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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Sunday, 14 December 2014

ENLIVENED BY JOY: GAUDETE SUNDAY

by
Patricia Datchuck Sánchez  |  Dec. 13

When all the graced visionaries have prophesied, when the healers have soothed every pain, when all the fettered are set free, when the naked and the shamed are clothed with justice and dignity (Isaiah), one will come among us -- one in whom hope and healing, freedom and salvation will find their most eloquent expression (John). He is the one for whom we wait with joy (1 Thessalonians). On this, the third Sunday of Advent, Isaiah, Paul and the two Johns (the evangelist and the Baptizer) call the assembly to cultivate that joy and allow it to sustain us. Ours is good news.


Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Pope Francis knows all the evils that plague our planet. Nevertheless, he encourages believers to live and to preach the joy of the Gospel. In his exhortation of that name, Francis has admitted, "The great danger in today's world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures and a blunted conscience" ("The Joy of the Gospel," Nov. 24, 2013). Those who follow Jesus need to evangelize in the face of this with a fierce and unrelenting joy; "an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!"

Isaiah's year of favor has already been announced. It devolves upon believers to bring the blessings of God's favor to bear on all who still suffer physical, economic and spiritual need.

Paul, in his first-ever correspondence, reminds the Thessalonians and all of us to sustain and support the joy of the Gospel with prayer. For it is in prayer that discernment comes, and in prayer that we are more sensitive to the presence of the Spirit in our midst. Ever attuned to the Spirit, John the Baptizer took it upon himself to prepare his contemporaries to recognize and welcome Jesus as one sent by God to be the light of the world. In a similar way, our current pope has taken it upon himself to help the church realize that it still shares the Baptizer's role of pointing out the truth and necessity of Jesus, our light, in a world darkened by sin.

To that end, Francis has set forth a series of decisions that are ours to accept or ignore. First, he says, we are to say no to an economy of exclusion. "To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal" makes us indifferent. "We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor ... They fail to move us."

Similarly, the pope urges us to say no to the new idolatry of money. "Money must serve, not rule. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings."

Believers in Jesus are also called to say no to the inequality that spawns violence. "When a society ... is content to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility."

As he continues to challenge the church and the world, Francis urges all to say no to selfishness and spiritual sloth. Let us not allow the reality of our faith to wear down and degenerate into small-mindedness. Let us not embrace "a tomb psychology that develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum."

Rather, let us say yes to Christ, yes to God, yes to the Spirit and to all the new relationships brought out by Christ. Let us embrace "the challenges of finding and sharing a mystique of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage. Greater possibilities for communication thus turn into greater possibilities for encounter and solidarity for everyone. ... Sometimes, we are tempted to ... keep the Lord's wounds at arm's length. Yet, Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others."

Jesus warns us against the security of isolation from human misfortune; "we are, instead, to enter into the reality of other people's lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it means to be a people, to be part of a people."

All the while, let us be ambassadors of that authentic joy God alone can give and that God has given without measure in Jesus.

[Patricia Sánchez holds a master's degree in literature and religion of the Bible from a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York.]

What John the Baptist Teaches us
about Humility and Joy 

by: Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio 





 On the third Sunday of Advent, the penitential purple of the season changes to rose and we celebrate “Gaudete” or “Rejoice!” Sunday.  “Shout for joy, daughter of Sion” says Zephaniah.  “Draw water joyfully from the font of salvation,” says Isaiah.  “Rejoice in the Lord always,” says St. Paul.  “Do penance for the judge is coming,” says John the Baptist.

Wait a minute.  What’s that stark, strident saint of the desert doing here, on “Rejoice Sunday”?  His stern call to repentance does not seem to fit.

Believe it or not, John the Baptist is the patron saint of spiritual joy.  After all, he leapt for joy in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus and Mary (Luke 1:44).  And it says that he rejoices to hear the bridegrooms voice (John 3:29-30).

Now this is very interesting.  Crowds were coming to hear John from all over Israel before anyone even heard a peep out of the carpenter from Nazareth.  In fact, John even baptized his cousin.  This launched the Lord’s public ministry, heralding the demise of John’s career.

Most of us would not appreciate the competition.  The Pharisees and Sadducees certainly didn’t. They felt threatened by Jesus’ popularity.  But John actually encouraged his disciples to leave him for Jesus, the Lamb of God.  When people came, ready to honor John as the messiah, he set them straight.  He insisted that he was not the star of the show, only the best supporting actor.  John may have been center-stage for a while, but now that the star had shown up, he knew it was time for him to slip quietly off to the dressing room.

Or to use John’s own example, he was like the best man at a wedding.  It certainly is an honor to be chosen as “best man.”  But the best man does not get the bride.  According to Jewish custom, the best man’s role was to bring the bride to the bridegroom, and then make a tactful exit.  And John found joy in this.  “My joy is now full.  He must increase and I must decrease.”

The Baptist was joyful because he was humble.  In fact, he shows us the true nature of this virtue.  Humility is not beating up on yourself, denying that you have any gifts, talents, or importance.  John knew he had an important role which he played aggressively, with authority and confidence.  The humble man does not sheepishly look down on himself.  Actually, he does not look at himself at all.  He looks away from himself to the Lord.

Most human beings, at one time or another, battle a nagging sense inadequacy.  Pride is sin’s approach to dealing with this.  Proud people are preoccupied with self, seeing all others as competitors.  The proud have to perpetually exalt themselves over others in hope that this will provide a sense of worth and inner peace.  Of course, it doesn’t.  Human history has proven that point time and time again.  Even the pagan Greek storytellers knew that hubris or pride was the root of tragedy.  Pride always comes before the fall, as it did in the Garden of Eden.

Humility brings freedom from this frantic bondage.  Trying at every turn to affirm, exalt, and protect oneself is an exhausting enterprise. Receiving one’s dignity and self-worth as a gift from God relieves us from this stressful burden.  Freed from the blinding compulsion to dominate, we can recognize the presence of God and feel a sense of satisfaction when others recognize that God is God and honor him as such.  We can even be free to recognize godliness in someone else and rejoice when others notice and honor this person.

But what about John’s stark call to repentance?  How this be Good News?  Because repentance is all about humility and humility is all about freedom.  And freedom leads to inner peace and joy, joy in the presence of the Bridegroom.


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