Getting ahead in the world is something many see as important. Success, a comfortable life, and worldly securities are seen as what is needed to achieve happiness. Whether or not we like to admit it, these pursuits are operative in many of our lives. As much as we want to believe in the Gospel, we also find it hard not to cling to these other things. Unconditional trust in God must be first if we are going to perceive the kingdom of God. And while God does not want us to go out of our way to be miserable, Jesus clearly gives preference to those who are poor, hungry, weeping, marginalized, vulnerable, and despised. When people encounter these things, they touch God. It teaches us not to get too comfortable with our riches and that there is much more to true life than the stuff we find so important.
“There is one … coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” Untying sandal straps was no prestigious job. In the days of John the Baptist, those straps would have been especially unpleasant to deal with. Besides the usual odors that accompany sockless leather footwear, there would have been the grime and dirt from the sandy roads and paths that swirled around the people who went everywhere on foot. Taking off someone’s shoes upon their arrival was the task of the lowly servants. So when John says he’s unworthy of doing this task for the “one who is coming after me,” he is putting himself in a very humble position.
And rightly so. John realizes that the Christ–the Anointed One, the Messiah–is so far above him, so far above any of us, that we are truly unworthy of him. Indeed, the Son of God is not just the greatest of men; he is God-made-man and in his presence, we most appropriately should bow in humble homage. Yet this God chose to stoop down to our human level and walk among us. He chose to get his sandals dirty. And still today he chooses to allow us to encounter him as a friend and companion.
But as John reminds us by his example, this encounter with the Lord is not the result of our own merits or accomplishments. We are sinners who stand in need of Christ’s help. But thanks be to God, he is always willing to extend this help to us. As St. Paul says in today’s epistle, “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy.” Indeed, it is God who does the perfecting, not us by our own power. So let us approach the Lord this Advent season with a spirit of hopeful humility, trusting that God alone can make us worthy of welcoming his Son.
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me”
Plentiful gifts of sustenance
A week ago Saturday, we had almost 100 families come to the parish hall to pick up their Thanksgiving baskets through the Pope Francis Outreach Center. Last week, a few more hundred families came to pick up theirs. God is so good to provide so abundantly through the generosity of our donors, staff, and volunteers! He truly gives us a chance to live out the corporal works of mercy spelled out in today’s Gospel – “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink”. And, given that it’s in celebration of Thanksgiving, I hope that all of our families gave thanks to God for his gracious and plentiful gifts of sustenance.
Sometimes we need help
On their side of this, none of the families would enjoy being considered the “least of my brothers (and sisters).” In our pride, none of us want to be in the category of poor or needy. We want to be among those who are strong and self-sufficient. But, sometimes life brings us to our knees, and we need help. This happens to all of us at one time or another. How many of the “powerful” in our country are being brought to their knees vis-à-vis scandal? When we are in serious need – like putting food on the Thanksgiving table – pride takes a back seat to humility. In a spiritual sense and brought home by today’s readings, humility is good. It’s actually replete in the Gospel that humility is necessary for God and goodness to work in us.
The King of Kings
The amazing thing about today’s Gospel passage is that the Lord equates the poor and needy with Himself. He tells a parable about a king, and the king identifies himself as hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, ill, and imprisoned. Wait, how can a king live this way? He is supposed to be strong, powerful, and in total control. Only one king has ever lived this way fully, and He is the greatest King ever. Christ is the King of kings! A true king is a shepherd, a point that was driven home well by the Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel. The true king says, “The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal”. Christ did all of these and more – He lived as they lived.
Union with Christ the King
So, for those who might be upset at first to be called “the least”, this Gospel and feast of Christ the King shows that they are in good company. They are in the best company! They are in the company of and union with Christ the King. Whenever we wait in line for the spiritual nourishment of the Mass, sacraments, Adoration, Bible study, etc., we are spiritually putting ourselves in the category of the needy. This is much better than being among the “sleek and the strong” to whom the Lord says “I will destroy”. We are spiritually among the least of the Lord’s brethren, and are in union with the King of the Universe.
May you know the peace of Christ the King,
It is so easy to cast judgment upon the thoughts and behaviors of others. We have heard the phrase, “Practice what you preach.” If we really believe in Jesus, we will put great effort and care into following his example and living his message. Humility is our goal. True humility begins when I see myself as one among many wounded, searching souls who are striving to work out a place in life and discover who God is and how God acts. We are here today because we need to taste and feel the God who reveals himself fully in the Eucharist-the God who is our strength, hope, and salvation. We are not here because we are better or wiser than anyone else for we are simply humble sinners in need of mercy
Parishioners- singing, forgetfulness, driving
Teasing with woman
Persistence / perseverance in prayer
“Lord, help me”
Disease of the proud
Kingdom is for poor / humble
4th Sunday advent – “God favors the humble”
Holy Land / Bethlehem
God likes little guy
David (v Goliath)
Gideon? (Army reduced)
Church – 12 apostles
Church new Gideon??
James 4:6 – God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble
“There is no room for God in him who is full of himself” – Jewish philosopher
Hebrew : little
From little came (and became) something huge
Little – “how does this happen…?”
Should be us at Holy Communion!
Little – manger, baby, little known
Little baby – focus for Christmas
God became little!
Eucharist – still little
Little / humble are really big in Gods eyes
Humbled = exalted
Exalted = humbled
Pope Francis’ preparation for Christmas: humility, poverty, and trust.
[From zenit.org. December 15, 2015]
The Church, Pope Francis says, must be three things: humble, poor and trusting in the
The Pontiff stressed this during his daily morning Mass at his residence Casa Santa
Marta, reported Vatican Radio, noting that the Church’s mission is in following the
Beatitudes, and that its riches are in the poor.
Reflecting on the first reading from the Book of Zephaniah in which Jesus rebukes the
chief priests and warns them that even prostitutes will precede them into the Kingdom
of Heaven, Pope Francis observed that still today temptations can corrupt the witness
of the Church.
“A Church that is truly faithful to the Lord,” Francis said, “must be humble, poor and
trusting in God”.
To be a humble Church or a humble person, the Jesuit explained, one must be
prepared to say: “I am a sinner.” Humility, Francis underscored, is not “a pretense” or
True humility demands that the Church and every one of us takes a first step and
recognizes one’s sinfulness, and is not “judgmental, pointing to the defects of others
and gossiping about them.”
Poverty, which “is the first of the Beatitudes,” Francis noted, is the second step. To be
poor in spirit, he explained, means that one is “attached only to the riches of God.”
Given this, he added, we must say “no to a Church that is attached to money, that
thinks of money, that thinks of how to earn money.”
The Pope recalled the martyrdom of the Deacon Lawrence, an heroic witness in the
first millennium who assembled the poor before the emperor saying they represented
the real gold and silver of the Church, and he warned against some ancient customs
which demanded monetary offers from pilgrims in order to pass through the Holy
“As is known,” the Holy Father mentioned, “in a temple of the diocese, to pass
through the Holy Door, naively they said to people that you had to make an offer: this
is not the Church of Jesus, this is the Church of these chiefs priests, attached to
Trusting in God
The third step for this humble Church, Pope Francis said, is to always trust in the Lord
that never disappoints.
“Where is my faith? In power, in friends, in money? It is in the Lord! The legacy that
God promised to leave us is of a humble and poor people who trust in the name of the
Lord. Humble because it knows it sins; poor because it is attached to the riches of
God; trusting in the Lord because it knows that only He has its good at heart,” he said.
Pope Francis concluded with the prayer, that “as we prepare for Christmas,” we have
“a humble heart, a poor heart, a heart that trusts in the Lord who never disappoints.”
–Sincerely in Christ,
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Fr. Greg Shaffer
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