Saint for the day: John Damascene (c.676 – 749)
Isaiah 11:1-10 – Psalm 72 – Romans 15:4-9 – Matthew 3:1-12
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“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths; All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Today’s “Alleluia Verse” before the reading of the Holy Gospel.)
From the opening words of the reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Isaiah 11:1) Mary was like that “bud” prepared for all time to give to the world that “blossom” that – like the tree in the Garden of Eden – would repair and open the gates of salvation for us. The reading continues in an idyllic way to paint a picture of what should be a time when the harmony of creation would be restored and “there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain.”(Isaiah 11:9)
But just as the beauty of Paradise was lost through human weakness, our world will only be made better as each one of us strives to be a peaceful, healing, up-building person! The reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us, “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)
In the Holy Gospel from St. Matthew we hear about John the Baptist – the precursor of the Christ – preaching in the wilderness. Even though I never thought of it before, I can see that John the Baptist and Mary have much in common and can give us much to think about during this Advent Season. Both of them are aware of their call but still are able to see that their roll is one that opens the way to something greater. St. John the Baptist knows that God has given him a wonderful part to play in the unfolding of the mystery of salvation, but he also knows that “I am not HE!” In the same way, Mary was able to say, “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done unto me as you have said.
These are not demeaning words, but, rather words of awareness of whom and what God desires to do for each of us. I always like the quote (I don’t know from whom) that reminds us, “You are not the light nor the source of the light, but a means of the light being focused to shine in a world of darkness.”
Many Scripture scholars make the claim that pride is (was) at the heart of the fall of Lucifer and the sin of our first parents. Today’s Liturgy reminds us – like St. John the Baptist says – “I am not HE! There is one coming after me…” (Matthew 3:11) and like Mary, “I am the servant … let it be done as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) Both of these key figures tell us a lot about our call to follow Jesus and the overriding theme seems to be one of service: “I am the maidservant of the Lord” and “I am not [even] worthy to carry his sandals.
So we might consider our “bottom line” to be one where we receive God – just like we do at Holy Communion – “Oh, Lord I am not worthy…but say the word …” and we are healed and restored in order that we might be able to draw others to His love.
Can you pray, like Mary and John the Baptist … “I know who I am. Let it be done unto me…” Amen!