December 11, 2016

Gaudete Sunday

December 11, 2016:  Third Sunday of Advent = Gaudete Sunday

See 13 connections with today?
Legend below


  • John/ Winter (gospel) [leadsheet and related note]
  • For next Sunday:  Psalm 24:  Let the Lord enter/ Celoni:  sheet music, just written.  The page also has the setting for All Saints Day; they're very similar but IMHO have very different feels.
The Spirit and Discernment:  Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 2nd Advent Sermon
Discernment of spirits” originally meant the gift that made it possible to distinguish from among the inspired or prophetic messages those that came from the Spirit of Christ and those that came from other spirits, testing spirits to see whether they are from God.”  For Paul the fundamental criterion is confessing Christ as Lord; for John, it's the Incarnation.
Discernment in ecclesial life:  This gift needs to be exercised in both ecclesial and personal areas.  In the ecclesial, it's carried out by the magisterium, which must take the "sense of the faithful" into account.  “The church must read the signs of the time and interpret them in the light of the Gospel.  It should answer the questions people ask about the meaning of life....”  The Church can't do that by applying long-standing rules to the “times” but by giving new responses starting from the gospel.  The difficulty is fear of compromising the magisterium's authority by admitting changes.
The Church's and pope's infallibility is not higher than Scripture's.  Scripture expresses truth as it could be expressed and understood when written.  Many truths are articulated gradually, like the truth about eternal life.  In the moral sphere as well, many  customs and laws are abandoned later to make way for ones more in accordance with the Covenant; e.g. Exodus affirms God will punish children for their fathers' iniquities, but Jeremiah and Ezekiel say the opposite, that each person is responsible for their own actions.
In the Old Testament the criterion by which people move beyond earlier proscriptions is better understanding of the Covenant and the Torah; in the Church the criterion is rereading the Gospels in light of new questions.  “Scripture grows with those who read it.   Jesus' rule was “No to sin, yes to the sinner.”  He condemned unjustly acquired wealth but invited himself to the house of Zacchaeus; he condemned adultery but forgave the adulteress; he reaffirms the indissolubility of marriage but reveals his identity to the Samaritan woman who had five husbands.  Sinners are God’s creatures, made in his image, with dignity no matter what, but sin is from the enemy.
Exercise of collegiality of the bishops aids discernment through diversity of situations, points of view, insights, and gifts.  The first Church council, of Jerusalem, gave opportunity to both points of view, included debate, and ended with agreement:  “It seemed good to Holy Spirit and to us....” 
The Spirit sometimes guides the Church directly through revelations and prophetic inspiration, other times collegially through confrontation, and compromise.  We must be confident in the Spirit's ability to achieve accord, no matter the process.  Pastors who gather to discern should be certain: “So shall we not, with Thee for guide, turn from the path of life aside” (Veni Creator Spiritus).
Discernment in our lives:  Discernment of spirits has evolved from discerning others' inspirations to mainly to discerning our own.  It's the same gift, though used differently.  Much of what's written about the “gift of counsel” applies to discernment too.  Through counsel, the Spirit helps us evaluate situations and orient our choices on human wisdom, prudence, and supernatural principles of faith.  The fundamental discernment of spirits allows us to distinguish “the Spirit of God” from “the spirit of the world.”  Paul and Jesus offer the criterion of fruit:  “Works of the flesh” demonstrate a desire has come from one's sinful nature, while “the fruits of the Spirit” reveal it's from the Spirit.  But the choice isn't always between good and bad but between one good and another, and the question is what God wants now.  In response to this need, St. Ignatius of Loyola developed his teaching on discernment:  consider your interior disposition, the intentions (“spirits”) behind a choice.  He was in line with an established tradition:  “No one can test whether spirits are from God unless God has given him discernment to enable him to investigate spiritual thoughts, inclinations and intentions....  Discernment is the mother of all virtues; everyone needs it either to guide others' lives or their own.... True discernment is a combination of right thinking and good intention.”
Ignatius proposed practical applications:  Select one option for a day or more, then see whether your reaction brings peace, is in harmony with your other choices, whether you're encouraged in that direction or uneasy; then repeat with the other option.  At the root of his teaching is his doctrine of “holy indifference”:  placing yourself in a state of willingness to accept God's will, giving up personal preference.  The experience of inner peace becomes the main criterion.  After consideration and prayer, retain the choice accompanied by the greatest peace.  It's practicing Moses’ father-in-law's advice:  “present the questions to God,” and wait.  A deep-seated disposition to do God’s will puts you in the best position for good discernment.  “My judgment is just because I seek not my will but that of him who sent me.”  The danger in some approaches to discernment is emphasis on psychological aspects to the point of forgetting the Spirit.  St. John sees the decisive factor as being “anointed by the Holy One.”  Ignatius mentions that in some cases, only the Spirit's anointing allows us to discern what to do.  The Spirit is himself “the substantial will of God,” so when he enters into a soul, this “Will... makes himself known.”  
Discernment is not an art or technique but a charism, a gift of the Spirit; psychological aspects are important but secondary.  “Only the Spirit can purify the mind...  Try to provide the Spirit a resting place; then the light of knowledge will shine within us, and it'll show temptations for what they are and diminish their power.  That's why Paul says, Do not stifle the Spirit.”  The Spirit normally sheds his light in our soul simply through Scripture.  Important examples of discernment have come about this way:  In hearing “If you want to be perfect...,” Father Anthony understood what he needed to do and founded monasticism.  Francis of Assisi was inspired to initiate his movement of a return to the Gospel:  “The Most High revealed to me that I should live according to the Holy Gospel” during Mass after hearing, “Take nothing for your journey:  no staff, bag, bread, money, or second tunic.”  Something similar happened with me....  Alongside listening to the Word, the most common practice for exercising discernment is examination of conscience; it should be a continuous exercise of placing ourselves under God’s light to let him search our inmost being.  Go beyond identifying sins in preparation for confession to an authentic one-on-one relationship with Christ.
“Led by the Spirit”:  Entrust yourself to the inner guidance of the Spirit.  “When the cloud [a figure for the Spirit] was taken up, the Israelites would advance; but if it wasn't, they didn't.”  We shouldn't undertake anything unless the Spirit moves us and we've consulted him.  Jesus never undertook anything without the Spirit:  going into the desert, returning to preach, choosing his apostles, offering himself to the Father, all through the Spirit.  Guard against the temptation of giving the Spirit advice instead of receiving it.  “Who has directed or instructed the Spirit?”  The Spirit directs/guides and isn't directed/guided; we can make suggestions to the Spirit, or even make our own decisions and attribute them to him.  Thomas Aquinas speaks about this inner leading of the Spirit as an “instinct of the righteous”:  “in the spiritual life all of our movements should be through the Spirit.”  This is what Paul calls being “led by the Spirit.”  Abandon yourself to the Spirit, harp strings to the fingers plucking them.  Like good actors, we need to listen to the voice of the hidden prompter, so we may recite our part faithfully.  This is easier than you might think since our prompter speaks within us and teaches us everything.  We may only need to glance inward or pray.  When Melito of Sardis died, they said, "He lived entirely in the Spirit"; may that be said about us....  Ask the Paraclete to direct you:  “Spirit, dispenser of charisms; Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, who loves us, you fill prophets, perfect apostles, strengthen martyrs, inspire teachers!  Renew us with your gifts, come down on us as you did on the Apostles.  Pour your charisms upon us, fill us with knowledge of your teaching;  make us temples of your glory; overcome us by your grace.  May we live for you, of one mind with you, and adore you, the pure, the holy, God Spirit Paraclete.”  Complete
  • Is 35:1-6a, 10  They will see the Lord's glory.  Fear not!  Your God comes to save you.  The eyes of the blind will be opened....  Those the Lord ransomed will return, crowned with joy.
    Wordle: Readings 12-15-13
  • Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10  "Lord, come and save us."  The Lord, who secures justice, gives food and sight, sets free, raises up, loves, protects, and sustains, shall reign forever.
  • Jas 5:7-10  Be patient till the Lord's coming, as the farmer waits for fruit.  The Lord's coming is at hand; make your hearts firm.  Don't complain.
  • Mt 11:2-11  John's disciples to Jesus:  “Are you the one who is to come?”  “The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”  “What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed?  One well-dressed?  A prophet?  John is more:  the messenger to prepare the way.  No one has been greater, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater.”
    • Creighton:  Isaiah, the psalmist, and Matthew describe life without God as blind, deaf, lame, and mute:  cut off, longing for connection, dark, silent, still, defined by absence.  But with God, our world is defined by presence:  abundant life, light, vision, understanding, relationship, dancing, leaping, freedom, singing.  Such joy is worth waiting for.  We're called to make our hearts firm to walk and work with God...
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Receive Jesus' joy":  Today is "Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday"; we rejoice we have a Savior who loves us, delights in us, wants the best for us, has called us to be his disciples, offers us a share in his saving ministry, pours out the Spirit on us, and gives us gifts of the Spirit so we might help spread his Word.  Do I find my joy in the One Who is coming?...
    • Passionist:  The rose candle on the wreath, and rose vestments, signify the Church’s joy because God draws near.  The gospel provides the reason for rejoicing: our salvation, our liberation is at hand.  We are called to rejoice, even in darkness.  Within the darkness of his prison and doubt, John the Baptist has his disciples ask Jesus, “Are you the coming one?”  Jesus may not have been what John was expecting,  We might wonder, why isn't God not fixing my problem?  Jesus responds, tell John what I'm doing.  His acts are miraculous in their ability to heal our deepest needs, our darkest doubts.  Jesus is speaking about life lived in him, aware of his grace and love, free from that which keeps us from life and disciplesship, disciples.  Jesus may not be the messiah we expect, but he's the one we need....
      St. John the Baptist/ Reni
    •  "They shall obtain joy and gladness":  John is the last and greatest of the prophets of the old covenant.  He pointed to Christ, God's Anointed, preparing the way for him.  He saw Jesus would redeem us.  When Herod imprisoned him, John sent his disciples to Jesus, wanting them to hear and see how Jesus was bringing God's kingdom to those who were receptive.  Jesus confirmed that his works fulfilled Isaiah's Messianic prophecies.  Jesus' miracles demonstrate the power of God's kingdom at work among us. God turns our sorrow, fear, and weakness into joy, strength, and hope.  Then Jesus asked John's disciples, "Why did you go out in the wilderness to see John?" "Were you hungry for God's word?" He said John was more than a spokesman for God; he was the faithful witness and friend who pointed others to the Messiah's coming.  Unlike a weak, spineless reed that can be easily crushed or bruised, John was a pillar of strength and truth amid opposition, trusting unswervingly in God and his word.  Jesus knew what the Father sent him to accomplish would supersede what the prophets had done and foreseen....  John sacrificed his life for speaking God's word and preparing the way for Jesus. The Lord offers us the same assurance and strength to stand against whatever would rob us of our conviction and courage....
    Dress legend
    • 'Deer' pin:  The lame will leap like a stag (1st reading)
    • 'Eyeball' pin:  The eyes of the blind shall be opened (1st reading); the Lord gives sight to the blind (psalm); the blind regain their sight (gospel)
    • 'Crown' tie bar:  The Lord shall reign forever (psalm)
    • 'Clocks' tie, 'apple' pin:  Be patient, as farmers wait for fruit (2nd reading)
    • 'Hearts' suspenders:  Say to those whose hearts are frightened... (1st reading); make your hearts firm;... (2nd reading)
    • 'Hands' pin:  ...The Lord's comng is at 'hand' (2nd reading); strengthen feeble hands (1st reading)
    • Rose-colored shirt, 'roses' pin:  Today's liturgical color; they'll bloom with abundant flowers... (1st reading)
    • 'Treble clef' tie pin:  ...and rejoice with joyful song (1st reading)

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