Homily for Dec. 15, Thursday of the III week of Advent
Remember how at the beginning of Advent, I said that the first reading and the Gospel go together very clearly most days during this season? Today is one of the exceptions that prove the rule. At first glance, these readings have practically nothing to do with each other. So, when preparing the homily today, I started by focusing on a phrase from the Gospel that is hard to understand. To my surprise, that actually ended up tying both readings together.
In the Gospel, Jesus sings the praises of John the Baptist saying that “among those born of women, no one is greater than John”. Then, Jesus says that “the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.” This doesn’t seem to make sense. But we have to look at how John the Baptist describes himself elsewhere, in the gospel of St. John: as the best man, who rejoices at the arrival of the bridegroom, who is Christ.
Christ is God who has come to “marry” humanity; those who accept God’s invitation to enter into a relationship of love with Him form the Church, the bride of Christ. This is foreshadowed in the first reading, that speaks of the spousal relationship of God with His Chosen People. St. Paul also speaks of the relationship of Christ to the Church as one of husband and wife.
God is the perfect spouse. He will never abandon us; He is with us in sickness and health, in good times and bad, and not even death can separate us. Through the Eucharist, we become one flesh. At Christmas, He takes on our humanity; through the sacraments, He gives us His divinity. This is perhaps why St. John the Baptist is less than the least in the Kingdom of God, which is the Church; he was cleansed from sin while still in the womb, but he never received the Eucharist. He was the best man; we are members of the the Church – Christ’s bride.
This gets into some fairly deep theology, and gives us plenty of food for thought. I invite all of us to take some time today to reflect on how we respond to God’s complete spousal self-giving, which was made so real and concrete at Christmas.