All the priests stand at their duty every day, offering sacrifices, over and over again which are quite incapable of taking sins away. The Jewish priesthood is a shadow of what was to come... How should we consider the old sacrifice and the New? Why did we need the True Sacrifice? How are we sanctified by this Sacrifice?
The Saviour offers a universal invitation, ‘come to me’. And then He describes those in particular whom He wishes to come, ‘all you who labour and overburdened’. And He promises us a reward or a consolation for our journey to Him, ‘I will give you rest’. And so the first thing we ask is, what is this labour? What is this burden? Oh, not burden, but overburden... We work… Our works which are not the works of God - and consequently we carry a burden which does not belong to God. We carry our own burden, the talent of lead, that is spoken of by the prophet.
Today the sixth of December, the second Sunday of Advent. Of course we are preparing for several feasts of Our Lady, the feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th and then we have Our Lady of Guadalupe which will be on Saturday, and then there is the feast of the expectation of Our Lady and we’re moving slowly toward the feast of Christmas the birth of Our Saviour. So it is quite fitting that we should focus on the Mother of Our Saviour.
Today’s feast is a celebration of one of the great popes, with which Christ has blessed his Church, Leo called the great. He was of aristocratic origin and has befitted his rank at the time; he was an ambassador for many parts of the empire. He was elected a deacon of the Church and on the death of the Pope in 440 he was elected unanimously by the clergy of Rome to be the pontiff. Immediately he set himself the task of securing the Church. We are talking at a very difficult time in Church history, all times are difficult, some more than others.
The feast of the presentation of our Blessed Lady is in commemoration of the dedication of the temple in the Jerusalem. The temple of course to our Blessed Lady was built in the year 543AD. Our Lady’s presentation of course corresponds very much to the presentation of Our Lord in the temple. The presentation of the child to God, was an acknowledgement that God had given to the parents a gift. In the case of our Blessed Lady, she was the greatest gift to the human race, in as much as she was to be the mother of the Saviour.
Our most blessed Saviour had gone into Jerusalem; this is the last year of his life on earth. Going straight to the temple, He cleansed it for the second time of those who were trading in it. Then retiring to Bethany the following day He returned to the temple and He was teaching. The chief priest and the elders were rattled by His behaviour. This up start, He does not belong to the priestly line, He is from the provinces a country bumpkin and here He is acting as someone with authority. Even to the point of cleansing the temple.
On this the forth Sunday of Advent, the Church gives us the visitation of our Blessed Lady to Elisabeth for our meditation. As with all the scriptures, there are many threads and it’s always difficult to choose one particular or even two threads that would do justice to the nativity of our Lord. But joining the passage we’ve just heard to that, the letter to the Hebrews, we see in the Church gives us the restoration of the human race, how so? What brought about the fall of the human race?
St. John the Baptist appeared at the river Jordon, unexpectedly, dressed in camel skin with a very meagre diet; locust, wild honey and water. He came preaching a gospel of repentance. He spoke about the axe which was already laid to the root of the tree. He called the Pharisees who came to the Jordon a set of vipers. To the people, his language is a little more gentle but non the less, he warned them unless they repented they would perish. He worked no signs, he just preached.
We live in an age, where idealism, elitism is frowned upon. It seems as if everything has been dragged down and our religion with it. So that, even the idea of saying that Christianity is different from every other religion, is regard as a kind of arrogance. Nevertheless it is true, and this is something we need to remember, that the founder of Christianity, the giver of Truth is Himself God, that He claimed to be God. There is no other founder of any religion which has every made the claim to be God. The best that they could say is that they are prophets.
Our Lord, as we just said, washed His disciple’s feet which had scandalised Peter.