December 13, 2015

3rd Sun. of Advent

December 13, 2015:  Third Sunday of Advent / Gaudete Sunday

  • 'Jubilee year' pin: Rejoice! (1st reading, psalm, 2nd reading, Gaudete Sunday)
  • Blue on 'jubilee' pin: I baptize you with water (gospel)
  • 'Girl with heart' pin: Exult with all your heart (1st reading); God's peace will guard your hearts (2nd reading); all asked in their hearts whether John was the Messiah (gospel)
  • 'Crowns' tie: the King of Israel is in your midst (1st reading) 
  • 'Hand' tie pin: His winnowing fan is in his hand (gospel)
  • Rose shirt and suspenders: liturgical color for Gaudete Sunday
  • Sandals (not shown): I'm not worthy to loosen his sandal strap (gospel)

For next week's psalm
Pope Francis homily
The Prophet's invitation to ancient Jerusalem is also for the Church and each of us:  "Rejoice ... exult!"  The Lord has annulled every condemnation and chosen to live among us.  Don't be taken in by weariness; sadness isn't allowed, even if concerns and violence give us reason to be sad.  The Lord's coming must fill us with joy.  Zephaniah's very name ("God protects") opens us to trust.  In a context of abuse and violence, God knows that he'll reign over his people, free them, not leaving them at the mercy of their arrogant leaders.  May we not grow weak because of doubt, impatience, or suffering.
Because "the Lord is near" we should always rejoice and give witness of the closeness and care God has for each person.  We've opened the Holy Door; even this sign is an invitation to joy.  It begins a time of forgiveness, the Jubilee of Mercy, a time to rediscover God's presence and tenderness. God doesn't love rigidity; he's our tender Father.  We ask, like the crowds asked John, "What do we do?"  The response of the Baptist was immediate:  act justly and attend to those in need.  What he demanded is from the law, but we're prompted toward a more radical commitment:  to be instruments of mercy, knowing we'll be judged on it.  Faith in Christ leads to a lifelong journey to be merciful, like the Father.  The joy of crossing through the Door of Mercy is accompanied by a commitment to welcome and witness to a love beyond justice, knowing no boundaries.  May we all understand and welcome the love of our Father who recreates, transforms, and reforms life.
The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable:  On theological questions about Catholic-Jewish relations, continued from yesterday

The relationship between the Old and New Testament and the Old and New Covenant
The covenant God offered Israel is irrevocable; the fidelity God expressed in earlier covenants is never repudiated. The New Covenant fulfills earlier covenants; Christians reinterpret them in light of Christ.  Both consist of a unique relationship with God.  For Christians, the New in Christ is the culminating point of the promises of salvation of the Old; it's grounded in the Old, because the God who concludes the Old with Israel and enables the New in Christ.  The relationship called 'covenant' takes effect differently for Jews and Christians.  The New gives the Old new meaning, reinforcing God's personal nature and establishing it as open to all who respond faithfully.
Since the Old Testament is integral to the Christian Bible, there's deep kinship between Judaism and Christianity.  Christianity is nourished from Old Testament roots but grounded in the person of Jesus, the Messiah promised to the Jewish people, God's only-begotten Son who communicated himself through the Spirit following his resurrection.  The question arose whether the New Testament supersedes and nullifies the Old.  The Church bears witness to its faith in the one God and the unity of both testaments.  The Old forms spiritual kinship between Jews and Christians but also brings tension to the relationship:  Christians read the Old in the light of the New:  “In the Old the New is concealed, and in the New the Old is revealed” (Augustine).  The Old is “the prophecy of the New” and the New is the “best exposition of the Old” (Gregory the Great).  As Christians reread the Old in light of Christ, so too did Jews after the destruction of the Temple.  It's been the duty of Jewish-Catholic dialogue to bring the two new readings into dialogue to perceive the “rich complementarity” and “to help one another mine the riches of God’s word” (Pope Francis).   Christians must admit “the Jewish reading is a possible one, in continuity with the Jewish Scriptures....  Both readings are bound up with the vision of their respective faiths, [so] both are irreducible” (PBC, “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible”).
Since each rereading is to understand God’s will and word, it's important to remember Christian faith is rooted in the faith of Abraham.  For the Christian there can only be one single covenant history of God with humanity.  The covenant with Abraham, the covenant with Moses and Israel regarding the law, including observance of the Sabbath were extended in the covenant with Noah, to all creation. Through the prophets God promised a new and eternal covenant.  Each covenant incorporates the previous and interprets it a new way.  That is also true for the New Covenant which for Christians is the final and definitive interpretation of what the prophets promised, the Amen” to all God promised.  God chose the Church as the renewed people of God without conditions. The Church is the definitive locus of God's saving work, but that doesn't mean Israel is no longer the people of God.  God’s covenant with Abraham proves to be constitutive, as he is not only the father of Israel but also the father of the faith of Christians. God's covenant with Israel remains valid because God is faithful, so the New Covenant Christians believe in is its affirmation and fulfillment.  Christians believe that through the New Covenant the covenant with Abraham is seen as for all peoples.  Jews could conclude that Israel without the Church would be in danger of remaining too particularist, not grasping the universality of their experience of God.
There can only be one history of God’s covenant with us, and Israel is God’s chosen and beloved people, so Paul struggles that Israel hasn't adopted the New Covenant, coining the image of the root of Israel into which the branches of the Gentiles have been grafted.  The whole promise has root in Christ.  Paul expresses the unity and divergence of Israel and the Church:  the grafted branches don't originate from the plant, and their new situation represents a new dimension of God’s saving work, so that the Church isn't merely a branch of Israel, but the Church draws nourishment from the root of Israel, and that the grafted branches would wither or die if cut off from the root.

  • Zep 3:14-18a  Shout and sing for joy!  The Lord has removed the judgment against youthe King of Israel is in your midst.  It shall be said:  Fear not!  The Lord is in your midst, a mighty savior; he'll rejoice over you and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you.
  • Is 12:2-6  "Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel."  God is my savior, my strength, and my courage.  Make known his deeds, his exalted name...
  • Phil 4:4-7  Rejoice in the Lord!  All should know your kindness; the Lord is near.  Have no anxiety; make your requests to God in prayer with thanksgiving.  Then God's peace will guard you in Christ.
  • Lk 3:10-18  Crowds /  John the Baptist:  “What should we do?” / “If you have cloaks or food, share with the person who has none.” [to tax collectors:]  “Don't collect more than what's prescribed.” [to soldiers:] “Don't extort or falsely accuse, and be satisfied with your wages.”  People were wondering whether John might be the Christ.  John:  “I baptize you with water, but one mightier is coming who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire....”  He preached good news to the people.
    • Creighton:  How can I not be anxious?  Rejoice, finding joy in prayer, God’s creation, people...  Be kind; your act can reverberate.  Be thankful.  Pray.  Let God's peace “guard your hearts and minds.”  From the gospel:  share, be fair, be honest, wait for the One to come.
      St. Lucy/ Beccafumi
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Catalytic converters":  On Paul's first mission to the Philippians, he was beaten, stripped, scourged, imprisoned, and tied to a stake, but he still rejoiced and praised the Lord.  This praise was followed by an earthquake, then freedom; then the jailer was converted.  Paul experienced the power of praise and joy when he commanded: "Rejoice always!"  He had joy not despite sufferings but by means of them.  We rejoice in the measure that we share Christ's sufferings.  Joy is catalytic; it sets off a chain reaction of miracles leading to salvation.  Redemptive suffering is a catalyst of catalysts; it leads to joy.
    • Passionist:  The people were filled with expectation, wondering whether John is the Messiah, and asked, “What should we do?”  Share what you have; live in awareness of others' needs.  Don't let your possessions possess you.  Take care of each other; live in God’s justice together.  When we see tragic events, fear can take a foothold, but God is our savior who rejoices over us and renews us in love.  The Good News can't be drowned out—even now.  The Lord is near!  “Find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.” (Pope Francis)
    •  "He who is mightier than I is coming":  John the Baptist began to prophesy hundreds of years after other prophets in Israel; he broke the silence and announced the Messiah was coming.  The people recognized him as a prophet, came to hear his "good news," and submitted to his baptism.  John woke people from spiritual sleep and indifference and turned them to God; he wanted them to be ready to receive and follow the Messiah.  Tax collectors and soldiers from the Roman peacekeeping force came to him; Jewish authorities regarded them as unclean and ostracized them, but John welcomed them.  His message of repentance was practical:  share what you have, give everyone their due, and be content with what you have.  John's response to people wondering whether he was the Messiah was that he was only the herald preparing the Messiah's way.  John said the Messiah would "baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire."  Fire was associated with God and his action.  God sometimes manifested his presence with fire, and fire symbolized God's glory, his protective presence, holiness, just judgment, and wrath against sin.  John expanded the image with the illustration of the process of separating wheat from chaff used for fuel.  The image of fire is used for the Holy Spirit; God's fire purifies us, inspires reverence for him, and fans our desire for holiness and the joy of meeting the Lord.  Jesus can give us the fire of his Spirit so we may radiate gospel joy to those desperately needing God.  God can transform our lives so we may point others to Christ.  We, like John, are called to testify to Christ.  How do I point others to Christ?
    • Sunday-trumped saint, from Universalis:  Lucy, virgin, martyr, patroness of the blind and those with eye disorders; see Wikipedia.

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