Fourth Sunday of Advent
A Priest Under Scrutiny
Saint Paul presents himself in today’s Epistle as any priest would — or should — he is Christ’s servant and a steward of God’s mysteries. As such, Saint Paul is free of all concern with how others may see him, or scrutinize him, or judge him. The only scrutiny that concerns him is the scrutiny of Christ, and Christ, he knows, will scrutinize him with eyes of merciful love. Would not Saint Paul have prayed, “Lord, I lie open to thy scrutiny; thou knowest me, knowest when sit down and when I rise up again, canst read my thoughts from far away. Walk I or sleep I, thou canst tell; no movement of mine but thou art watching it. Before ever the words are framed on my lips, all my thought is known to thee; rearguard and vanguard, thou dost compass me about, thy hand still laid upon me” (Psalm 138:1–5).
Christ Knows Your Whole Story
Christ, at His coming, will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and reveal the secrets of men’s hearts. Christ knows our personal histories; He knows them better than we do. “Author, thou, of my inmost being, didst thou not form me in my mother’s womb? I praise thee for my wondrous fashioning, for all the wonders of thy creation. Of my soul thou hast full knowledge, and this mortal frame had no mysteries for thee, who didst contrive it in secret, devise its pattern, there in the dark recesses of the earth. All my acts thy eyes have seen, all are set down already in thy record; my days were numbered before ever they came to be” (Psalm 138:13–16). Christ knew each one of us in our mothers’ wombs, and at every moment of our growth, birth, development, and coming of age.
Jesus, King of Love
Christ the Judge,the King of Love, looks upon us with eyes of mercy; he scrutinizes us through the lens of what Mother Yvonne–Aimée called his miséricordieuse bonté, his merciful goodness. He would have us look at Him as He appears in the manger at Bethlehem: very little, poor, vulnerable, dependent, and incapable of uttering a word. He would have us look at Him as Mother Yvonne–Aimée depicted Him: a little boy, offering the olive branch of healing and of peace, pointing to His Heart, and asking only that we trust in His merciful love for us. He would have us look into His eyes and see there the mystery of redeeming love. “All mankind,” says Saint John the Forerunner, “is to see the saving power of God” (Luke 3:6). God’s saving power is the gentle might by which he makes us whole. He who fashioned man from the dust of the earth comes among us with the little hands of an infant to refashion what sin has twisted and to make beautiful again what sin has disfigured.
Epistle: That is how we ought to be regarded, as Christ’s servants, and stewards of God’s mysteries. And this is what we look for in choosing a steward; we must find one who is trustworthy. Yet for myself, I make little account of your scrutiny, or of any human audit-day; I am not even at pains to scrutinize my own conduct. My conscience does not, in fact, reproach me; but that is not where my justification lies; it is the Lord’s scrutiny I must undergo. You do ill, therefore, to pass judgement prematurely, before the Lord’s coming; he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and reveal the secrets of men’s hearts; then each of us will receive his due award from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1–5)
Gospel: It was in the fifteenth year of the emperor Tiberius’ reign,when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, when Herod was prince in Galilee, his brother Philip in the Ituraean and Trachonitid region, and Lysanias in Abilina, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiphas, that the word of God came upon John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he went all over the country round Jordan, announcing a baptism whereby men repented, to have their sins forgiven: as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaias, There is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, straighten out his paths. Every valley is to be bridged, and every mountain and hill levelled, and the windings are to be cut straight, and the rough paths made into smooth roads, and all mankind is to see the saving power of God. (Luke 3:1–6)