THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Her Doctrine and Morals

Fourth Sunday in Advent

18 December 2016

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Dear Friend,

St. John the Baptist preached that every valley should be filled and every mountain should be brought low. He repeats this same idea when he explains to his disciples (who were envious of Christ and His disciples) that he (St. John the Baptist) must decrease and Christ must increase. The world was ready to follow St. John the Baptist, they were ready to believe that he was the promised redeemer. St. John the Baptist was born of the High Priest Zachary, he lived an austere penitential life in the desert, and had all the worldly marks and qualifications many were looking for in the coming redeemer. As such, St. John the Baptist was elevated in the eyes of the people.

St. John the Baptist, therefore, says that every mountain must be brought low. He, himself, must decrease. This in no way insinuates that St. John should become less holy, or do less penance or morti~ cations.

The decreasing that he is speaking of is, the decreasing of the mountains of pride and vanity. The eyes of the people were fi with pride in St. John the Baptist. Pride, like vanity, is empty and hollow. It is not a solid substance to build upon; and, for this reason, must be brought low. In the political or social realm, it was necessary that St. John the Baptist should fade into the background. This happened when Herod had him arrested, imprisoned, and ultimately murdered. These circumstances the vain aspirations his disciples and many others had of him. Having the air taken out of their empty hopes, the attention was then directed to the true Redeemer — Jesus Christ.

The life of Jesus was the complementary to that of St. John the life. Jesus was the adopted Son of a humble carpenter — not the Son of a High Priest. In contrast to the austere solitary life of St. John the Baptist, Jesus led a life of socializing and eating with others (even sinners). This outwardly humble and cant life of Jesus is what must be up — it is He that must increase. We emphasize that it is the appearance of nothingness in Christ that must be built up; for in all truth; Jesus is the Son of God, and this, by far, out-ranks the son of a High Priest. Jesus is God and is with every perfection hence there is nothing to build up in Him. Similarly, St. John the Baptist was not evil, or vain or proud and did not need to be brought down — it is only in the perceptions of the world that he says he must decrease, and Jesus must increase.

In the spiritual life of every Catholic, we must make a similar tearing down and building up. Sin, which is emptiness and nothingness, must be brought down. Sin presents itself as high and mighty, but it is in reality only the hot air of vanity and pride. God is everything, and sin is turning away from God. As sin turns us away from God, Who is everything, it necessarily turns us towards nothingness, which is the absence of God. In our own soul, we must tear down these mountains — these must decrease in us. Along with sin, the opinions of the worldly towards us is brought down and destroyed. The true followers of Christ are despised and rejected by the world.

It is in this humbled state; where we see that of ourselves, we are nothing and are completely brought down; that Jesus can begin to increase in us. As we become nothing in the eyes of this world, we begin to be with grace and virtue — or, as St. Paul would say, "it is no longer I, but Christ living within me." (Gal. 2, 20) As we die to ourselves, Jesus begins to live in us. We become ever more members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

There appears to be many who form an incorrect notion of these sentiments. All that we are is from God (all the sin — nothingness — that is in us is from ourselves). Our lives and our bodies are all good. It is not these that must be destroyed or brought low. God is the Creator of all things visible and invisible. All things, therefore, are good. It is not the good that should be destroyed or brought to nothingness. It is sin, the nothingness, that appears as something (through blinded spiritual pride and vanity) that must be brought down and destroyed.

As we more clearly understand our own nothingness, and appreciate that all the good that we in us is from God, then we truly are bringing down the mountains and are raising the valleys. What is of ourselves (or what we appear to be in the eyes of the world) decreases, so that the life of Jesus Christ can increase in us. We are just a few days away from celebrating the Birth of Jesus. May we, each and every one, level the mountains that are in His way, and allow Him to the void that is within us, with His Life. We must decrease, so that He can increase within us.

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