Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 22, 2019 by Father Paul A. Norton
DOMINICA IV ADVENTUS
Apparently, no English dictionary has been able to successfully explain the difference between the two words COMPLETE and FINISHED. Some people say that there is no difference but others say there is and that this is the proof: When you marry the right woman you are COMPLETE, when you marry the wrong woman you are FINISHED. And if you marry a wife who likes shopping you are COMPLETELYFINISHED.
Today I would like to focus our reflection in the catholic meaning of endings, especially considering these last days of the year in which we are now.
Yesterday we had here in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice (the first point of Sagittarius, considering the precession of the equinoxes) which is the last day of “darkness” of the year. Today is the last Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday in preparation for the coming of the Light, Revelation and Revealer of God. Today also we start the last full week of the year and everything speaks of endings but also about completion, a perfect completion of the plan of God: Everything reminds us of the Divine Providence Who guides the universe for the good of those who love Him, as St. Paul would say 1. What is the life of a man? It is as a yesterday, which has passed. “His days pass away like ashadow”2 as the Psalm says. But as the Psalm, I’m not trying to make emphasis in the dramatic moment of death (that is an indefectible reality) but in LIFE, and more than anything, in the importance of realizing that our lifespan is very short: Today our mother is wrapping us in clothes and tomorrow someone is covering us with blankets to keep us warm when the heat fights the skin slowly escaping our body together with the last vestiges of our soul. Today we are playing in our cradle and tomorrow we struggle to hold the breath in our deathbed.
Ninna nanna a sette e venti
il bambino si addormenti.
Ninna nanna a sette e venti
il bambino mette i denti
e ne mette una ventina
tra stasera e domattina.
Ninna nanna a otto e due
il bambino ha la bua.
Ninna nanna nanna ieri
i panieri non son le sporte
e le sporte non son panieri,
e la vita non è la morte,
e la morte non è la vita,
e la canzone è già finita.
1 Rm. 8:28
2 Ps. 143:43
The music I just sang is an Italian lullaby that has a very timely message for today:
Ninna Nanna of twenty past seven,
The baby falls asleep.
Ninna Nanna of twenty past seven,
his teeth come out,
and an interval is made between the afternoon
and the morning.
Ninna Nanna of two past eight,
the child begins to cry.
Nanna of yesterday,
the child does not endure the crib
and the crib does not endure the child,
life is not death,
death is not life,
And this song is over.
In this lullaby it is told how a baby is born and is taken to the crib to sleep for certain hours. Then he grows up, his teeth come out, and he starts to cry, he gets tired of being in the crib and wants to explore the world. This short song teaches in a brief way how the life of man passes quickly, today one is safe in the cradle and tomorrow the teeth come out, the pain begins and one finds himself facing reality with the mission of Christianizing it so that later, perhaps abruptly, the music of life ends and that one is called to the tribunal of God. We are that child and we must prepare ourselves so that at the time of our death we don’t discover the song is about to end without us having done enough, without completing our mission in this world.
Today we hear in the Gospel the first testimony of St. John the Baptist that the Church has placed in the last Sunday of Advent. We know very little about St. John but what we know about him is sufficient, especially considering what Our Lord Himself said: “Amongst those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist 3”
St. John the Baptist came suddenly as a meteor, illuminated what he had to illuminate and went out. His fidelity to God and his simplicity is an example for us that, in the pursuit of holiness, we don’t need to do extraordinary things to please God but to do with extraordinary love towards Him the ordinary things we do.
The topics of St. John the Baptist’s preaching are simple. He preached two things: the natural law and that the Messiah was already present: and he, Johanam, was his introducer, who pointed to Him with his finger saying “This is the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” No part of the gospel would fit so well on this last Sunday of Advent as this one we hear today, because Christ is already at the door. That is why St. John the Baptist is many times represented pointing with his finger, because, when all the other prophets talked about the Messiah and contemplated Him from afar, he, St. John, was the only one that had the privilege of pointing to Him with his finger.
3 Luke 7:28
Now, the natural law was necessary to be preached in preparation for the supernatural morality that the Messiah came to teach; the Pharisees had inextricably entangled morals, and on the pretext of giving a supernatural morality they gave an unnatural morality, a morality overloaded with precepts, sometimes futile, that could not be practiced, nor much less memorized.
To the public employees, the publicans, St. John said to them: “Do not ask for a bribe”. To the military he said: “Do not continuously demand salary increases.” He did not say to King Herod: “Rule well,” because that miserable one, like other puppets of our times, did not really govern; He said: “It is not lawful for you to live with your brother’s wife.” And that caused his death. In this way, St. John the Baptist made straight the paths for the Birth of Christ. Today, the world prepares for another birth, the birth of the Antichrist. In fact, maybe he has nothing else to-do but to be born. Certainly, many antichrists have already come, says the other Saint John. The gospel is not possible to put into practice without the help of Grace because it has a supernatural origin. That is what St. Alphonsus mentioned in a way in the beautiful Christmas carol he wrote that speaks of how God descended from the heavens to elevate man to a supernatural state, to complete the destiny to which man was called: To share with Him the eternal blessedness of Heaven. May God give us the Grace of final perseverance and the disposition to be always ready for the time when Christ comes for us, which can happen at any time. Μαρανα θα.