December 12, 2021
Zep 3:14-18a; Is 12:2-6.; Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18
Gaudette (Gua-de-te) Sunday – JOY —— REJOICE!!
We are lighting the third candle in the Advent wreath today and we see it is the rose candle that is being lit. We are passing the half-way point of Advent and now can more readily anticipate the coming of the Light. This is reason for our joy. The first reading today from Zephaniah recalls the JOY of the Israelites who are being brought out of the desert after 70 years of purification, education and strengthening. They have been ridiculed, taunted and humiliated by their enemies and the surrounding tribes, but now they are being vindicated. The God that promised to always be faithful to them had not ignored them but had always been with them in the most personal way. The desert was a place where they rediscovered their complete and radical dependence on God. This God would now lead them back to Jerusalem where they would rebuild and faithfully await the ultimate coming of their Messiah who would finally restore Israel to its intended grandeur.
Our study of biblical history has reminded us that the challenges of Israel were far from over once they were released from exile. We know the challenges of accepting God, in our age Jesus, as our King and leader does not ensure that we do not have to suffer. We can surely see in the ultimate plight of John the Baptist and the apostles and so many of the first several generations of Christians that the challenges were extreme. The challenges helped keep them aware of their utter dependence on God. With the baptism of Holy Spirit announced by John the Baptist, the first Christians had already experienced this new life that was simply not available on planet earth before Jesus came. This EXPERIENCE of new life would sustain them during all their travails in their earthly existence. This same Spirit and promise remains with us today.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is also celebrated on December 12th. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas which seems especially significant and timely in our present age. We are being made ever more aware of the desperate circumstances of so many of our brothers and sisters in Central and South America.
In the images of Guadalupe, she is pregnant, gestating Jesus. It takes as long as it takes. It’s very uncomfortable, painful in fact and likely quite dangerous given the availability of health care in her time. Preparing for Jesus to come into the world, as we do in Advent, gives the whole Church this sense of pregnancy. We have to stretch quite a bit to fit Jesus faithfully in our lives. This stretching will likely be painful and even dangerous as it disrupts some of our secular life patterns and relationships. A more faithful welcoming of God’s new life in our world might require us to help others stretch their world views a bit. Maybe we will be required to instruct the ignorant, correct the errant, bear wrongs more patiently in order to help others get through a difficult transitional point in their lives. You might recognize these directives as some of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. There are plenty of opportunities to stretch and as we take advantage of these opportunities we can more clearly notice the Light of the World that has been here for 2000 years. The rose candle today reminds us that we are indeed those light bearers.
Regarding this subject, Bishop Solis shared in a recent holiday memo to priests, “This Advent the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe provides us a great inspiration. Our Blessed Mother is the perfect Christian disciple and excellent model in welcoming and preparing a dwelling place for Christ in our hearts. She teaches us the dispositions of openness and humble obedience and complete surrender to God’s will so like her, we can be perfect instruments of God’s grace.”
Please consider taking some time to do a little more thorough examination of conscience using the Spiritual Works of Mercy. A handout is available in the entrance of the Church. (For those reading this on line, you can review the Spiritual Works of Mercy here: https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/jubilee-of-mercy/the-spiritual-works-of-mercy). At first glance these ‘works’ can seem rather innocuous, requiring little serious reflection, but a closer look can help us realize how much our broken and polarized society needs the extra efforts that true discipleship requires. Ignoring a serious consideration of these works can make us complicit in the greater collective deadly sin of spiritual sloth. As we celebrate Gaudette, Rejoice, Sunday we can indeed REJOICE! that there is indeed much light to be shared when we are willing to stretch.