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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Third Sunday in Advent

Gaudete Sunday
December 11, 2011
Isaiah 61:1-2; 10-11; Luke 1:46-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

          No one can rejoice without singing. Songs encapsulate feelings that cannot be put into words. Songs also can act like earworms - informing our unconscious and bringing greater meaning through a simple melody that captivates our attention. Songs bring to mind memories of life's special events.

          Rejoicing pervades the readings this week as the church is encouraging the faithful to persevere in their waiting and to mark that we are more than halfway through the Advent season. In the Responsorial, Mary sings her song of praise to God for choosing her to be the Lord's mother. Isaiah rejoices in God for the steadfast protection God has given the people, Israel. He gushes that "the Spirit of the Lord is upon" him as the one  anointed to bring news of healing, liberation, and a jubilee year of favor. This is the same reading Jesus uses at the beginning of his public ministry in Luke.

          Paul insists upon our praying always and giving thanks in all situations because we can find God's will in all spheres of life. He recommends that we adopt an attitude of openness to all that is good by testing all things because good can be found in everything. Hold onto the life-giving, creative, fruit-producing deeds because God's will is operative in them. Paul says that the God of peace will sustain you and will help you accomplish it.

          The Gospel informs us of the grand transition that is taking place. John the Baptist, the strong evangelizing prophet, tells the priests and Levites that he is not the one who is to come. His negatives are firm and powerful: He is not he Christ, nor Elijah, nor the great Prophet, nor the one they seek. His affirmative statement is that he is a necessary piece of the puzzle. He is the voice (not the word) of one crying in the desert. He is announcing that the Old Testament hopes are being fulfilled. If the priests have ears to hear, then their hearts can only be joyful because God is remaining true to his promises.

          We have to give the priests some leeway here. While their line of questioning is direct, they sincerely want to know the source of John's power. Their question, "Who are you?" is loaded. Rather than sounding accusatory, they want to know if they are to believe in God's unfolding power too.

          They will later ask Jesus the same questions: What is the source and power of your authority? What is your relationship to God? Are you the one for whom all of Israel seeks? In other words, as priests and Levites who are legitimately ordained to God, we want to know how we are to respond. We want to believe because all of this is incredible and we have been appointed by God. As upholders of the tradition, we want to know it we are included in God's plan? The priests come as we do - expectant in the arrival of the Messiah.

          John's answer is enough to leave them with hope or fear. We have a choice about how to respond. We can resist the in-breaking plan of God and deal with the consequences of fear and loss or we can stop and hope and wonder. John's answer leaves many expecting the Messiah to present himself soon. He says he is already among them. We have to learn to read the signs of the times and be open to the marvel that follows. It makes our souls sing.

          What song is in your ear this Advent? May your soul have room for hope and rejoicing.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

The "O, Antiphons" begin on Saturday, December 17th.

First Reading:  Zechariah proclaims that the Lord is coming soon to dwell among the people of Zion. The Lord will take favor on his people. Zephaniah however proclaims woe to the rebellious and polluted city for she has not heard the word of the Lord, but the Lord will come to purify the lips of the people. On that day, the people need not be ashamed of their deeds because the braggarts will be separated from the holy ones. Isaiah tells that the powerful One God who created the light and darkness is the one in whom our trust is to be placed for he is a steadfast God. The Lord God is the only God and to him every knee shall bend and by him every tongue shall swear. Isaiah then rejoices that the barren one will have numerous descendents that will fill up the entire earth. The Lord will uphold the ones who have been forgotten and shall restore their fortunes for he is a loving God. The holy mountain of God will contain his house that is to be a house of prayer for all peoples - including foreigners. In Genesis, Jacob (Israel) calls his sons and tells them they are to praise Judah for the scepter shall never depart from his hands.

Gospel: For the feast of Guadalupe, we hear the annunciation story when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary to inform her God has chosen her to bear a son who is to be named Emmanuel. Jesus then tells the parable of two sons who are asked to work in the vineyard. One says no but does the work; the other says yes and doesn't. Jesus uses this to illustrate that tax collectors and prostitutes will make it into the kingdom before the elders of the community.

Meanwhile, John the Baptists sent two disciples to Jesus to inquire if he was the one who is to come. Jesus exclaims that John has to look at the in-breaking of God all around him and delight with joy. Jesus turns to his friends and asks them about John. "What did you go out to see?" he probes. Jesus upholds John as one of the greatest men ever born. Jesus then tells them that the works he performs are those of the Father. He has greater testimony than John's. To kick off the O Antiphons, we turn to the genealogy of Joseph as told my Matthew. It secures Jesus as one within the Davidic heritage and as a descendent of Abraham.

Saints of the Week

Monday: The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated to remember the four apparitions to Juan Diego in 1531 near Mexico City shortly after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. Mary appeared as a native Mexican princess and her image is imprinted on a cloak that was presented to the bishop.

Tuesday: Lucy, martyr (d. 304), was born into a noble Sicilian family and killed during the Diocletian persecution. In the Middle Ages, people with eye trouble invoked her aid because her name means "light." Scandinavia today still honors Lucy in a great festival of light on this day.

Wednesday: John of the Cross, priest and doctor (1542-1591), was a Carmelite who reformed his order with the help of Teresa of Avila. They created the Discalced (without shoes) Carmelite Order that offered a stricter interpretation of their rules. John was opposed by his community and placed in prison for a year. He wrote the classics, "Ascent of Mount Carmel," "Dark Night of the Soul," and "Living Flame of Love."

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Dec 11, 1686. At Rome, Fr. Charles de Noyelle, a Belgian, died as the 12th general of the Society.
·         Dec 12, 1661. In the College of Clermont, Paris, Fr. James Caret publicly defended the doctrine of papal infallibility, causing great excitement among the Gallicans and Jansenists.
·         Dec 13, 1545. The opening of the Council of Trent to which Frs. Laynez and Salmeron were sent as papal theologians and Fr. Claude LeJay as theologian of Cardinal Otho Truchses.
·         Dec 14, 1979. The death of Ricardo Lombardi, founder of the Better World Movement.
·         Dec 15, 1631. At Naples, during an earthquake and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the Jesuits worked to help all classes of people.
·         Dec 16, 1544. Francis Xavier entered Cochin.
·         Dec 17, 1588. At Paris, Fr. Henry Walpole was ordained.

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