Her Doctrine and Morals

Third Sunday of Advent

11 December 2022


The Sunday


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Dear Friends in Christ,

In today's Gospel reading (St. John 1, 19-28), we see St. John the Baptist being questioned by priests and Levites sent from the Jews in Jerusalem. They have witnessed many virtues and graces in St. John and want to know if he is the Christ, the Promised Messiah. Short of being the Christ, they ask if he is Elias or the Prophet. St. John denies all these names and titles and gives us an excellent example of humility.

There is something good in everyone; however, a little good does not equate to perfection. We do not doubt that the virtues of St. John the Baptist were much greater than those practiced by others. However, we are not to compare ourselves with others but with God. "Be ye perfect because your Father in Heaven is perfect" (St. Matthew 5, 48). In this measure, even the greatest men must bow their heads in humility. Though St. John's virtue was more remarkable than most of the men living at the time, it was still far beneath the holiness of God.

God sent St. John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus. The Son of God humbly hid His Divinity within human flesh. This is an example and instruction for us to learn from and imitate. St. John's task was to point out and show us the Savior in Human flesh.

Spiritually, St. John pulled back the human veil of Jesus to show us His true Divine Nature. However, St. John acknowledges that he is unworthy to do this. "… the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose." In removing the shoe, the foot is revealed. In pulling back the Humanity of Jesus, the Divinity is shown.

In performing the task God has created us to perform, we are not doing something on our own. We have no right to boast because we only do what we ought to do. "So you also, when you shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say: 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done that which we ought to do'" (St. Luke 17, 10). St. John shows us that we have no right to glory in the good in us as if it comes from ourselves. Any good that is in us is a gift from God.

As we draw ever closer to the celebration of Jesus' birth, we should prepare ourselves by humbly imitating the example of St. John the Baptist. As we saw Jesus proclaim in last Sunday's Gospel, St. John is a prophet and more than a prophet. He prepared the way for Jesus. This is the work and the manifestation of God, and St. John makes sure to give all the honor and glory to God. Without God's grace St. John and all of us are nothing. On our own, we are barely a sound in the desert with no one to hear or understand. With God's grace, we become a trumpet that is heard throughout the world.

Humanly speaking, we are but dust. "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3, 19). Spiritually speaking, we are like angels or devils. The soulless works of men are empty and useless. When our labors are motivated and guided by the spiritual aspect of our souls, we can do great things, either for good or evil. Our souls animate our bodies, but our souls are inspired and moved by angels or devils. When we follow the guidance of angels, we become like God — we follow Jesus. When we follow the advice of devils, we become less than human, less than animals, and less than plants. (They all do the things God made them to do without rebelling.) In rebellion, we are closer to dust or nothingness from which we were created.

May we learn from and imitate St. John the Baptist. We should boldly do the works God has given us to do, regardless of the human consequences. We may be shunned, mocked, ridiculed, imprisoned, and even killed, but none of this should prevent us from doing God's Will. At the same time, we should be humble and constantly remember that any good within us is God's work through us. All the honor and glory belong to God. Of ourselves, we are nothing — not even a voice helplessly crying in the wilderness. We are not even worthy to approach Jesus to unlatch His shoe.

His love for us opens the way for us to draw near Him and receive Him into our bodies and souls. These last few days before Christmas is a time for us to hear the angels speaking to our souls, do penance, and prepare the way for Jesus to enter into our bodies of dust so that we may be lifted up to the spiritual heights of heaven.

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