Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent
Memorial of Pope St. Damasus
December 11, 2013
Is 40:25-31, Ps 103, Mt 11:28-30
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click here:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Advent involves a dual-dynamism: Christ’s advent or coming toward us and our advent or going toward Christ. The culmination of that double movement is not supposed to be a brief exchange but a life-long, profound, joy-filled embrace, a communion that is meant to last forever. That’s what we see in today’s Gospel when Jesus calls us to come to him and to “yoke” ourselves with him. A yoke is a farm instrument that harnesses two animals, like oxen, together so that they can work together. Christ wants to form a yoke with us so that we will do all things in a loving tandem with him. The yoke is not supposed to be exterior but interior. He is coming to be God-with-us not part-time, not on the outside, but full-time on the inside.
- When we yoke ourselves to the Lord, we yoke ourselves first to his power. In today’s first reading from Isaiah, we see that the God who is coming to yoke himself to us is the God who has “great might,” who leads out an “army” by the “strength of his power,” who “does not faint nor grow worthy,” but who “gives strength to the fainting [and] for the weak he makes vigor abound.” Even if “young men faint and grow weary” — understand vigorous young athletes — those who yoke themselves to the Lord “will renew their strength, … will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faith.” To yoke ourselves to God means to bind ourselves to his great strength and power.
- But God’s great strength is not exercised in the way the strong of the world often flex their muscles. Yoked to the Lord, we’re not going to become heavyweight boxing champions of the world. We see the way Jesus himself exercises his strength in the Gospel. He calls us to learn from him, because he is “meek and humble of heart.” Meekness is not weakness. The Greek word for “meek” means the self-discipline and power of a martial arts expert, or a tremendously agile athlete, of a well-trained, docile horse, capable of action and reaction at a simple bump. Real strength is not shown in pummeling any and all adversaries, but often in resisting doing so even though one could. That’s why St. Paul will say about Christ crucified, that he is the power and the wisdom of God. We yoke ourselves to that humble, meek, power.
- The ones who show us most profoundly the type of life-changing Advent yoking to which we’re called are the martyrs, who even in the midst of all their sufferings bound themselves to Christ in his power and wisdom on the yoke of the Cross. St. Damasus whom we celebrate today was the pope who adorned all of their graves in the catacombs and made it possible for the hordes of pilgrims coming to Rome to visit and venerate their mortal remains. We can learn a lot from this important phase in Church history. After the legalization of Christianity by Constantine in 313, many were becoming Christians because Constantine wanted Christians in his civil service, because Christians up until that point would never lie and he wanted trustworthy people around him. For that reason, whereas prior to the legalization of Christianity, the only people who were becoming Christians were those who were willing to die for their faith, many after the legalization were getting baptized in order to get ahead. So there was a backlash among many Christians who thought that the practice of the faith was becoming diluted. There were two things they did. First, they started to go out into the desert as monks. Advent is a season in which we’re all called to have desert days, days of prayer, days of recollection, to make sure we’re not caught up in spiritual worldliness. The second thing they did was to venerate the martyrs, those who gave the supreme witness of the faith for him who previously died for them. We, too, need during this Advent to remember the martyrs and to imitate them, as Pope Damasus tried to inspire the whole early Church to do.
- The great way we yoke ourselves to Christ on the inside happens at Mass, when we enter into a holy communion with Jesus. The word in Latin for yoke is jugum and the expression to be yoked with someone is conjugum. That’s where we get our term “conjugal,” or “spousal,” because husbands and wives are yoked together for the rest of their life in one flesh. It’s here at Mass, in the consummation of Jesus the Bridegroom’s spousal union with us, his Bride, that we are yoked to him. That’s why we’ve come here today. That’s why he’s come her today. May St. Damasus help us to stay yoked to the Lord like the desert monks and the martyrs, so that in this world we may experience how sweet, light and easy that yoke and come to be yoked to Christ forever in heaven.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
and see who has created these things:
He leads out their army and numbers them,
calling them all by name.
By his great might and the strength of his power
not one of them is missing!
Why, O Jacob, do you say,
and declare, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?Do you not know
or have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God,
creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8 AND 10
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”