Sunday, December 12, 2010

Strength in Patience and Calm

Joy and Renewal
          I’ve just been doing some ruminating over two men’s approach to what I think is part of our present Holy Father’s effort to see to it that the Church is for our day and time the “light on the lamp stand” or the “city on a mountain top” which cannot be hidden. I’m reflecting on the contribution or insights offered by Fr. Barron (Word on Fire) in a video focusing on Pope Benedict XVI as a “Witness to God”; I’m puzzling over Michael Voris (The Vortex) and his recent video on the Holy Father’s leadership in reform efforts, which Fr. Z. has dangled out there for comments (94 when I last looked).
Fr. Barron rightly insists on the Holy Father’s conscious efforts to bring God home again to Western culture or civil discourse. Michael Voris paints an almost dantesque “inferno” of present day church life where the present Pope’s contribution is positive but only cumulative to a long-term project, similar to that of his predecessors (not too much short of a millennium ago), who preached the crusades for the recovery of the Holy Land.
          I think if you asked them, these two men would tell you that although both take the Pope as the anchor for their video contributions, they are addressing fundamentally different issues. In terms of my own issues and thoughts, I can’t fully identify with either man’s approach and I guess I’m just grateful that it is Gaudete Sunday.
In response to a child’s question of the 1950’s about why the color change in the Advent candle for the 3rd Week and why on this Sunday and on Laetare Sunday in Lent Father wore (and can still wear) vestments not only of a lighter violet color but of something closer to pink, which Sister was quick to specify was really another color called “old rose”, the impression was given that this Sunday was meant to give relief, by “lightening up” what should otherwise be a serious season…
Gaudete in Domino semper…No disrespect for Sister’s down to earth explanations intended, let me offer a slightly different slant to this Sunday’s message and hopefully provide a word of encouragement for those who remain stunned by “The Vortex” and have no particular opinion on whether or not one of Florence, Italy’s finest, Savonarola, shouldn’t be rehabilitated and canonized for having told it like it is to a Church which in its leadership rejected him and his message.
          Today’s Communion Antiphon reads: “Say to the anxious: be strong and fear not, our God will come to save us.” Preachers often pick up on other images from the readings for today, but the central message quoted from the Prophet Isaiah (35:1-6, 10) in the 1st Reading for Year A is: “Look your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; he is coming to save you.” Our Gaudete is less the breather in the midst of earnestness and more the focus on the reason for our hope and namely the assurance that “…our God will come to save us”.
          For me, the 2nd Reading for Year A taken from St. James (5:7-10) not only contextualizes this our Advent expectation but articulates the real reason for our joy, cloaked in “old rose” or no. No doubt St. John the Baptist from prison (today’s Gospel, Matt. 11:2-11) could find himself in this passage from St. James as well and sort out any questions he might have had about the One Who was to come after him:
“Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgment yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
The key words which I have for my readers and for my two video presenters as they yearn to see the light of the Gospel shine forth for all to see are these: “…the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates.”
          I/we of the Faith always have reason to rejoice, yes, semper! My God is mighty in power; He comes to rule the earth. As St. Peter walking on the water could have kicked himself after the fact for allowing himself to be startled, yes petrified, by the wind and the waves, so there is no room in “old rose” for all those who discount the greatness of our God (the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates). Judgment, the last word is His and not ours by our complaints or judgments. Savonarola and his vigilantes/sympathizers could have better or would have better taken St. James at his word, which is God’s Word.
          The Crusades may not represent the apex of Catholic life, truly alive and asserting itself, but when one looks at the efficacy of preachers like St. Bernard of Clairvaux, or better, when one looks at the whole hearted and universal response to the call to take up the Crusader’s cross and repent of sin, which he and others addressed to a very compromised Church in that day, there is every reason to hope for a new time of conversion within the Church and society, a new renaissance in the best sense of the word:
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.”

The anxious or faint hearts are what they are, but our hope and our joy rests less in seeing sleeves rolled up, in the dawning of a new “by our bootstraps” reform movement, than in the joy which is ours in the Lord Who comes. That is not the “quietist” speaking, but the same St. James who tells us for God that faith without good works is dead. Read the 2nd Reading again!
Properantes adventum diei Dei

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