|The third Sunday
of the penitential season of Advent -- like Laetare
Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent -- is a day of rejoicing, a sort
of break from the somberness of the season. Like Laetare Sunday, its
color is rose, and the rose candle (if used) on our Advent wreaths is lit today.
Gaudete Sunday takes its name from the Introit antiphon, "Gaudete in
Domino" ("Rejoice in the Lord") and signals that the season of Advent
is almost at an end: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. Be nothing
solicitous; but in everything by prayer let your requests be made known
to God. Lord, thou hast blessed thy land; thou bast turned away the
captivity of Jacob. Glory be to the Father."
The Gospel readings focus on the great St. John the Baptist, who tells
all of the coming of Our Lord. In today's Gospel reading (John
1:19-28), the Jews confront John, demanding to know who he is. They
poke and prod at him, but he responds with the utmost humility,
pointing always toward Christ:
At that time the
Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to John, to ask him, Who
And he confessed, and did not deny; and he confessed: I am not the
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 sayst 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
John tells them
of the One Who will come after Him in time, but is always before him,
and it's that humility before God that's important to focus on --
always, but especially today. Soon, at
Christmas, the Lord will come to us as a tiny, fragile baby; He will
return to us at the end of time as the King of Kings. Both of these
"comings" should fill us with humility and awe! The Creator of the Sun
and Moon and Stars, lying helpless in a manger... That same Child
returning to judge "the quick and the dead" and to make all things new.
There's a newer practice -- begun in 1969 by Pope Paul VI -- of the
Pope blessing of Christ Child
figurines, from nativity sets, that the
children of Rome bring to St. Peter's Square. Each child holds up his
Christ Child figurine -- his "Bambinello" -- and the Pope blesses them
all en masse. This blessing of the Christ Child, known as "la
dei Bambinelli," takes place today, on Gaudete Sunday, during the Angelus.
So beloved has this practice become that, to many, Gaudete Sunday is
also known as "Bambinelli Sunday." Many local churches also practice
this, with priests blessing the Bambinelli brought by the children of
their parishes, so prepare to possibly have your child bring Baby Jesus
from your nativity set to Mass today.
Homily 15 On the Gospel
of John (excerpt)
By St. John Chrysostom
And this is the
record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem
to ask him, Who are you?
1. A dreadful thing is envy, beloved, a dreadful thing and a
pernicious, to the enviers, not to the envied. For it harms and wastes
them first, like some mortal venom deeply seated in their souls; and if
by chance it injure its objects, the harm it does is small and
trifling, and such as brings greater gain than loss. Indeed not in the
case of envy only, but in every other, it is not he that has suffered,
but he that has done the wrong, who receives injury. For had not this
been so, Paul would not have enjoined the disciples rather to endure
wrong than to inflict it, when he says, Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do
you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 1 Corinthians
Well he knew, that destruction ever follows, not the injured party, but
the injuring. All this I have said, by reason of the envy of the Jews.
Because those who had flocked from the cities to John, and had
condemned their own sins, and caused themselves to be baptized,
repenting as it were after Baptism, send to ask him, Who are you? Of a
truth they were the offspring of vipers, serpents, and even worse if
possible than this. O evil and adulterous and perverse generation,
after having been baptized, do you then become vainly curious, and
question about the Baptist? What folly can be greater than this of
yours? How was it that you came forth? That you confessed your sins,
that you ran to the Baptist? How was it that you asked him what you
must do? When in all this you were acting unreasonably, since you knew
not the principle and purpose of his coming. Yet of this the blessed
John said nothing, nor does he charge or reproach them with it, but
answers them with all gentleness.
It is worth while to learn why he did thus. It was, that their
wickedness might be manifest and plain to all men. Often did John
testify of Christ to the Jews, and when he baptized them he continually
made mention of Him to his company, and said, I indeed baptize you with water, but there
comes One after me who is mightier than I; He shall baptize you with
the Holy Ghost and with fire. Matthew 3:11
With regard to him they were affected by a human feeling; for,
tremblingly attentive to the opinion of the world, and looking to the
outward appearance 2 Corinthians 10:7, they deemed it an unworthy thing
that he should be subject to Christ. Since there were many things that
pointed out John for an illustrious person. In the first place, his
distinguished and noble descent; for he was the son of a chief priest.
Then his conversation, his austere mode of life, his contempt of all
human things; for despising dress and table, and house and food itself,
he had passed his former time in the desert. In the case of Christ all
was the contrary of this. His family was mean, (as they often objected
to Him, saying, Is not this the
carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren James
and Joses?) Matthew 13:55; and that which was supposed to be His
country was held in such evil repute, that even Nathanael said, Can there any good thing come out of
Nazareth? John 1:46
His mode of living was ordinary, and His garments not better than those
of the many. For He was not girt with a leathern girdle, nor was His
raiment of hair, nor did He eat honey and locusts. But He fared like
all others, and was present at the feasts of wicked men and publicans,
that He might draw them to Him. Which thing the Jews not understanding
reproached Him with, as He also says Himself, The Son of Man came eating and drinking,
and they say, Behold a gluttonous
man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. Matthew
When then John continually sent them from himself to Jesus, who seemed
to them a meaner person, being ashamed and vexed at this, and wishing
rather to have him for their teacher, they did not dare to say so
plainly, but send to him, thinking by their flattery to induce him to
confess that he was the Christ. They do not therefore send to him mean
men, as in the case of Christ, for when they wished to lay hold on Him,
they sent servants, and then Herodians, and the like, but in this
instance, priests and Levites, and not merely priests, but those from
Jerusalem, that is, the more honorable; for the Evangelist did not
notice this without a cause. And they send to ask, Who are you? Yet the
manner of his birth was well known to all, so that all said, What
manner of child shall this be? Luke 1:66; and the report had gone forth
into all the hill country. And afterwards when he came to Jordan, all
the cities were set on the wing, and came to him from Jerusalem, and
from all JudŠa, to be baptized. Why then do they now ask? Not because
they did not know him, (how could that be, when he had been made
manifest in so many ways?) but because they wished to bring him to do
that which I have mentioned.
2. Hear then how this blessed person answered to the intention with
which they asked the question, not to the question itself. When they
said, Who are you? he did not
at once give them what would have been the direct answer, I am the voice of one crying in the
wilderness. But what did he? He removed the suspicion they had
formed; for, says the Evangelist, being asked, Who are you?
He confessed, and
denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. Observe the
wisdom of the Evangelist. He mentions this for the third time, to set
forth the excellency of the Baptist, and their wickedness and folly.
And Luke also says, that when the multitudes supposed him to be the
Christ, he again removes their suspicion. This is the part of an honest
servant, not only not to take to himself his master's honor, but also
to reject it when given to him by the many. But the multitudes arrived
at this supposition from simplicity and ignorance; these questioned him
from an ill intention, which I have mentioned, expecting, as I said, to
draw him over to their purpose by their flattery. Had they not expected
this, they would not have proceeded immediately to another question,
but would have been angry with him for having given them an answer
foreign to their enquiry, and would have said, Why, did we suppose that? Did we come to
ask you that? But now as taken and detected in the fact, they
proceed to another question, and say, What
then? Are you Elias? And he says, I am not.
For they expected that Elias also would come, as Christ declares; for
when His disciples enquired, How then do the scribes say that Elias
must first come? Matthew 17:10 He replied, Elias truly shall first come, and restore
all things. Then they ask, Are
you that prophet?
And he answered, No. Matthew
Yet surely he was a prophet. Wherefore then does he deny it? Because
again he looks to the intention of his questioners. For they expected
that some special prophet should come, because Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up unto you a
Prophet of your brethren like me, unto Him shall you harken.
Now this was Christ. Wherefore they do not say, Are you a prophet? meaning thereby
one of the ordinary prophets; but the expression, Are you the prophet?
with the addition of the article, means, Are you that Prophet who was
foretold by Moses? and therefore he denied not that he was a prophet,
but that he was that Prophet.
Then said they unto him, Who are
you? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What do you say
Observe them pressing him more vehemently, urging him, repeating their
questions, and not desisting; while he first kindly removes false
opinions concerning himself, and then sets before them one which is
true. For, says he, I am the voice
of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as
said the prophet Esaias.When he had spoken some high and lofty
words concerning Christ, as if (replying) to their opinion, he
immediately betook himself to the Prophet to draw from thence
confirmation of his assertion.
And [says the Evangelist] they who were sent were of the Pharisees. And
they asked him, and said to him, Why
do you baptize then, if you be not that Christ, neither Elias, neither
Do you see not without reason I said that they wished to bring him to
this? And the reason why they did not at first say so was, lest they
should be detected by all men. And then when he said, I am not the Christ, they, being
desirous to conceal what they were plotting within, go on to Elias, and
But when he said that he was not one of these either, after that, in
their perplexity, they cast aside the mask, and without any disguise
show clearly their treacherous intention, saying, Why do you baptize then, if you be not
that Christ? And then again, wishing to throw some obscurity
over the thing, "seest thou how,
disguising what they had, they add." -- they add the others
also, Elias, and that Prophet. For when they were not able to trip him
by their flattery, they thought that by an accusation they could compel
him to say the thing that was not.
What folly, what insolence, what ill-timed officiousness! You were sent
to learn who and whence he might be, not to lay down laws for him also.
This too was the conduct of men who would compel him to confess himself
to be the Christ. Still not even now is he angry, nor does he, as might
have been expected, say to them anything of this sort, Do you give
orders and make laws for me? but again shows great gentleness towards
I baptize with
water: but there stands one among you, whom you know not; He it is, who
coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not
worthy to unloose.
3. What could the Jews have left to say to this? For even from this the
accusation against them cannot be evaded, the decision against them
admits not of pardon, they have given sentence against themselves. How?
In what way? They deemed John worthy of credit, and so truthful, that
they might believe him not only when he testified of others, but also
when he spoke concerning himself. For had they not been so disposed,
they would not have sent to learn from him what related to himself.
Because you know that the only persons whom we believe, especially when
speaking of themselves, are those whom we suppose to be more veracious
than any others. And it is not this alone which closes their mouths,
but also the disposition with which they had approached him; for they
came forth to him at first with great eagerness, even though afterwards
they altered. Both which things Christ declared, when He said, He was a
burning (and a shining) light, and you were willing for a season to
rejoice in his light.
Moreover, his answer made him yet more worthy of credit. For (Christ)
says, He that seeks not his own
glory, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Now
this man sought it not, but refers the Jews to another. And those who
were sent were of the most trustworthy among them, and of the highest
rank, so that they could have in no way any refuge or excuse, for the
unbelief which they exhibited towards Christ. Wherefore did you not
receive the things spoken concerning Him by John? You sent men who held
the first rank among you, you enquired by them, you heard what the
Baptist answered, they manifested all possible officiousness, sought
into every point, named all the persons you suspected him to be; and
yet most publicly and plainly he confessed that he was neither Christ,
nor Elias nor that Prophet.
Nor did he stop even there, but also informed them who he was, and
spoke of the nature of his own baptism, that it was but a slight and
mean thing, nothing more than some water, and told of the superiority
of the Baptism given by Christ; he also cited Esaias the prophet,
testifying of old very long ago, and calling Christ Lord Isaiah 40:3,
but giving him the names of minister and servant. What after this ought
they to have done? Ought they not to have believed on Him who was
witnessed of, to have worshipped Him, to have confessed Him to be God?
For the character and heavenly wisdom of the witness showed that his
testimony proceeded, not from flattery, but from truth; which is plain
also from this, that no man prefers his neighbor to himself, nor, when
he may lawfully give honor to himself, will yield it up to another,
especially when it is so great as that of which we speak. So that John
would not have renounced this testimony (as belonging) to Christ, had
He not been God. For though he might have rejected it for himself as
being too great for his own nature, yet he would not have assigned it
to another nature that was beneath it.
But there stands
One among you, whom you know not. Reasonable it was that Christ
should mingle among the people as one of the many, because everywhere
He taught men not to be puffed up and boastful. And in this place by
knowledge the Baptist means a perfect acquaintance with Him, who and
whence He was. And immediately next to this he puts, Who comes after me; all but saying,
Think not that all is contained in my baptism, for had that been
perfect, Another would not have arisen after me to offer you a
different One, but this of mine is a preparation and a clearing the way
for that other. Mine is but a shadow and image, but One must come who
shall add to this the reality. So that His very coming 'after me'
especially declares His dignity: for had the first been perfect, no
place would have been required for a second. Is before me, is more
And then, lest they should imagine that His superiority was found by
comparison, desiring to establish His incomparableness, he says, Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to
unloose; that is, who is not simply before me, but before me in such a way, that I am
not worthy to be numbered among the meanest of His servants. For to
loose the shoe is the office of humblest service.
Now if John was not worthy to unloose the latchet Matthew 11:11, John,
than whom among them that are born of women there has not risen a
greater, where shall we rank ourselves? If he who was equal to, or
rather greater than, all the world, (for says Paul, the world was not
worthy of them Hebrews 11:38 declares himself not worthy to be reckoned
even among the meanest of those who should minister unto Him, what
shall we say, who are full of ten thousand sins, and are as far from
the excellence of John, as earth from heaven.
4. He then says that he himself is not worthy so much as to unloose the
latchet of His shoe; while the enemies of the truth are mad with such a
madness, as to assert that they are worthy to know Him even as He knows
Himself. What is worse than such insanity, what more frenzied than such
arrogance? Well has a wise man said, The beginning of pride is not to
know the Lord.