Gaudete Sunday – Advent and John the Baptist?

WeeklyMessageHomilist: Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

The Third Sunday of Advent,
December 11, 2011

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.

A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
December 11, 2011

Whether St. John the Baptist is Elijah? Third Sunday of Advent, John 1:6-8,19-28
So they asked him [John], “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”

In this Sunday’s Gospel, its seems quite clear that St. John the Baptist is not Elijah – he even specifically denies it saying, “I am not Elijah”. Hence, we ought to think that John is not Elijah.

3 Advent: Called To Be Apostles and Witnesses
“There was a man named John, sent by God to give testimony to the Light.” The first words of today’s gospel tell us everything we need to know about John the Baptist. He was sent to give testimony. He was sent. The word in the original Greek is apostolein, apostle. To give testimony, the word in the original Greek is marturios, martyr. John the Baptist is an apostle and a martyr. Actually, John was the first apostle. He was the first one sent to proclaim the presence of the Christ. He was also the first Christian martyr. John was the first one to give testimony to the truth of Christ among us. He realized that Divine Truth had entered the world as a human being. This was no time to hedge on the truth. John would rather die than turn from the truth. And he did die, a martyr to Truth.

What Does It Mean to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit?
We ought to consider, What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (and with fire)? In the first place we must be careful to indicate, right from the beginning, that Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not distinct, different, or later than our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. Rather it is the unfolding and deepening experience of what the Sacrament of Baptism (and Confirmation) have effected in us.

Pope Benedict shares his three Christmas wishes
Pope Benedict XVI revealed his three Christmas wishes for this year, just before remotely switching on the lights of the world’s largest Christmas tree.

“When we look at it our eyes are lifted up, raised toward the sky, toward the world of God,” said Pope Benedict from his papal apartment as he spoke via video link to the people of the Italian town of Gubbio in Umbria on the evening of Dec 7.

Remember, it all began in a stable
It seems incredible, but Christmas is becoming “politically incorrect”. I am all for Happy Hanukkah and Joyous Kwanzaa, but please don’t try to eliminate Merry Christmas. In an effort not to offend any group, there is a tendency to seek a common, non-offensive greeting…Happy Holiday, and instead of Christmas trees we are having Holiday Trees.

Was Jesus immaculately conceived?
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception refers, as we know, to the blessed Virgin Mother of God as having been preserved from all sin (including the stain of original sin) from the first moment of her conception. The dogma, of course, is about the Immaculate Conception of Mary – even though many Catholics mistakenly think it refers to the virginal conception of the Christ Child.

Still, this common misconception about the Immaculate Conception leads us to a further point of reflection: Was Christ immaculately conceived? Our answer to this Christological question will help us to understand the Marian dogma in a new light

Giving Ourselves Over to God (The Suscipe Prayer)
One of the greatest Catholic prayers is the Suscipe, a prayer of abandonment to Divine Providence, of turning ourselves over, wholly and completely, to God. The most famous Suscipe prayer comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola . After a brief reflection on the blessings of Creation and Redemption, as well as the unique blessings each of us have received individually, you pray:

      Receive, O Lord, all my liberty.
      Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.
      Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me;
      I give it all back to You
      and surrender it wholly to be governed by Your will.

Kreeft launches volley after volley in the culture war
I mentioned in an earlier post that Dr. Peter Kreeft of Boston College recently said that “pro-abortion Catholics” have done more damage to the Church than have pedophile priests.

A few days before those comments in Madison, the indispensable Dr. Kreeft was here in Steubenville where he spoke to a capacity, standing-room-only crowd in Christ the King Chapel. His topic: “How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Culture in Crisis.”

No Christmas without Advent
Advent is not really understood today. Some Christians don’t even know why we have Advent wreaths. So often in our consumer society, Advent is totally forgotten. We should remember that there is no true Christmas without Advent.

In fact, the word Advent means coming or arrival. We anticipate the coming of the Christ child, and this is what prepares us for Christmas–the longing for the savior.

Friend or Foe of Christmas?
For the ninth year in a row, the Liberty Counsel, a pro-life, pro-family litigation group based in Florida and Washington, is releasing its annual “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign.”

“We’ve seen a major shift in the last several years, and now the ‘Nice’ side outnumbers the ‘Naughty’ side,” said Matthew Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman. “For just one example, CVS was historically on the ‘Naughty’ side, but now it’s come over on the ‘Nice’ side.”

How to cultivate a spirit of evangelization
Much ink has been spilled in recent years discussing the “New Evangelization.” Blessed John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI have insisted that the Church embrace this new evangelization, by which we share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those outside, inside and estranged from the Church.

More recently and closer to home, many American bishops have made the “New Evangelization” a high priority in their dioceses, following the call of the pontiffs.

How to welcome faithful back into fold
As Christmas approaches, there is one thing we can be as sure of seeing as Santa Claus and incessant ads for holiday deals: full Catholic churches. As predictable as the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, Catholics of all stripes return to their parish every Christmas, many visiting for the first time since the previous Easter. The Catholics in attendance at a typical Christmas Mass run the gamut from daily Mass communicants to irregularly attending families to those who are estranged from the Church but come out of familial obligation

How should I pray when someone asks for my prayers?
Ask a Carmelite Sister…

Dear Sister,
When someone asks me to pray for them – to be honest with you – I am not sure how to follow through on my answer which is always “yes, of course, I will keep you in my prayers.” May I ask, what do you do, Sister, when people ask you to pray for them?

On The Right Trail
I sometimes go through periods in my running, like some periods in my life, where my soul feels as barren as a desert.

One of the things that I love about running is that it empties my head of the mundanities of life. It creates a space, a vacuum, that can be — will be filled up with something else. But what else?

Jimmy Fallon on His Catholicism
“I grew up in an Irish Catholic family, and I think they force you to watch every James Cagney movie.”

That was Jimmy Fallon’s first mention of his Catholicism on his recent NPR Fresh Air interview. (He was explaining his first impersonation / impression: James Cagney as a two-year-old.) Later in the interview (listen here), he spoke with host Terri Gross about his Catholic upbringing…

Faith, Reason, and Fantasy
“The road to fairyland is not the road to Heaven; nor even to Hell, I believe, though some have held that it may lead thither indirectly by the Devil’s tithe. ” So wrote Tolkien in his essay “On Fairy Stories.” This single sentence in brief summarized the whole of the controversy in religious circles over the fantasy genre, one that continues to this very day. This is evident by the number of articles published on this site’s sister publication, Catholic Exchange, over the issue of Harry Potter alone. Tolkien mentions this controversy almost as an aside, as his essay is mostly on his own analysis of the genre as well as an articulate defense of it against more secular criticism.

EWTN’s Christmas Specials: From ‘Star of Bethlehem’ To ‘Martin The Cobbler’
It’s Christmas and EWTN Global Catholic Network is brimming with Christmas movies, specials, children’s programs, musical extravaganzas and more. Below is just a sampling of the many programs that will be aired on EWTN over Advent and Christmas 2011 on EWTN.

Children’s Programs:

Martin The Cobbler: Based on the classic children’s tale by the great Russian author Leo Tolstoy, this story follows a lonely shoemaker who rediscovers his faith in God; narrated by Tolstoy’s daughter Alexandra Tolstoy. Airs 4 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Dec. 20 and 9:30 a.m. ET, Saturday, Dec. 24.

Mission: Save Catholic Schools
Like many Catholics, Bob Healey was disturbed by the steady rate of Catholic school closures. Healey, however, was in a position to do something about it. Co-founder, with his brother Bill, of the Viking Yacht Co., Healey has devoted a significant part of his fortune to helping children get a good education. His latest mission: to save Catholic education.

St. Nicholas Reveals the True Spirit of Giving
Like Santa Claus, St. Nicholas inspires generosity and joy at Christmas. Although he’s often eclipsed in America by his more commercial red-suited “descendant,” St. Nicholas also represents holiness of life, patience through suffering and courage to defend the faith.

Much of what’s known about this fourth-century bishop is legend, but his life continues to inspire Christians everywhere, who honor his virtue and celebrate his Dec. 6 feast day with customs from many cultures and follow his example of giving at Christmas.

Pope Paul VI and the Smoke of Satan
(When we went with our new format in November of last year, some of our earlier posts didn’t carry over, including this one. I am republishing it today with some slight modifications so that it may not be lost in internet oblivion eventually, and in the spirit of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Advent series of sermons on the Anti-Christ which may be viewed here, here, here and here. I have always thought that Advent is a good time to look at evil, since it is at this time of the year that we are reminded of the ultimate triumph of good through Christ.)

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