redemption, and we heed the call of St. John the Baptist, now is the time to turn in love to our Messianic Lord.