The following is by Father Valentine Young, OFM, a faithful Catholic priest who died on 17 January 2020. It was delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020. To learn more about Father Valentine, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
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—Taken from the Saint Isaac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Gradual, and Lectionary.
LIKE THE WAY the Gospel writer presents Saint John the Baptist. First of all, he tells us that John the Baptist was practicing himself what he was preaching to others. He must have been living a very penitential life. He was living in the desert, with no conveniences. From other sources we know his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. His clothing was made of camel skin. And he must have understood his role as the forerunner or pre-cursor of Christ. We know that he would have only been a few months older than Jesus, his cousin. The Bible doesn’t tell us much: just that Mary and Elizabeth were cousins. It simply states the fact. Considering their ages, they probably weren’t first cousins. Apparently people back in those days took their relationships more seriously than many of us do today. I’m always amazed when we read some of those long genealogies in the Bible. We are lucky if we know who our Great-grand-parents were.
His message: The message of Saint John the Baptist was that someone greater than he was coming, Who was to be the Savior of the world. All of us can apply this message to ourselves. We must be constantly making ourselves more ready for Christ to come to us. Advent should be a time when we try to root out anything that is interfering in our lives with our becoming more Christ-like.
A fearless preacher: And Saint John the Baptist wasn’t afraid even to tell the “big shots” of his day what was wrong with them. Believe me: that takes courage. In fact, we know that Saint John the Baptist lost his head because he dared to tell King Herod that he was sinning by taking his brother’s wife. I’m reminded of a recent incident when a priest in South Caroline dared to refuse Holy Communion to a politician who was known to vote in favor of abortion. Perhaps what is even more encouraging: I haven’t heard that this priest was ‘scolded’ by his bishop for doing so. Things are looking up!
Present situation: We are again living in a season of Advent. Many of us have lived many seasons in Advent before. I don’t want to be critical or pessimistic, but we are living in unique times in the Church. I know that many people are bewildered as to what is going on. And I wish that my take on it were wrong. But the most basic or crucial thing facing the people in God’s Church today is the thought—and maybe even the justifiable conviction—that the ordinary faithful, the ordinary people (and that includes you and me) cannot trust the leadership in the Church. I’m not saying that this includes all leadership, but it does include significant leadership and some of it reaching to the very top.
What can we do: Naturally the question arises, “What can we do about it?” The only thing we can do is put it in God’s hands and do our part by as much extra praying and penance that we think necessary. Like it or not, Pope Benedict freely resigned the papacy, which he was able to do. Pope Francis was duly elected. He will remain the Pope until he dies or freely resigns. We are just wasting our time if we think there is some other solution.
“Give until it hurts” Years ago, I heard that preachers used to use the slogan “Give till it hurts” when they were giving a sermon that was asking people to contribute more money. I think in the present situation, those of us who are trying to remain faithful should consider whether we are giving God as much He deserves. You might recall that when we did not have the Latin Mass, there were all kinds of people clamoring for the Latin Mass. Many places had long lists of people who wanted it. First Saturdays was supposed to be so important to people. It doesn’t look that way anymore around here, with the few people who come to Mass. On first Fridays most people—even traditional Catholics—don’t seem to know a thing about it.
Sunday, the Lord’s Day: The whole day of Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not just that hour that you have to give by going to Mass. Why aren’t more people taking advantage of the opportunity to praise God by attending Vespers? Lots of people can make it downtown for Cincinnati Bengal games.
The Spartans: Roger Bacon High School, a High School sponsored by the Franciscans in Cincinnati has as its mascot the ‘Spartans’. They were citizens of the Ancient Greek City of Sparta. They were known for their bravery in war, their skill in athletics, and their pursuit of knowledge. Evidently the founding Fathers of Roger Bacon high School felt this was a good model to present to the students. Some schools recently have run into difficulties with their mascots; some are claimed to be racist or offensive to certain groups. Time will only tell if some citizens of present day Sparta will someday appear on Roger Bacon’s front steps demanding that they change their mascot.
Conclusion: In one of his epistles, Saint Paul speaks about how the athletes of his day would work out just to win an earthly, perishable crown. In many respects we have to say that things haven’t changed. We will go through all kinds of discomforts, hardships, and inconveniences for things of this world in regard to sports, hobbies, and work. But we won’t think about doing anything extra for God. If you think we are living in such desperate and different times, then let God know about it—by what you are willing to do for God. Just don’t talk about it and complain about it. Do something to show that you want and need God’s help. Yes the problems facing us are bigger than us; only God has the answer. But we aren’t going to get those prayers or needs taken care of by doing nothing on our part. Yes, these are extraordinary times—and they require something extraordinary from us. +