2nd Sunday of Advent
Year C

Value the things that really matter

A fairy tale come to life. Such was the story of Princess Grace of Monaco. The daughter of a self-made Philadelphia millionaire, Grace Kelly, moved from finishing school into acting and from Oscar-winning stardom into marriage with the reigning Prince of Monaco. Over the years a fair number of American women have wedded foreign noblemen, and even foreign rulers. More often than not, however, their marriages have floundered. Not so the marriage of Rainier and Grace. Apart from the trials that come to every couple, they really did "live happily ever after."

Probably the main reason why their match was happy was that Grace Kelly never shirked responsibilities. When she was an actress, she took that profession seriously, and by the time she retired from the screen, she had moved far towards mastering the art of acting. When she became a princess, she also took that role seriously. It was her duty to be a leader to her people, and she was a leader. In his telegram of condolence to Prince Rainier on the Princess's death, Pope John Paul praised her for this trait: "She always fulfilled her mission as sovereign and as mother of a family with a great spirit of faith and in a manner which won her the respect and sympathy of all."

Glamor she had, and very great beauty. But beneath the outward attractiveness lay a strong Christian conviction of the importance of the family and a deep reverence for wife-hood and motherhood. She vigorously opposed pornography, abortion, and whatever else was harmful to human families; and she found in the Mass and in her charitable causes strength and fulfillment.

St. Paul prayed that Christians might "learn to value the things that really matter, up to the very day of Christ:" (Philippians, 1, 10). Grace Kelly was one of the beneficiaries of his prayer.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Q401: Is the "litany" of people that St. Luke starts out with today (Lk 3:1-6) intended to place this story accurately within history?

St. Luke is a very skillful writer, and may I say, "very cunning." What he is doing is "using history" to make a powerful point. Let's take a closer look at what that point is.

This "litany" of names is all about power. It starts out identifying the superpower of the day, Emperor Tiberius Caesar. Next we see Pontius Pilate, a procurator (officer of the Empire and agent of the Emperor). Then come three tetrarchs, each one a governor of a section of the Province. Having named the big-wigs of temporal power, he now turns to the big-wigs of Jewish religious authority, naming both Annas and Caiaphas who hold the two highest positions in Judaism. The power structure is complete.

But what do we see God doing? This is where Luke's genius comes into play. Luke sees clearly that it is not the emperors, governors, and high priests that God wants to speak through. Instead of using the power structure or political structure, he speaks His word to a simple, God-fearing, locust-eating desert man, who dressed in clothes made of camel's hair (Mt 3:4)! This message was the most exciting message ever heard up to that point in time: the Messiah was coming, and all humankind would see the salvation of God!

God always chooses the lowly, the humble, those who are trying to do His will. Nowhere is this more evident than in the selection of John the Baptist to be the bearer of God's word! This gives us great hope. It is not the exercise of power nor the holding of possessions that matters. The only thing that matters is the condition of our heart, which reflects our relationship with God.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Two significant Advent values are Hope and Humility - and it can't be coincidental that both are listed consecutively in the Glossary to the Catechism (p.882). Hope enables us to desire and expect eternal life with God (CCC #1817), as we humbly and trustingly await the return of the Lord Jesus in glory (CCC #840).

Prepare the Way of the Lord

The Prophet Baruch speaks of God tearing down the mountains and filling in the pot holes, making a smooth road over which he will bring his crushed and scattered people back to a renewed and glorified Jerusalem. John the Baptist calls us to clear a straight path for the coming of the Lord with God's salvation. We too are called to these tasks of preparing for the coming of the Lord. How can we help make the road easier for the coming. We can help to prepare the way of the Lord by our common prayer and by giving an example of what faith in Jesus can mean.

Lord help us to go before you to clear your way by tearing down the mountains of pride and self - satisfaction that stand in the way of your coming. Help us to bridge the chasms created by our weakness and lack of understanding.