December 16, 2016

Dec. 16

December 16, 2016:  Friday, 3rd week, Advent

  • 'Scales' pin:  My justice is about to be revealed (1st reading); You rule the peoples in equity (psalm)
  • 'Hand' tie pin:  Blessed you who keep your hand  from evildoing (1st reading)

  • 'Alps' tie pin:  "I'll bring all who keep my covenant to my holy mountain" (1st reading)

  • 'Faces around the earth' tie:  May God shine his face on us; may the ends of the earth fear him (psalm)

  • 'Fruit' pin:  The earth has yielded its fruits (psalm)
  • 'Street lamp' tie bar:  John the Baptist was a burning and shining lamp (gospel)
  • Purple suspenders:  Advent season

For Psalm 67

The Sober Intoxication of the Spirit:  Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 3rd Advent Sermon
Two Kinds of Intoxication:  In 1975, Bl. Paul VI called the charismatic renewal "a chance for the Church," then added, "St. Ambrose's Laeti bibamus sobriam profusionem Spiritus [With joy let us drink soberly of the Spirit's outpouring] could be the movement's motto."  Those words from Ambrose’s hymn, in the Liturgy of the Hours, are for all Christians.  Ambrose’s original text has ebrietatem (intoxication) instead of profusionem:  "Let us joyfully taste the sober intoxication of the Spirit."
What led the Fathers to take up “sober intoxication,” developed by Philo, was "Don't get drunk with wine...  but be filled with the Spirit..... (Eph 5:18-19)  Many patristic texts compare and contrast physical and spiritual intoxication.  Both infuse joy and make us forget trouble, and make us escape ourselves, but while physical intoxication (from alcohol, drugs, sex, success) makes people unsteady, spiritual intoxication makes them steady at doing good, coming out of themselves to live above the level of reason.
At Pentecost the apostles were drunk with the sober intoxication that gives life to the soul (Cyril of Jerusalem).  Drawing on the water flowing from the rock and Paul's comment about it (“All were made to drink of one Spirit”), Ambrose wrote, "Jesus poured out water from the rock....  Those who drank only symbolically were satisfied; those who drank in truth were inebriated.  This inebriation is good and fills the heart without causing feet to totter.  It steadies steps and makes the mind sober....  Drink Christ, the vine, the rock from which water gushes forth, that you may drink his words....  Scripture is imbibed, eaten when the juice of the word runs through the veins of the mind and enters into the soul" (paraphrased).
From Intoxication to Sobriety:  How do we incarnate sober intoxication today?  The gift of Christ is offered to every era.  It's the Spirit's role to make Christ's redemption available to everyone everywhere.  It used to be taught that spiritual intoxication comes through sobriety:  abstinence, fasting, mortification.  Sobriety meant vigilantly freeing oneself from passions and evil speech, leaving behind carnal satisfactions, repenting, and praying.  This is the asceticism found in Latin saints and Doctors; John of the Cross says the soul needs to “detach and strip itself of all that is not God.”  These stages of spiritual life are called purgative and illuminative; the soul frees itself of its natural habits to prepare for union with God, the unitive path, which Greek authors call divinization.
Remain in the purgative stage before entering the unitive stage; sobriety before intoxication.  Every early expression of fervor is suspect.  Spiritual intoxication comes at the end, for the “perfect.”  Others, “proficients,” should engage in mortification, without claiming direct experience of God and the Spirit while they're struggling with their weaknesses.  It would be wrong to consider this outdated, but such a rigid plan marks a shift from a focus on grace to a focus on human effort, from faith to works, verging on Pelagianism.  Sobriety is necessary to achieve intoxication, and intoxication is needed to attain sobriety.   An ascetic path, undertaken without the Spirit's impulse, would produce nothing but “boasting in the flesh.”  “By the Spirit” we must “put to death the deeds of the body.”  We receive the Spirit so we may mortify ourselves, not as a reward for having mortified ourselves.
Christian life full of ascetic efforts and mortification but without the Spirit would be like Mass with readings, rites, and offerings but no consecration.  "One must look on Christian life similarly.  You may have fasted, prayed, and acquired virtue, but if the Spirit's work hasn't been consummated by grace with consciousness and peace in your heart, your ascetic practice is virtually fruitless."  This second path—from intoxication to sobriety—is how Jesus led his apostles.  Before Pentecost they couldn't really put the gospel into practice, but afterwards, they could endure hardships for Christ, even martyrdom.  The Spirit was the cause, not effect, of their fervor.
Christian life means ministry, service, and proclamation, not just growing in personal holiness.  For it we need divine power, the charisms, experience of the Spirit, sober intoxication.  The world is averse to the gospel, sure of itself; only the Spirit can overcome its unbelief and draw it out of its human sobriety, “scientific objectivity.”  "Only spiritual weapons can destroy strongholds; we destroy arguments and obstacles to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."
The Penetrating Rain of the Spirit:  Ambrose, after discussing two classic “places” where one receive the Spirit—the Eucharist and Scripture—he adds, "There's also the inebriation that follows on the penetrating rain of the Spirit.  We read in Acts... of those who spoke in foreign tongues and appeared... to be drunk on new wine."  After noting the “ordinary” ways, he adds an “extraordinary” (not predetermined or instituted) way, re-living the apostles' Pentecost experience.  He intended to inspire the faithful to desire this experience.  Pentecost is an always open possibility, not merely a past event.  We can draw upon the Spirit in this way that depends solely on God’s initiative.  We could be tempted to think, “Why go beyond the sacraments that sanctify and confer the Spirit into new and unfamiliar ways?”
One way the Spirit is acting today is in the Charismatic Renewal.  "How can we avoid situating the Renewal in the Spirit, here with us?  It has spread like a brushfire....  It resembles revival movements from the past:  it changes lives and brings youth and new possibilities into the Church.  The Renewal has remained within the Church and reanimates institutions."  The Renewal's principal life-changing instrument is baptism in the Spirit.  Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his apostles, “Not many days from now, you'll be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”  This occurs with great simplicity, peace, and joy and is accompanied by humility, repentance, and willingness to become like children and enter the kingdom.  It's a renewal and actualization of baptism, confirmation, and all of Christian life:  marriage, ordination, religious profession.  People prepare for this by making a good confession, by participating in catechesis meetings putting them in joyful contact with the faith:  God's love, sin, salvation, new life, transformation, the charisms, the fruits of the Spirit.  They discover what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Baptism in the Spirit is a starting point toward Christian maturity and service.  "Even an objective and rational theology doesn't have to reject these enthusiastic experiences out of hand....  We see impressive, affective, liberating experiences of grace that.... mold a Christian's attitude for a long time and are quite fit... to be called 'baptism in the Spirit'" (Karl Rahner).
Is this the only way to experience the grace of Pentecost?  If we mean a certain rite and context, no; countless Christians have had a similar experience without knowing about baptism in the Spirit, receiving an outpouring of the Spirit at a retreat, meeting, reading, or when called to a new and more demanding ministry.  But the “baptism in the Spirit” or “outpouring of the Spirit” has been a simple and powerful way to renew millions of Christians' lives.  It's not a question of adhering to one movement or others, or of a movement at all, but of a “current of grace” open to all and destined to lose itself in the Church like an electric discharge disappearing once it's accomplished its task.  Bl. Paul VI went beyond St. John XXIII's "new Pentecost" to a “perennial Pentecost”:  "The Church needs her perennial Pentecost:  fire in her heart, words on her lips, prophecy in her outlook. She needs to rediscover the eagerness, taste, and certainty of the truth.  She needs to feel a wave of love, called forth and poured into our hearts by the Spirit given to us'" (paraphrased).
To quote the hymn we started with:  "May Christ be food to us, and faith be our drink, and let us joyfully taste the sober intoxication of the Spirit."  Complete
  • Is 56:1-3a, 6-8  Do what is just; my salvation is about to come, my justice revealed.  Blessed you who keep the sabbath from profanation, your hand from evildoing.  All who hold to my covenant I'll bring to my holy mountain.  Others will I gather besides those already gathered.
  • Ps 67:2-3, 5, 7-8  "O God, let all the nations praise you!"  May God let his face shine on us, so all may know your salvation.
  • Jn 5:33-36  Jesus to the Jews:  “John testified to the truth.  John was a burning lamp, and you rejoiced in his light.  But I have testimony greater than his:  the works the Father gave me to accomplish testify that he sent me.”
    • Creighton:  A good Jewish friend of mine scrupulously observes the Sabbath; I think he connects his sacrifices with his faith.  He's not merely fulfilling an obligation but acting on his commitment.  Do our sabbaths connect to our core beliefs?  Do we retreat from distractions to be quiet in God’s presence?  Do we deny ourselves so we can feel more detached from worldly concerns and connected to the divine?  Keeping the Sabbath and the Lord's covenant is hard work:  preparation, action, reflection, and change.  It's a way of life, not just a day.  Lord, give me the grace to keep and nourish the Sabbath and the covenant.
      The preaching of John the Baptist/ Brueghel
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Christmas rush":  John the Baptist "was the lamp."  Those who have accepted his call to repentance are ready to meet Jesus this Christmas.  Lord, confirm the message of repentance and Christmas with signs.  "Grant your servants assurance through cures, signs, and wonders." Expect justice, conversions, new manifestations of the Acts of the Apostles. The Lord wants all to be saved and have a real Christmas. Lord, rend the heavens and shake the mountains....
    • Passionist:  I’ve met people I'd call holy, engaged in life and willing to let go of comfort to accomplish what they felt God was calling them to, without fanfare doing what was right and just.  If the world is full of saints, then why is justice so elusive?  We're preparing to welcome Jesus into the world.  It's easy to want to love the baby in the manger?  But love for the Christ child carries with it awareness of the man he'll become, who will go to the Cross.  As we rejoice at his birth, let us remember those who carry a cross today by helping the the poor, praying for the lonely, reaching out to the forgotten. Justice cries out from the manger and is soothed by the love we give.  Holy people hear the cry for justice all year and make sacrifices to answer it.  Jesus says his works testify that God sent him.  What works are we are called to do?  How can we further the cause of justice?  Christmas is a gift wrapped in a question:  am I acting justly?
    •  "I'll make them joyful in my house of prayer for all":   Jesus' opponents didn't  believe the Father sent him or accept his authority to speak and act in God's name.  When they demanded evidence for his claim, he cited John the Baptist as his witness;  John illumined the darkness and guided people to the Messiah.  Jesus, Light of the World, came to open the eyes of the blind.  Jesus also cited as a witness his signs and miracles to point to God's power working through him.  He cited the Father as witness.  He asserted that Scripture pointed to him as the promised Messiah, but the scribes and Pharisees didn't fully believe what Moses wrote;  proud, blind and deaf to God and truth, preoccupied with their position, they became hardened and didn't understand.  God reveals himself to the lowly, to those who trust in God alone and listen to God's word, eager to learn and obey. Through the Spirit he opens our ears and fills our hearts and minds with the love and knowledge of God....

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