The nearer the coming of the Lord the more earnestly the Church calls upon us to rejoice ; and to-day, therefore, at the Introit of the Mass, she sings in the words of St. Paul : "Rejoice in the Lord always ; again, I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous, but in everything by prayer let your petitions be made known to God." (Phil. iv. 4-6.) "Lord, Thou hast blessed Thy land; Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob." Glory be to the Father, etc.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, mercifully incline Thine ear unto our prayers, and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy heavenly visitation. Who livest and reignest, etc.
EPISTLE. Phil. iv. 4-7.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men : the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord?
It means to be glad in remembering the grace by which God called us to the true faith, and gave us the hope of eternal salvation, and to rejoice even in all our tribulations and adversities for the Lord's sake, as St. Paul did (n. Cor. vii. 4). It also admonishes us to give a good example by modesty and an edifying life, and to fix our desires on God, Who will never fail us if we make our wants known to Him by prayer and supplication, and give Him thanks for benefits received.
In what does the peace of God consist?
It consists in a good conscience, such as St. Paul enjoyed. It is this peace, this tranquillity of the soul, which sustained the holy martyrs in their agonies, and consoled others under persecution for Christ's sake (St. Matt. v. 11, 12).
O Lord, grant that Thy peace, which Thou hast given us, and which the world knows not, may keep our hearts and minds in Thee. O wisdom ! proceeding from the mouth of the Highest, and reaching to the ends of the world, who governest with power and grace, come and direct us all, that we may walk in the path of wisdom and of the peace which surpasseth all understanding. Amen.
THE BEST REMEDY IN THE HOUR OF SORROW.
In need, sorrow, and dejection the best means to relieve our distressed hearts is humble and confiding prayer, in which we can pour out our hearts before God, and give ourselves up to His love and mercy, as did Anna, the sorrowful mother of Samuel the prophet, Josaphat in painful uncertainty, Susanna falsely accused and condemned to death, and innumerable other servants of God. These all prayed to God and were delivered from their afflictions, receiving help and consolation. St. James therefore admonishes us, "Is any one of you sad? let him pray" (James v. 13); and St. Paul, in the epistle for this Sunday, encourages us not to be solicitous about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, to let our requests be known to God. Are you, then, sad and discouraged? Lift up your soul to God, and say with David, "Give joy to the soul of Thy servant, for to Thee, O Lord, I have lifted up my soul" (Ps. Ixxxv. 4).
GOSPEL. John i. 19-28.
At that time: The Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to John to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and did not deny : and he confessed : I am not the Christ. And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said : I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered : No. They said, therefore, unto him : Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? what sayest thou of thyself? He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias. And they that were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him and said to him : Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet? John answered them, saying : I baptize with water ; but there hath stood One in the midst of you, Whom you know not. The same is He that shall come after me, Who is preferred before me : the latchet of Whose shoe I am not worthy to loose. These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Why did the Jews send messengers to John to ask him who he was?
Because his baptizing and preaching, with his life of austerity and penance, made such an impression that the people took him not for an ordinary prophet, but for the Messias Himself.
Why did the messengers ask John whether he was Elias or the prophet?
The Jews believed that either Elias or another of the prophets would return to earth to prepare the way for the coming of Christ; and from St. John's denying that he was the Christ they concluded that he was either Elias or that prophet.
Why did St. John say that he was not that prophet, but only the voice of one crying in the wilderness?
He said so out of humility ; but he uttered no untruth, since he was not the prophet predicted by Moses (Deut. xviii. 15), but only "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord," as the prophet Isaias said (Is. Ix. 3).
How do we make straight the way of the Lord?
By sincere penance, which consists not merely in going to confession, and making hollow resolutions, but in bringing forth fruits worthy of penance (Matt. iii. 8 ; Luke iii. 8).
How do we bring forth fruits worthy of penance?
If we wish to bring forth fruits worthy of penance, we must endeavor to make amends for what is past, and use all possible means to avoid in future those sins to which we have been most given ; we must love and serve God as much as and more than we before loved and served the world.
What was the baptism of John, and what was the effect of it?
It was a baptism of penance, for the forgiveness of sins ; thus it was a preparation for the Baptism of Christ, through which sins are actually forgiven, and the Holy Ghost received (Mark i. 4, 5).
What are we further taught by this gospel?
We are taught to always speak the truth, like St. John ; not to desire to appear more, or better, than we are ; and, in particular, to make a good and sincere confession. We should, therefore, before confession often ask ourselves, "Who am I ? How do I live? How do I stand before God? How do I deal with my neighbor ?"
We learn also from St. John to confess our sins without reserve, neither concealing nor excusing them; above all, we learn to be humble, for although he might have passed for the Messias had he chosen to, he refused that honor, and held himself unworthy to loose the latchet of Christ s shoe.
O Lord, banish from my heart envy, self-love, and pride ; give me grace so to know Thee and myself that, in contemplation of Thy majesty, omnipotence, love and wisdom, and other perfections, I may love Thee above all things, and in regarding my own nothingness, misery, and sins may always humble myself before Thee, and be little in my own eyes. Grant also that I may judge my neighbor with justness and tenderness, and love him as myself.
-- Goffine’s Devout Instructions