December 13, 2018
“Let your faithful ones bless you.”
Is 41:13-20; Ps 145:1,9-13; Mt 11:11-15
The faith of men and woman throughout the centuries has given bright and glorious witness to the power of the gospel to transform human weakness into unexpected strength. Saint John the Baptist did not hold back his preaching even though it was offensive to the king. Not many centuries later Saint Lucy rejected the advances of a pagan suitor. Purity of life and truth of message is worth living and even dying for. The faithful witnesses in every generation bless the LORD. They discourse of the glory of his coming and the splendor of his Kingdom. It is this Kingdom that is for all ages, and his dominion endures through all generations. The lives and deaths of the Christian Martyrs in every age extol our God and King, and they bless his name forever. They bless the LORD who is gracious and merciful; he is slow to anger; he has great kindness. This is the LORD who is worth it all, even a lifetime of white martyrdom or the intense agony of red martyrdom. The Advent Prophet, Isaiah, reaches out to the martyrs at every time in history and says, “I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand; it is I who say to you, fear not, I will help you.” This same LORD is the source of greatness for Saint John the Baptist and all who suffer violence in the Kingdom of God until the end of time.
Even the Lord Jesus quotes our Advent Prophet in saying of himself, “I am a worm and no man, the butt of men, the laughing stock of the people.” Here the LORD uses the language of those who have gone into exile; they are powerless and small in the sight of the nations so the LORD address them in their dejection: “Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD.” Not only will the LORD provide assistance; he will give them a whole new identity. They are to become a threshing sledge, sharp, new and double-edged. The LORD will grasp their hands, and they will thresh the mountains and crush them; they will reduce the hills to chaff. This new and powerful people of God will have all kinds of reasons to rejoice. The LORD is faithful to his thirsty people; those who seek water in vain and whose tongues are parched. For them he opens up a river on the bare heights; for them he opens up fountains in the broad valleys. He will turn deserts into marshes and dry ground into springs of water. The LORD will plant a forest in the desert, cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, pine and the plane tree. When this New Israel is flourishing, bright and beautiful, then “all may see and know, observe and understand, That the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The greatness of Lucy outshines the Baptist because she is small and unknown among the martyrs yet she was baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Saint Lucy was a part of the Body of Christ, and Saint John pointed to that great mystery, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” So little is known of Saint Lucy, but what we do no gives us light in our struggle to be faithful just as she was faithful to the One-Who-First-Loved her. The Lord Jesus warned that the Kingdom of heaven would suffer violence and that the violent would take it by force. The only violence that the gospel allows is the violence of self-sacrificing love. The willing and gracious gift of virginity and celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is a denial of what so many think cannot be denied. At other times in the history of the church violence for self-defense or for some “holy purpose” was allowed if not encouraged. We no longer stretch the Lord’s teaching that far. We even challenge the absolute right of the state to execute criminals; at times this violence is not moral. Now we see the violence done unto us in response to our witness to the truth as the birth pains of the Kingdom. We are willing to suffer and die for the sake of our faith in Christ and in His Kingdom, but we are not willing to cause the suffering and death of others for any purpose. This is the light and love that both Saint Lucy and Saint John have passed on to us. This is the treasure of the Kingdom here, yet still to come.