Sunday, December 11, 2005

Prepare The Way

The second reading during today's Office of Readings in the Divine Office is an excellent sermon by St. Augustine on John the Baptist and his always pointing towards Christ, especially on this third, or Gaudete (Rejoice), Sunday of Advent. How many times have we heard that the closer we get to Christ, the more we lose of ourself? How many of us think of that in the negative? We should not, as the parts of us that we "lose" by drawing closer to him are those very things that separate us in the first place, and cause us not to rejoice or experience the joy that we can only experience by truly living free from the foolish pride of self that keeps us mired in mediocrity and sin.
A sermon by St Augustine
John is the voice, and Christ is the Word

John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.

Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.

However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine. In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still also in mine.

When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: The word ought to grow, and I should diminish? The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: My joy is complete. Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.

Do you need proof that the voice passes away but the divine Word remains?Where is John’s baptism today? It served its purpose, and it went away. Now it is Christ’s baptism that wecelebrate. It is in Christ that we all believe; we hope for salvation in him. This is the message the voice cried out.

Because it is hard to distinguish word from voice, even John himself was thought to be the Christ. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offence to the word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. And the question came: Who are you, then? He replied: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord. The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: “I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him”.

What does prepare the way mean, if not “pray well”? What does prepare the way mean, if not “be humble in your thoughts”? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

If he had said, “I am the Christ”, you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.


At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrific! Thank you!

It's an honor to be tapped by the Lord for anything, yet also a responsibility that makes one quake right down to one's first-last molecule.

I had been fighting NARAL's idiotic "Chocolate for Choice" annual galas, and I had in letters particularly highlighted how abortion not only cuts out Baby, but cuts out Dad and all the members of the babe's families. After the most recent letter, one lady who peacefully protested every week at a local abortion clinic (but who ended up jailed.. with a broken arm from the non-resisted 'arrest'..) called me. Raised the hair on the back of my neck when she said, "You are a voice crying in the wilderness." I didn't know what to make of it; as I pondered it, the phone rang again. It was an older man, furious, broken.. his daughter's abortion had driven a wedge between his wife and him. He didn't want their daughter to kill the child; Grandma was all for it. They divorced, which then drove a wedge between him and his daughter. She went on to eventually give birth to a child, and Grandpa is out of the picture. He spoke of how he was now alone, in a small apartment.. and he began to sob. He just wanted to thank me for speaking up for families' sudden non-rights, too. At that point, I backed off from such visible fight, because I wasn't sure that I could live up to being a voice -- it was all so much larger than me. But for sure.. for sure.. whatever it is we do, we must back it with the most honest humility of all: "I must decrease, and He must increase."

May God bless you.


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