The Homiletic Directory
CCC 522, 711-716, 722: the prophets and the expectation of the Messiah
CCC 523, 717-720: the mission of John the Baptist
CCC 1042-1050: a new heaven and a new earth
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The prophets and the expectation of the Messiah
The Christmas mystery
525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family.202 Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest.203 The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:
- The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal
And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.
The angels and shepherds praise him
And the magi advance with the star,
For you are born for us,
Little Child, God eternal!204
Expectation of the Messiah and his Spirit
711 “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”78 Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”79
We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.
712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”80 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:
- There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.81
713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”82 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”83 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
714 This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News by making his own the following passage from Isaiah:84
- The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good tidings to the afflicted;
he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.
715 The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”85 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.86 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.
716 The People of the “poor”87 – those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah – are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ’s coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready “a people prepared for the Lord.”88
IV. THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME
“Rejoice, you who are full of grace”
722 The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”102 should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice.”103 It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle104 lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.
The mission of John the Baptist
II. THE MYSTERIES OF JESUS’ INFANCY AND HIDDEN LIFE
523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.196 “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.197 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.198 Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.199
IV. THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME
John, precursor, prophet, and baptist
717 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”89 John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb”90 by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.91
718 John is “Elijah [who] must come.”92 The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of “[making] ready a people prepared for the Lord.”93
719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”94 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.95 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.96 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”97 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.98 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . . . Behold, the Lamb of God.”99
720 Finally, with John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of “the divine likeness,” prefiguring what he would achieve with and in Christ. John’s baptism was for repentance; baptism in water and the Spirit will be a new birth.100
A new heaven and a new earth
VI. THE HOPE OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH
1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:
- The Church . . . will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.631
1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”632 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”633
1044 In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men.634 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”635
1045 For man, this consummation will be the final realization of the unity of the human race, which God willed from creation and of which the pilgrim Church has been “in the nature of sacrament.”636 Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, “the holy city” of God, “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”637 She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community.638 The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion.
1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man:
- For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.639
1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.640
1048 “We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed. The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men.”641
1049 “Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society.”642
1050 “When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise . . . according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom.”643 God will then be “all in all” in eternal life:644
- True and subsistent life consists in this: the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, pouring out his heavenly gifts on all things without exception. Thanks to his mercy, we too, men that we are, have received the inalienable promise of eternal life.645
Dates are for Sundays of 2020-21
“The following paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church resonate with the biblical readings for this Sunday. They were chosen either because they cite or allude to the specific readings, or because they treat topics found in the readings.”