Today’s Gospel introduces us to the last of the prophets, Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel sees him fulfilling the Isaian prophecy in our First Reading to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John himself admits that One is to follow who is “mightier” that he and whose baptism will replace John’s baptism. This One is Jesus, the Lord. It is his first coming into the world that we are preparing to celebrate.
Last weekend’s readings exhorted us to be watchful and alert for the Lord to come again. We are to do so with the same longing and confidence with which the Jews awaited the coming of the Messiah, the fulfillment of many prophecies. Today’s passage from Isaiah speaks of God coming to his people to bring comfort and to treat them with tenderness. He proclaims that the guilt of his people is expiated and their punishment for sin is to come to an end. We see this expiation accomplished in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. What more could God do for us? Now, how are we to respond to this gift?
Saint Peter teaches in the Second Reading that if there is any perceived “delay” in Christ’s return, it is because God is patient with us, giving us every opportunity for repentance. The expiation of sin is not a license for reckless abandon, but entails a responsibility to choose to live virtuously so we may enjoy its rewards. Hence Saint Paul’s advice that we “be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
On Tuesday, December 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast day of the United States. In 1846 the Bishops of the United States placed this nation under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her Immaculate Conception. The Second Vatican Council taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary is “a mother to us in the order of grace” and that “by her manifold intercession [she] continues to procure for us the gifts of eternal salvation.” It is a holy day of obligation, although Bishop Callahan has dispensed from that obligation this year. Masses for the holy day will be Monday, December 7, at 5:30 PM, and Tuesday, December 8, at 12:10 PM at St. Charles; and Tuesday, December 8, at 8:30 AM and 7:00 PM at St. Peter. As Catholics in the United States, with a special bond to the Blessed Virgin Mary as our patroness, we turn to her this December 8 to seek her intercession for our nation, that God will provide healing where there is conflict, serenity where there is anxiety, and courage where life is threatened and in need of protection.
Saturday, December 12, is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas. There will be a Mass for this feast on Saturday at 8:30 AM at St. Charles.
Pray the rosary this week for peace and for the needs of our nation. Pray also for people who have abandoned the practice of the faith, that they may respond to God’s grace, come to the sacrament of penance and return to the regular celebration of the Eucharist. Finally, continue to pray for an end to the pandemic and the development of an effective vaccine.
May God bless his people with peace.