Advent 03, Year A-2010
- In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us (Lk. 1:78—ICET)
Her husband, already in his late fifties, has been unemployed for almost a year a now. She herself has not worked for a very long time due to work-related injuries on account of which she has filed for either worker’s compensation or social security permanent disability payments. She has gone through all kinds of hoops; to date, however, no check has come her way. The older of their two boys, in their mid-twenties, has not succeeded in finding a job, while the younger ekes out a living doing odd jobs here and there. What is left of the family savings is being depleted faster than she’d like, a significant portion of which is being spent on health insurance that she cannot do without, given the health issues resulting from her injuries. No wonder, therefore, that she did not feel—she confided to a close friend soon after Thanksgiving—like putting up Christmas decorations.
But she did decide, in the end, to have a Christmas tree and a festive ambience at home. Her decision came no sooner than she had found out that her friend was about ready to put up her decorations. Her friend is not much better off than she is; she has her share of aches and pains, health issues, and financial and other worries to contend with. It didn’t take her long to figure out that if her friend was going to decorate, she too should.
She has, I believe, a true friend. Her friend simply, but convincingly, and without much effort and probably without knowing it either, has opened her eyes to the truth that “the lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 29:19—NAB). And together with her friend now, she echoes at least, I’d like to think, St. Paul’s insistence that the Lord’s being near is a reason to rejoice, yes, with a kind and peaceful joy that leaves no room for anxiety and is not dampened by any hardship, not even by imprisonment, as the apostle also proved through personal example (Phil. 4:4-7).
The two of them appear to me, moreover, to proclaim, better than many an eloquent and erudite preacher, the prophetic utterance in the first reading that desert and parched land are not to be considered incompatible with gladness and bloom, nor are feeble hands and weak knees to be taken to be beyond remedy. She and her friend, it seems to me, likewise exemplify the farmers or the prophets, in today’s second reading, whose hardship and endurance are rewarded with abundant harvest of ripe and precious fruits at the full coming of God’s set time (cf. also Gal. 4:4). For the God of these two friends, fulfilling the promise he made through Isaiah, is indeed here and comes with vindication to open the eyes of the blind, to clear the ears of the deaf, to make the lame leap like a stag, to enable the mute to sing. Their helplessness and insecurity have prompted the Lord, who hears the cry of the poor, to put forth an appearance (Ps. 34:6; 116:6).
The Lord is here, confirming the two friends in their faith, ever lurking and threatening, after all, is the danger of taking offense at him. He not only praises their commitment and simplicity; he also proclaims them to be—in their very vulnerability, disillusionment, brokenness (not unlike John the Baptist’s), and littleness—among the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
The two friends decorate for Jesus’ sake. He, of course, takes them to be worthy of adornments. And he’d rather have them forego decorating a church, or any building for that matter, if decorating would mean ignoring an “afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all” . Partaking, at Christ’s table, of bread from a golden paten and of wine out of a golden chalice means nothing and only brings judgment and spells darkness and gloom, not the light and the joy of salvation that come with Jesus’ coming, if the poor are ignored and are shown no tender compassion.
-  See the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, for Saturday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time, which is an excerpt from a homily on Matthew by St. John Chrysostom.