Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Sunday Readings

The following is a meditation on the liturgical readings for the next Sunday.  The references are given so you can read them in your Bible or directly from the Roman Misal.  Direct quotes from the Readings are in bold print.  The meditation is geared toward the call to practice a contemplative form of prayer as part of a response to the full life of Christ we share within the Church. 

The Third Sunday in Advent; Cycle B, December 17, 2017

Readings: Isaiah 61.1-2;10-11; 1st Thessalonians 5.16-24;  John 1.6-8;19-28

 

Summary of the Meditation:

  • In the Gospel Reading we witness a dramatic dialogue centered on identity.  Who are you?  and What do you say about yourself?  John the Baptist, like all the saints, stands for us as models of this quest for true identity.  He is a saint because he knows who he is in absolute relationship to Jesus the Christ.  He is a saint because he confesses that true identity in every critical moment of his life, even unto death.
  • Advent makes us vigilant, joyful expectant, strong in hope for the things of our faith.  In this way we are already there, transformed, identified with Christ Jesus the Word Incarnate; and yet, in another way, still waiting, still journeying. The Second Reading points us to the end: At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do this. 
  • Standing with John the Baptist at this moment in our process of transformation we seek the grace of Advent enlightenment to confess who we are not and to confess who we really are. 

 

Full Meditation:

 

There was a television game show about contestants guessing who the real celebrity was from among several look-a-likes.  Each of the possible celebrities was asked pertinent questions.  From their responses the contestants were to guess the real person.  At the conclusion of the segment the master of ceremonies would ask “Would the real so and so please stand up?”

 

The drama of redemption is about discovering our true identity.  Will our real, true selves, please stand up!  The contemplative life is the opening of ourselves to God’s power of love so that we can see who we really are.  We are in a journey of process of becoming the one as God sees us.  In this process we are becoming who we were always meant to be.  We become our true selves in relation to Jesus, the Incarnate Word, in Whose image we were created and now in Whose likeness we are being transformed in grace; transformed from our deformed self into the true self of God’s beauty.

 

Our false self, immersed in its narcissistic tendencies and habits of rebellion against the light of God, is ever ready to seek its false identity.  I should not speak of the false self in the third person.  It is I.  I, in my own autonomy so often speak and act, feel deeply within, from a false image of myself.  Advent is the time for the light of Christ to illumine our true identity.

 

In the Gospel Reading we seek a dramatic dialogue centered on identity.  Who are you?  and What do you say about yourself?  John the Baptist, like all the saints, stands for us as models of this quest for true identity.  He is a saint because he knows who he is in absolute relationship to Jesus the Christ.  He is a saint because he confesses that true identity in every critical moment of his life, even unto death.

 

John the Baptist is true in his Christ identity because he is able to identify himself in two ways.  First, he is able to say who he is not. He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”  And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?  He said “I am not.”  “Are you the prophet?”  He answered, “No.”

 

Second, he is able to say who he is.  He defines who he is by his relationship to Christ Jesus.

 “What do you say about yourself?”  He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.”

 

John further defines himself at the end of the Gospel Reading when the questioners want to know why he is ministering baptism.  It is an anticipation of his future statement in John’s Gospel where he says Christ must increase; he must decrease.  Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the throng of his sandal.

 

The sobering part of that last statement is that perhaps we do not know Jesus as the one who stands among us.  The whole work of Advent’s grace is to bring us to the face of the Incarnate Word who enlightens us to our true identity, to our being in His image and likeness.  Knowing who Christ is, we know who we are in the work of transformation in grace.

 

Notice that true Gospel identity unites external mission, the active part of our life, with our interior state, our transformation, the contemplative part of our life.  In the First Reading from Isaiah, the first part of the prophecy has to do with the mission aspect of our identity.   The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken hearted….

 

 The second part of the Reading has to do with the interior transformation through grace.  For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation; and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels (First Reading).

 

The Responsorial Psalm allows us to be one with the Holy Mother of God, Blessed Mary, who sings her Magnificat of mission and interior grace:  My soul magnifies the Lord.  My soul rejoiced in God, my Savior.

 

Advent makes us vigilant, joyful expectant, strong in hope for the things of our faith.  In this way we are already there, transformed, identified with Christ Jesus the Word Incarnate; and yet, in another way, still waiting, still journeying. The Second Reading points us to the end: At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do this. 

 

In the meantime, in this time of grace’s transforming process, we work to keep the complexity of our human identify in the simplicity of Christ’s love and grace, trusting in that Power to save and transform us:  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Second Reading).

 

Standing with John the Baptist at this moment in our process of transformation we seek the grace of Advent enlightenment to confess who we are not and to confess who we really are.  Grace deep within us already has answered it.  Grace working within us is letting it happen even as we read this message in faith.  It is in our celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in our fidelity to the Catholic teaching, in our prayer in union with Mary and the Saints in the communion of the Church that we move into our true identity and at the same time are at peace in the work already done for us in Christ’s Second Coming.   Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks;  Such is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

--William Fredrickson, Oblate(secular) of St. Mary's Benedictine Monastery, Petersham, MA and Doctor of Ministry, Drew University, NJ

 

 

 


For questions, comments or other communication, please contact:
William Frederickson
Fredrickson46@msn.com