What John the Baptist Teaches Us About Humility and Joy

JohnTheBaptistWithSaintsDr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio
December 16, 2012
Third Sunday in Advent

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.


Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
December 16, 2012

Third Sunday of Advent
Immediately preceding this passage, Luke tells us that the word of God had come upon John the Baptist in the desert. John then began to proclaim the coming of the Lord: all flesh would at last see the salvation of God. John also proclaimed the necessity of turning from evil in repentance in order to prepare for the Lord’s coming.
The crowds ask, “What should we do?” John replies that whoever has two cloaks or food should share with the person who has none. Tax collectors should not collect more than what is prescribed. Soldiers should not practice extortion or falsely accuse anyone, and they should be satisfied with their wages. The people are filled with expectation, wondering whether John might be the Messiah. John responds that one mightier than he will come, and will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John warns that when the Messiah comes, he will gather the wheat into his barn, and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.

3 Advent: The Peace that Surpasses All Understanding
The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

That is the conclusion of our second reading for today, from Philippians 4. When Paul wrote this fledgling Christian community, it was facing persecution. “What will tomorrow bring?” they asked. They were anxious. Anxiety is the fear of the unknown. Paul tells them that their future is not a mystery, not unknown. Whatever happens, God will care for them. They needed to remember that God is in control. The Lord is near. They needed to pray to Him, and then trust in Him. Then, instead of anxiety, they will have peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Where is God At Times Like These? A meditation in the wake of a violent atrocity.
One of the great mysteries to to believer and non-believer alike is the mystery of evil and suffering. If there is a God who is omnipotent and omniscient how can he tolerate evil, injustice, and suffering of the innocent? Where was God yesterday when the shootings in Connecticut occurred? Where is God when a young girl is raped, when genocide is committed, when evil men hatch their plots? Why Did God even conceive the evil ones, and let them be born?

“This World is as Broken as It is Beautiful” – A Reflection on the Sandy Hook School Shootings
“This world is as broken as it is beautiful.”

Brooke White wrote that line as part of a tweet this morning in reaction to the senseless murder of six adults and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut today. For me, that summed up the nature of our humanity and the world we live in, especially in light of this horrific situation.

Three Priests Talk About Spiritual Direction
Spiritual Direction is often misunderstood, misused, or overlooked. To help unmask the intrigue and bring it out of obscurity, I asked three priests–Fr. Mitch Pacwa S.J., Fr. John McCloskey III STD, and Fr. Wayne Sattler –to share their thoughts on spiritual direction. I will introduce each separately, and then offer their reflections.

Indifferentism, a Heresy
Have you ever heard this? “It doesn’t matter what you believe, it’s what you do that counts.”

It is such a pity that people forget that the former directs the latter.

More Wise Insights From the Pope
Well, we are now officially in Advent, preparing ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Our Savior in this new liturgical year.
Many of us may be somewhat depressed with the state of the U.S. economy or the recent national elections, but, remember, we can and must believe what Pope Benedict XVI told Americans in 2008, “God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity.”

How Infallible Isthe Magisterium?
What is the Magisterium?

“The Magisterium of the Church: The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome… Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms” (CCC 85-87).

When Does the Pope Speak Infallibly?
Q: There was a lecture at our parish and the guest-speaker said something in passing about the Pope making infallible decisions. He claimed that it has only happened twice in history! Do you know what he was talking about? I don’t know if this is even a canon-law question or not… –Kay

A: This is indeed a canon-law question, since canon law (as we have seen numerous times before in this space) is driven by theology. Whenever an issue arises about who in the Church has the authority to do what, it’s generally safe to assume that canon law is involved.

“Blessed is She Who Believed”—The Mother of God as a Model of Faith
“By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion…”—Porta Fidei, §13

In promulgating Porta Fidei in the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict has given a model for imitation in Mary, to whom he has entrusted the year. The Year of Faith began on October 11, 2012, and continues until November 24, 2013. So, there is some time to reflect upon the example Our Lady gives through Sacred Scripture. This brief article examines a few of the Marian Scriptures—the Annunciation, the Visitation, her intercession at the wedding in Cana, and her standing at the foot of the Cross—to attempt to arrive at the heart of Marian faith.

The Cure for Bad Religion
“Atheism deserves better than the new atheists whose methodology consists of criticizing religion without understanding it, quoting texts without contexts, taking exceptions as the rule, confusing folk belief with reflective theology, abusing, mocking, ridiculing, caricaturing, and demonizing religious faith and holding it responsible for the great crimes against humanity. Religion has done harm; I acknowledge that. But the cure for bad religion is good religion, not no religion, just as the cure for bad science is good science, not the abandonment of science.” – Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

20 Great Things about Being Catholic
1. We’re friends with the REAL Saint Nicholas–the Catholic bishop who lived in the 4th century, whose generosity served as a model for Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Sinter Klaus, and all the other secular knock offs.

2.With multiple weekend Masses, you can go to church AND still sleep in on Sunday morning.

EUCHARIST: 46 Basic Questions on the Source and Summit of the Catholic Life
Q. 869. What does the word Eucharist strictly mean?
A. The word Eucharist strictly means pleasing, and this Sacrament is so called because it renders us most pleasing to God by the grace it imparts, and it gives us the best means of thanking Him for all His blessings.
Q. 870. What is the Holy Eucharist?
A. The Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament which contains the body and blood, soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.

What is the “Central Mystery” of Our Faith?
Our faith begins with God. We sometimes forget that. For all the discussions and debates that Christians can get lost in, we sometimes forget that our belief is rooted in God.
Blessed Pope John Paul II once proclaimed that our generation engages in a fundamental struggle, which is whether we believe in God or not. Love, as it is said, requires a self-emptying.

In First Tweet, Pope Blesses His Million-Plus Followers
The Holy Father’s account, @pontifex, already has more than 1.2 million followers, with accounts in eight languages.

Pope Benedict XVI made his debut on Twitter today, sending out a greeting and a blessing as his first tweet to his “followers.”
“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” read his first tweet, which was sent around noon Rome time from the Paul VI audience hall.

Where Sin Abounds…..
“Jim”, a life-long Pentecostal who, with his Catholic wife, is attending a class taught by the Holy Family School of Faith on the catechism for the Year of Faith in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas told me last week that he has thoroughly enjoyed learning what we have covered so far (Faith and reason, the Holy Trinity, Creation, and the Fall, just to name a few of the themes,) and that he has not heard one thing from me that he doesn’t already believe, and is looking forward to our resuming after the Christmas break.

A cop finds the Cross on the streets of New York
Larry DePrimo couldn’t have predicted the attention he’d get over what might seem a rather simple act of kindness. On Nov. 14th, the 25-year-old NYPD cop found a panhandler going barefooted on a frigid New York night and decided to buy him a new pair of $100 boots. The moment was captured on camera by an Arizona cop visiting the Big Apple, and the photo quickly went viral on Facebook with nearly a million “likes” and “shares”.

The Mystic Who Was Wrapped In Fire
“No authentic portrait of Ruysbroeck is known to exist; but the traditional picture represents him in the canonical habit, seated in the forest with his writing tablet on his knee, as he was in fact found one day by the brethren—rapt in ecstasy and enveloped in flames, which encircle without consuming the tree under which he is resting.”1

Bl. John Ruysbroeck (also spelled Ruusbroec, Ruysbroec, etc.) is not a name that is bandied about these days. Though the name of Meister Eckhart is well-known mostly due to the New Age movement’s attempt to adopt him as one of their own, I think that Ruysbroeck left very little room for misinterpretation.

Christian Practices in a Consumer Culture
Two young fish, so the story goes, are swimming casually along, talking about whatever it is that young fish talk about. Presently, they look up and notice an elderly fish approaching. He has a mysterious twinkle in his eye as he passes them, going the opposite direction, and playfully shouts, “Hey boys! How’s the water?”

Once the old fish is out of earshot, the first young fish turns to the second and asks, “What the heck’s water?”


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