‘Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Mt. 11:11). ⧾
Today is Gaudete Sunday and the sacred liturgy exhorts us to be joyful as we look forward to the coming celebration of Our Lord’s birth. Once again, we encounter John the Baptist, the last of the prophets preparing the way for the Lord through his call to repentance. As we read the ancient prophecies during Advent, we are especially mindful that the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (St. Augustine: Novum Testamentum in vetere latet, Vetus in novo patet. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 128). (This truth is brought home to us especially in the Service of Lessons and Carols which we will hold this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Nine biblical readings that recall the promise of salvation and their fulfilment in Christ.) The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New. Our Christian faith is not based solely on events, but on the conformity of these events to the revelation contained in the Old Testament or what are sometimes referred to as the Jewish Scriptures. Roy Schoeman, a Harvard professor who converted to Catholicism through a mystical encounter with Our Lady expresses the unity of the Scriptures in this manner: Judaism is pre- Messianic Catholicism and Catholicism is post-Messianic Judaism.
In the cycle of our Sunday reading, the Gospel reading is always an echo of the first reading taken from the Old Testament. This should help us to be mindful always that we are people of Tradition. In every Mass in the Canon we make mention of Abraham our father in faith. We are the spiritual heirs of the promise made to him. Our identity and even our worship are not of our own making. There are elements in the Mass that have their origin in the liturgy of the Temple in Jerusalem. We are not rootless and without identity. The liturgy of Advent is a yearly return to the sources of our ontology, our essential identity as the People of God. Rooted in the Mystery of Jesus the Messiah we are guided by the heralds of salvation and those who served this mystery most intimately so that we might experience, live and proclaim it with ever greater fidelity.