Christmas is only a week away, and we come to Mass today filled with all kinds of images, hopes, dreams and expectations. Maybe adults are thinking about all the details that still need attending to before they will be totally prepared for the feast and for all the trimmings of the holiday. Perhaps you are planning a trip later this week to allow grandparents to see their grandchildren during this festive season. Children are all abuzz with thinking about all the gifts they hope to receive in just a few days. Some of us might even be especially looking forward to that special Christmas dinner with family and relatives.
However, it still is the season of Advent right now, and we want to try to use these last few days of this wonderful season to get ready and to contemplate in awe how God prepared the people for the coming of Jesus and how God still wants to prepare us for such a marvelous event. Within the Christian context of celebrating the coming feast, the main emphasis seems to be on Mary and the Christ Child, and justifiably so. However, on this Third Sunday of Advent the Church turns our attention to the person of Saint John the Baptist, as we hear proclaimed today in John’s Gospel:
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord.’”
So who is this John the Baptist? He is regarded as the precursor of Jesus Christ. A very well-known preacher, he gave sermons about the proximity of God’s Final Judgment. He asked people to repent for their sins and baptized those who apologized in self-preparation for the Lord to come. According to the Scriptures, it was John only who recognized Jesus and decreed Him as the Messiah of the people. The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the Acts of the Apostles, and the Jewish historian Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews comprise the only sources of information about the life of John the Baptist.
According to the Gospel of Luke, the birth of John was prophesied to his father Zachariah, by the angel Gabriel, while the former was performing his functions as a priest in the Temple of Jerusalem. Since Zachariah was a priest of the course of Abijah and his wife Elizabeth was one of the daughters of Aaron, John became a descendant of Aaron from both his paternal and maternal side. The Gospel recounts that Mary came to inform Elizabeth about her pregnancy. At that time, Elizabeth was in her sixth month of her own pregnancy, and her unborn baby ‘jumped for joy’ in her womb.
It is said that, at the age of thirty, John started to preach on the banks of the river Jordan. He preached against the evils of the time and attracted people to penance and baptism. His only message to people was to repent, as the Lord was coming. He baptized many people and thus was named John the Baptist. According to the Holy Scriptures, Christ also turned to John to attain baptism. The incident took place when John’s ministry was at its close. John instantly recognized the Lord and proclaimed Him to be the Messiah. John baptized Jesus, marking the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In turn, John inspired his followers to follow Christ.
After the baptism, Jesus is believed to have left to preach in Galilee, while John continued preaching in the Jordan valley. John’s growing popularity and immense power created fright and fear in the minds of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Perea and Galilee. Following John’s denunciation of his adulterous and incestuous wife Herodias, who was also the wife of his half-brother Philip, Antipas had him arrested and imprisoned. Salome, the daughter of Herodias, impressed Antipas with a dance performance. Delighted by the girl’s act, he vowed to grant her any wish. Salome, at the instigation of her mother, demanded the head of John the Baptist, making him a martyr for Christ.
John the Baptist is a great example of a person who knows what he believes, lives what he believes, and is willing to talk about what he believes as appropriate. In all of these ways he exemplifies what each of us is called to be in our world of today. Let him become a very special example as we contemplate the coming of the Lord in hope.
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Today’s readings continue the preparation theme we heard in the previous two weeks of Advent. But now the focus shifts somewhat to the joy that awaits us in God’s coming Kingdom. This Sunday is Gaudete (Latin, “rejoice”) Sunday or, as Pope Francis calls it, the Sunday of Joy. In today’s First Reading, the prophet writes about the mission conferred upon him by God—to bring glad tidings to the lowly and to heal the broken hearted—and about the joy he experiences in God, who clothes him in justice and salvation. Early Christians appropriated this text to describe Jesus’ mission. By virtue of our Baptism in Christ, this ought to be our mission as well. As the prophet suggests, there is no greater joy than doing God’s work.
The Gospel presents John the Baptist as the one who testifies or gives witness to the Light who is coming into the world. We can rejoice because he is the Light that darkness cannot overcome. As the story unfolds, we see John testifying on Jesus’ behalf before the priests and Levites of Jerusalem and declaring that Jesus is already among them, though they do not recognize him. John declares he is lower than the lowest household servant by comparison to Jesus, the revealer of God. This is cause for great joy!
On the theme of joy, the Church has wisely paired these two readings with a reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. Paul admonishes us to always live in joy, praying and giving thanks, because this is God’s will for us. Everything we do and say should be inspired by this Spirit as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we sing verses from the Magnificat in today’s Responsorial Psalm, we join Mary in proclaiming the Lord’s concern for the poor and lowly, a concern that is ours also. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church references Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Mater, #37, as it tells how Christ’s followers are to show preference for the poor and humble. It states: “Looking to the heart of Mary, to the depth of her faith expressed in the words of the Magnificat, Christ’s disciples are called to renew ever more fully in themselves ‘the awareness that the truth about God who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from the manifestation of his love of preference for the poor and humble, that love which, celebrated in the Magnificat, is later expressed in the words and works of Jesus.’”
For Your Reflection: Do you give God credit for the good that has come into your life? In what ways do you testify to the light that Christ brings? During these last days of Advent, how can you nurture a spirit of rejoicing always?
THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION THIS WEEK
Many people wish to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) before Christmas. We remind you that during this week we will have extra confessors available in church from 9:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M. Now is the time to plan when you will come to St. Peter’s in order to take advantage of this opportunity. Please do not wait until the last minute; otherwise you may find that either the lines are too long or that the confessors have finished their schedule.
- PETER’S CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE
We invite you to join us either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day for a joyful celebration of the Feast of the Incarnation. On Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24, the Christmas Vigil Mass will be celebrated at 5:00 P.M. The church will then close shortly after the end of that Mass and will reopen at 9:00 P.M. The choir will begin carols at 9:30, and the Mass at Night will begin at 10:00 P.M. with choir.
On Christmas Day, Monday, December 25, Masses will be celebrated at 9:00 and 11:00 A.M. The church will be closed at 12:30 for the remainder of the day in order to allow the friar community to relax and have a leisurely meal together. We hope all of you will have a wonderful day as well with family and friends.
One request that we frequently hear at St. Peter’s is whether we have anyone available for spiritual direction. Well, the answer is YES. We have two individuals who are well-qualified spiritual directors: Sister Fran Sulzer and Br. Guillermo Morales, O.F.M. Sister Fran has been doing spiritual direction here for a number of years. She is usually at St. Peter’s on Tuesdays, when she works out of a room on the mezzanine. She also has a practice in Park Ridge. She and Fr. Paul Gallagher, O.F.M. also facilitate a group spiritual direction which meets once a month on a Wednesday. If you would like to contact Sr. Fran, she can be reached at 847-696-9026.
Br. Guillermo has only been at St. Peter’s for less than a year, but he has a certificate in spiritual
direction from the Claret Center in Hyde Park and a Master’s Degree in spirituality from Catholic Theological Union. You may contact him at gamorales05gmail.com or through the general telephone number for St. Peter’s—312-372-5111.
We are very pleased to have both Sister Fran and Br. Guillermo on our staff to offer the opportunity for spiritual direction. I hope you will find them helpful if you are seeking direction in the near future.
END OF THE YEAR CONTRIBUTIONS
Many people at this time of year are considering a special end-of-the-year charitable gift in order to use it for tax purposes. Certainly I am sure any of your favorite charities would appreciate such a gift from you. We at St. Peter’s would also be very thankful if you would remember us in a similar way. You may either deposit your gift in the regular collection either on weekdays or on a weekend or you can send it to us through the mail, but we would have to receive it by December 31 so that we could record it for the 2017 calendar year. Thank you for thinking of us and our needs.
PILGRIMAGE RAFFLE TICKETS
No doubt you have noticed the large sign in the lobby announcing that we are once again having a raffle for a free pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Fr. Mario from September 1-14, 2018. A number of tickets have already been sold, and we are hoping to sell the remainder this week so that we can draw the winner before Christmas. You can purchase a raffle ticket for a $100.00 donation (only 175 tickets will be sold). Often during the day a volunteer is in the lobby for your purchase, but if that is not the case, simply go into the office and tell the receptionist that you would like to purchase a ticket, and he will call Carolyn to take care of your request. The raffle is in conjunction with the 2018 St. Peter’s Gala which will take place on Thursday, July 19. All monies collected will go toward reducing the annual St. Peter’s budget deficit of almost half a million dollars.
AN ADVENT END-OF-THE-SEMESTER CHUCKLE
A college student could not take his semester final exam because of a funeral.
“No problem,” the teacher told him. “Make it up the following week.” That week came and again he couldn’t take the test due to another funeral.
“You’ll have to take the test early next week,” the professor insisted. “I can’t keep postponing it.”
“I’ll take the test next week if no one dies,” the undergrad replied.
By now the instructor was suspicious. “How can you have so many people you know pass away in three weeks?”
“I don’t know any of these people,” the student explained. “But I’m the only gravedigger in town.”