“A light of revelation to the gentiles” (Lk.2:32)
John, the son of Zachary and Elizabeth, we are told in today’s Gospel, came into the country about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. John’s baptism had no power, of itself, to take away sin, since it was not the Sacrament of Baptism later instituted by Our Lord. It was merely symbolic of the cleansing power of God’s forgiveness for those who would repent of their sins. The Law itself, revealed through Moses at Sinai, had no power to remove sin. Its purpose, St. Paul tells us, was only to reveal sin. One could be justified, under the Old Law, only through faith in God’s promise of a Redeemer.
God’s salvation would come when God would send His Son, born of Mary, to be the Savior of the world. All who are of good will, in the biblical sense, recognize Him and accept Him. As the ancient Simeon would say, taking the Child Jesus in his arms when He was presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph: “…my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light of revelation to the gentiles, and a glory for thy people Israel” (Lk.2:29-32).
The world, of course, makes its own promises of salvation, such as through the ecstatic experiences of the senses, which, if sought illicitly, give brief pleasure, but leave one empty and desolate, with the need for more and more such experiences. The use of drugs is of epidemic proportions among the young.
Adults do it by prescription. The TV ads tell us that the latest pink or purple pill can cure whatever ails you. Unpleasant side effects are hastily added at the end of the advertisement. No mention is made of other side effects for those who believe the world’s promises: a troubled conscience, sleepless nights, deteriorating health, a shortened lifespan, and an eternity in hell.
The world makes false promises of an earthly paradise through political means, rejecting God’s established order and promoting its own plans for a new world order, in which there will be “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” If you study history, you know that it just doesn’t work, and that some always end up “more equal than others,” as George Orwell pointed out in his novel, Animal Farm. In fact, upon investigation, we find out that the promised “new world” will be for the chosen few, after the “unfit” are eliminated through disease, famine, incarceration, ethnic cleansing, and war. Among the “unfit” will be those who refuse to bow down to the gods of the new World Religion, and insist on worshipping Jesus Christ.
The new “church of Vatican II” also offers an earthly salvation, its own version of the “new world order,” with a “civilization of peace and love,” attained through dialogue between “men of good will” of all religions and persuasions. And you don’t even have to believe in Jesus or be baptized, since “the salvation process,” whatever that means, is going on in everyone’s life, whether they like it or not.
Scripture tells us, and the Fathers of the Church confirm, that the false religion of the Antichrist will be a parody of true religion, dressing itself up with religious trappings so as to deceive the unwary. Sure enough, the UN promoted its New World Religion by sending around its “Ark of Hope,” a blasphemous copy of the biblical Ark of the Covenant, which held the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. The new “Ark of Hope” contained the Earth Charter of the United Nations.
But we already have an Ark of Hope. At the moment of the Incarnation, as the Holy Virgin Mary gave her consent to be the Mother of the Son of God, the power of the Holy Ghost overshadoed her, just as the glory of God descended upon the ancient Ark of the Covenant a thousand years before. Mary immediately rose up and traveled through the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth, just as the ancient Ark traveled through the same hill country after it was recovered from the Philistines.
The ancient Ark on its journey to Jerusalem stayed three months in the home of Obededom. So Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months.
After a certain man touched the ancient Ark to steady it on its journey, he was instantly struck dead. Frightened by this sudden death, David exclaimed: “How shall the Ark of my Lord come to me?” But far from being frightened, Elizabeth exclaimed upon hearing Mary’s voice in greeting: “How is it that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Again at Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth the infant in her Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy at the presence of the Holy One whom Mary carried in her womb. So did King David dance for joy before the Ark as it entered the city of Jerusalem.
St. Luke’s intention is unmistakable: The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant bearing the Holy One, Jesus Christ. She is far greater than the ancient Ark which disappeared from history, perhaps to make way for the new Ark of the Covenant and her precious burden. Mary is our real Ark of Hope because she comes bearing the greatest treasure of all, God’s Divine Son, Jesus Christ, whose Birth we will soon celebrate once more.
“It is a small thing,” says God the Father to His Son through the prophet Isaiah, “that thou shouldst be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to convert the dregs of Israel. Behold, I have given thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that thou mayst be my salvation even to the farthest part of the earth” (Is.49:6).