Pastoral Sharings: " Gaudate Sunday"

WeeklyMessage Father Alex McAllister SDS
December 15, 2013
Third Sunday of Advent

Gaudate Sunday

Today is known as Gaudate Sunday, Gaudate is the Latin 
word for rejoice. And it takes its name from the opening 
antiphon: ‘Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice, the  Lord is near.’

The Advent wreath is surrounded by three purple candles and one rose coloured candle. It is this one we light today because it represents Gaudete Sunday.

The readings, particularly the Gospel, express this theme of rejoicing at the imminent coming of the Lord. John’s disciples ask Jesus if he is the one who is to come. ‘Look around you’, they are told. ‘The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy are those who believe.’

These events really are a cause for rejoicing; the Lord has come and is working miracles among us. Our salvation is at hand.

It is very interesting to speculate just why John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one who was to come. Scripture scholars over the centuries have wondered why John did this.

John the Baptist obviously knew Jesus was the Christ and couldn’t understand why his own disciples were still clinging to him. So perhaps he sent them to ask Jesus this question and presumed that once they met Jesus they would see for themselves that he was the Messiah and so become followers of Jesus.

Or, alternatively, perhaps John, knowing that Jesus was the Christ, could not reconcile himself to the fact that Jesus did not adopt the same sort of penitential lifestyle that he did.

It must have been hard for a man so steeped in the ardours of a penitential life like John the Baptist to find himself proclaiming the coming of a Messiah who went to grand parties with Pharisees, allowed prostitutes to anoint his feet and was found in the company of notorious sinners.

It is interesting for us to speculate on these things. I tend towards the first explanation. I think that John understood quite well that Jesus came to save sinners and therefore was not surprised to hear that he was found in their company. All those years of prayer and fasting must have borne fruit in the shape of wisdom and insight. I think it is clear from what we know of John that he certainly possessed these qualities in full measure.

It is also quite common for a prophet to be frustrated by the dullness of his pupils and followers. Disciples are often so attracted by the person they are following that they forget to take note of the message.

John had spent a lifetime waiting for the Messiah; he knew in his soul that he was to come. He must have yearned for the moment he would meet him, and then one ordinary day Jesus comes through the crowds and asks for Baptism. John recognises him immediately and is thunderstruck: ‘It is I who need Baptism from you.’ Jesus turns the tables on him, just like he turns the tables on so many others. ‘No, we must do what is fitting.’

We realise with hindsight just how fitting it was that Jesus himself was Baptised. He entered into our lives so fully and shows us so clearly the way to go. We must be Baptised as he was Baptised, we must undergo a Passion just as he underwent a Passion; and we will rise to new life like him, the new life he won for us.

For now we wait. The Apostle James in today’s reading tells us to wait: ‘Wait patiently, brothers, for the Lord’s coming.’

We praise God on this Gaudate Sunday. We thank him for all he has done for us. We rejoice that through the coming of his Son Jesus we have been saved. We do what we can to imitate his life, to follow his Gospel of love. We join together to celebrate the Eucharist, sharing the bread that is his body and the wine that is his blood. We take seriously his plea to the Father: ‘May they be one, Father, even as you and I are one.’

We do all these things, yet mostly we wait. But this is not like waiting for a bus or for the postman to deliver a letter. We wait with hope in our hearts for the culmination of all things in Christ and the prayer that is on our lips is ‘thy kingdom come!’

In this Kingdom that we long for all that is wrong with the world will be put right, all that is broken in humanity will be healed. Each person will attain their fulfilment, there will be no oppression or injustice. If this is not hope for humanity then I don’t know what is.

We long for this Kingdom to come into its own, but this is no passive longing. We disciples of Christ do not sit around waiting for that bus to arrive. No, we work to bring it about. We do what we can now to alleviate injustice, to bring healing and reconciliation to our broken world.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
December 15, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent
Matthew 11:2-11
Gospel Summary

John the Baptist, in prison, sent his disciples to Jesus with the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus replied that the outcasts of society were being helped, and the poor were receiving good news. As the disciples were going off, Jesus told the crowds that John was the messenger sent by God to prepare the way for the promised one.

John the Baptist Teaches Us To Rejoice in Hope
Moses’ mission had taken him quite a distance.  From the splendor of Pharaoh’s palace, to a stroll through the Red Sea, to wrestling with Israel’s stubbornness for forty years in the desert.  How sad that he never made it across the Jordan!  But God did give him a moment of consolation.  He brought him up to the top of Mount Nebo and showed him the Promised Land.

John the Baptist had a similar mission.

Third Sunday of Advent: What Did We Go Out to See?
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about John the Baptist.  He asks the people, “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?…..A prophet?……And more than a prophet…..”   

Hebrew scriptures presents many prophets.  The prophets were dynamic. They challenged people to listen, to change and to follow.  Some stood up to kings to support justice, like Nathan did when he told King David that he had sinned against God and Uriah when he stole Uriah’s wife and then had Uriah killed.  Elijah did something similar when he stood up to King Ahab accusing him of having the just man Nabaoth killed because he wanted Nabaoth’s vineyard.  The prophet Samuel anointed Saul to be a king and then, after Saul did not carry out God’s, he anointed  David.

Pope Francis is third pope to win Time’s Person of the Year honor
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis is not seeking fame or accolades, but being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year will make him happy if it helps attract people to the hope of the Gospel, said the Vatican spokesman.

“It’s a positive sign that one of the most prestigious recognitions in the international press” goes to a person who “proclaims to the world spiritual, religious and moral values and speaks effectively in favor of peace and greater justice,” said the spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

Plan for Joy in Advent
I love Advent.  Love love love it! Possibly my favourite season of the year. On the first Sunday we unpack the wreath and candles and begin our Advent prayer ritual, Advent hymns, at least a decade of the rosary, especially the first two Joyful Mysteries, and some Christmas carol practice.  One lucky child per night lights the candle, opens the door on this year’s little paper calendar and holds it up to the flame to illuminate the little picture inside.  Then he chooses one paper bundle from the box and unwraps a figurine for the creche.  The scene slowly fills with shepherds, and friendly beasts.

Move Through Change With God’s Grace
Change — whether we see it as positive or negative — can be difficult. Any time we have to change our plans, we have to adjust and adapt, and that can throw us into turmoil. It’s natural for us to want to control our own lives, but, ultimately it isn’t up to us. It’s up to God.

The Advent Gift of John the Baptist
“Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her” (Luke 1:57-58).

True gatherings of the friends and families of Chris­tians should have for their object to celebrate the mercy that God has shown to us. Without this object, the con­gratulations we receive have nothing solid or sincere about them and are vain things

The Immaculate Conception: 8 things to know and share . . .
There is a point to the popular mythology about Saint Francis of Assisi. Obviously, the emasculated bard of the 1972 film Brother Sun, Sister Moon is a mostly insipid caricature. Saint Francis of Assisi was much more than an animal-loving peacenik with an odd haircut.

Put On the Mind of Christ
Saint Paul commands us:  “Put on the mind of Christ.” He also says: “You have the mind of Christ.” Of course the mind of Christ was the most pure, holy innocent, humble, wise and intelligent, retentive, and noble that ever existed—nobody with a right mind could deny this.

How then can I implement this imperative of the great Apostle Saint Paul who could say in all sincerity:  “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me!”

The Four First Things
It’s traditional in Advent to preach on the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.

While I value the tradition, why not think this year about the four first things instead of the four last things?

By these, I’m thinking of the foundation principles, not just of the Catholic faith, but of everything that is. If you don’t have the foundations in place, when the tempest rages, the house will fall. And one of the problems with the Catholic Church today (and with our modern society) is that we have built on shaky foundations.

The Role of the Virtues in Character Education
In Aesop’s fable of the miller, his son, and the donkey, the trio are criticized by passersby as they make their way to town, first for not riding the donkey, then for making the young son walk, then for leaving the elderly father to walk, and then for overburdening the donkey. After each critique, they revise their traveling formation and finally, when the miller and his son tie the donkey’s feet to a pole and carry it between them, it kicks two feet free, falls into a river, and drowns.

Evangelii Gaudium’: Pope Francis’ Blueprint for Evangelization
Pope Francis is moving fast to advance his “dream of … a missionary impulse, capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world.”

That “dream,” expressed in passionate and sometimes admonitory terms, framed his 84-page apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), released Nov. 26 and welcomed by Catholic leaders and thinkers as a blueprint for evangelization in the 21st century.

15 Amazing Quotes from Evangelii Gaudium
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, is beautiful. Simple, yet profound, and definitely worth your time. I read it to my wife tonight over a glass (or three) of wine.

You should do likewise (unless you don’t have a wife, in which case you should propose, marry, buy wine, download the letter and then read it. Come on; chop-chop!)

Ok. Here are 15 fantastic quotes from the letter which I’ve broken into seven categories. Enjoy:

Our Infinite Sadness can only be Cured by an Infinite Love
Forget the right wing rage over Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation.  It’s hardly about politics and the economy, anyway.  It’s all about Jesus.

If you only read one paragraph from the Exhortation, read this one …

Our Lady of the Seven Veils (St Alphonsus and St Pio)
In the Cathedral of Foggia one can find an ancient and mysterious image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This icon, called “Our Lady of the Seven Veils,” once caused Saint Alphonsus to go into ecstasy, which I will describe below. As a young priest, St Pio of Pietreclina would make a visit to this image every day. I’ve read about the image, but knew nothing about it. I did some research and here is what I found.

Saint Francis of Assisi and the Laity
If you are like me, the first time you heard that the laity could be members of a religious order, what went through your mind was a group of people who cook and clean for the priests! Even though that may be a great relationship for at least the priests, it’s not how is works. The laity,  as we all know, are those members of a religion that are not ordained. I am certainly a lay person, as many of you probably are, as well. We are part of the body of Christ that does not have a more specific functional name, unless we delve further into the working parts of our beautiful Church.

Are you living a contemplative life?
Are you a contemplative? Some people, faced with this question, would answer an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Perhaps they are saints, at a high stage of union with God. Or perhaps they practice Eastern (as in Hindu or Buddhist) forms of meditation that they equate with contemplation. Some would call themselves contemplative because they are thoughtful and quiet. The rest of us might answer, “No.” Since we are not saints, we wouldn’t dare think of ourselves as contemplatives in the proper sense.

Nevertheless, everyone, no matter his stage in the spiritual journey or his vocation, can live a contemplative life.

Our Journey Home – A Deeper Look at the Conversion Story of Marcus and Marilyn Grodi
Becoming Catholic was never my dream or intent. It is still an all too vivid memory to me, sitting alone at age 40 in a half-lit basement, having resigned from the pastorate. I ached for having abandoned the weekly privilege of a pulpit from which to proclaim God’s truth. Would I ever have this privilege again? Will I ever again have a pulpit? Now they estimate that each week from the “pulpit” of The Journey Home television program I speak to a potential audience of over a billion viewers and listeners. In one night I speak to more people than I ever could have in my entire career as a Protestant minister. This is the humor of our merciful God. Before I converted I had no idea whatsoever how I would support my family let alone how I would continue in ministry. But this is getting way ahead of myself.

Vatican Launches Global Campaign to Fight ‘Scandal of Hunger’
VATICAN CITY — Caritas International has initiated its first global campaign to eradicate hunger, promoting the basic human right to food and encouraging fraternal solidarity in ensuring that everyone has enough.

In a video message for the Dec. 10 press conference announcing the launching of the campaign, Pope Francis stated that “I am happy to announce to you the launch of a campaign against global hunger by our very own ‘Caritas Internationalis’ and to tell you that I intend to give my full support.”

Courage In The Face of Life’s Atrocities
Do you ever contemplate how different your life might have been if you had been born in a different time, place and circumstances?

Perhaps it is the curse of a creative mind; the writer’s relentless pursuit to share stories that compel the reader toward introspection or action.  I often place myself in “what if” scenarios to ponder how I might respond given all the variables of circumstance.  For example, I would like to think that if I’d been born and lived in Warsaw, Poland, and witnessed the events surrounding the rise and dictatorship of Adolf Hitler, I would join the resistance, and aid in hiding and relocating Jews. 

How Catholics Understand the Bible
Some atheists, like Bill Maher, creator of the documentary “Religulous”, imagine that people who take the Bible seriously must read it literalistically. However, there is a difference between literalistic interpretation—which is the habit of all Fundamentalists—and the literal sense of Scripture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the literal sense this way:
“The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: ‘All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal’.” (CCC, 116)

“Your Best” Catholic Parenting
When it comes to parenting, I see a lot of Catholic moms and dads falling back on, “Everybody has to do what works for them. We all just have to do what works best for us.”

Of course this is true on a certain level.  All we can do is our best.  But that begs the question, “What does doing our best as Catholic parents really require?  What does ‘doing our best’ mean?”   Does it mean, “do what comes naturally?”  Does it mean, “do what’s easiest or most familiar?”  Does it mean, “Do what my parents did?”  How do we know what doing our best as Catholic parents really entails, and how do we know if we’re really doing it?

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