Friday, December 14, 2012

GAUDETE: Advent Sunday 3C - Memorial: Saint John of the Cross

Third Sunday of Advent (Year “C”) December 16, 2012


“REJOICE AND EXULT WITH ALL YOUR HEART!”
[Texts: Zephaniah 3.14-18a [Isaiah 12]; Philippians 4.4-7; Luke 3.10-18]

The Third Sunday of Advent is “Rejoicing Sunday” (taken from the Latin Gaudete in the entrance antiphon). The pink vestments permitted today moderate the penitential hue of the colour purple. And with good reason. For celebration of the Lord's coming at Christmas is near, a mere nine days away!

Today many hear the church's message as so much moralizing, not perceiving it to be good news, and so turn away. The liturgical readings invite a different perspective, as they underline the fundamental importance of divine heralds first announcing God's initiative and His gifts of love, peace and joy. Any change in the hearer's behaviour, then, is not a condition for receiving God's message but one of its consequences.


Prophet Zephaniah's preaching (from 630-620 BC) focused on the coming day of the Lord. He viewed it as an occasion for judgment (1.7-24) and salvation (3.9-20). He exhorted his hearers to do the right, rejecting wrong.

The first reading comes from Zephaniah's ninth and final oracle. There the prophet presents joy as a key unlocking God's message for those heeding his message: “Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!”

By offering divine compassion to contrite Israel, Zephaniah invited God's people to hope. For by an unanticipated act, God had removed the judgment which sin merited and, instead, promised to deal with Israel's oppressors in a way that would bring peace.

The path to divine-human encounters, Zephaniah said, has been smoothed out. All people need to do is allow God to “renew you in his love”.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus said John the Baptist “was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead virtuous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God and, so doing, to join in baptism” (Antiquities, 18.116). Josephus said righteous behaviour was necessary for one's baptism to be acceptable to God. In other words, heeding the call to conversion implied a change in life-style.

In the gospel John called the crowds, tax collectors and soldiers to a new way of relating. Like Jesus would, John preached repentance (“a change of mind, a change of heart”) to all who came to him on Jordan's bank. Each group wanted to know what practical effects conversion might have on their lives (“what should we do?”).

In answer, the Baptist gave a set of examples of what new thinking might look like in daily life:

Those with material goods were to share them with the destitute poor (“whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise”).

Tax-collectors, detested as lackeys of the Roman occupying power and viewed as extortionists by fellow Jews, were to seek just relations with their compatriots. They had to avoid the corruption so common to their profession (“collect no more than the amount prescribed for you”).

Soldiers serving in the army of Herod Antipas—as the police who supported the tax collectors in levying tolls and duties—were urged against “shaking people down.” You see, in those days poorly paid soldiers were tempted to use their position to extort money by intimidation or trumped up charges.

Instead Jesus' forerunner exhorted them to be sons of Abraham by keeping the seventh and eighth commandments (“do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation”). The Baptist's last words to the soldiers (“be satisfied with your wages”) may be an allusion to the tenth commandment, that of not coveting what belongs to others.

Luke summarized his account of John the Baptist's witness to Jesus with the remark “so, with many other exhortations, John proclaimed good news to the people.”

The evangelist knew from experience that the change of life involved when God's messenger called someone to live according to God's purposes was, despite its cost, “good news”. And the source of great joy. Not surprisingly, then, Luke—more than the other evangelists—emphasized throughout his gospel the joy that comes when one lives by the message common to Jesus and John, his herald.

Paul urged his Philippian converts to be truly joy-filled because the Lord's return in glory was near, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to everyone”.

* * * * * *

SAINT JEAN DE LA CROIX
Religieux Carme (1542-1591)


Saint Jean de la Croix naquit près d'Avila, en Espagne. Jouant un jour au bord d'un étang, il glissa au fond de l'eau; une grande et belle dame vint lui offrir la main pour le sauver: "Non, dit l'enfant, vous êtes trop belle, ma main salirait la vôtre." Alors un vieillard se présenta, marchant aussi dans l'eau, tendit son bâton à l'enfant et le ramena sur le bord. Une autre fois il tomba dans un puits; on croyait l'y retrouver mort; il était assis paisiblement: "Une belle dame, dit-il, m'a reçu dans son manteau et m'a gardé." Ainsi Jean croissait sous le regard de Marie.

Un jour qu'il priait Notre-Seigneur de lui faire connaître sa vocation, une voix intérieure lui dit: "Tu entreras dans un Ordre religieux, dont tu relèveras la ferveur primitive." Il avait vingt et un ans quand il entra au Carmel, et dépassa de beaucoup tous ses frères, tout en cachant ses oeuvres extraordinaires. Il habitait un réduit obscur, mais dont la fenêtre donnait dans la chapelle, en face du Très Saint-Sacrement. Il portait autour du corps une chaîne de fer hérissée de pointes, et par-dessus cette chaîne un vêtement étroit et serré, composé de joncs enlacés par de gros noeuds. Ses disciplines étaient si cruelles, que le sang jaillissait en abondance.

Le sacerdoce ne fit que redoubler son désir de la perfection. Il songeait à s'ensevelir à la Chartreuse, quand sainte Thérèse, éclairée de Dieu sur son mérite, lui confia ses projets de réforme du Carmel et l'engagea à se faire son auxiliaire. Jean se retira dans une maison étroite, pauvre, insuffisante, et commença seul un nouveau genre de vie, conforme aux Règle primitives de l'Ordre du Carmel. Peu de jours après, il avait deux compagnons: la réforme était fondée.

Ce ne fut pas sans tempêtes qu'elle se développa, car l'enfer sembla s'acharner contre elle, et tandis que le peuple vénérait Jean comme un Saint, il eut à souffrir, de la part de ceux qui auraient dû le seconder, d'incroyables persécutions, les injures, les calomnies, jusqu'à la prison. Pour le consoler, Marie lui apparut et lui annonça sa délivrance prochaine; en effet, quelques jours après, il se trouva, sans savoir comment, au milieu de la ville de Tolède. Dieu le récompensa de ses épreuves par des extases fréquentes; sainte Thérèse l'appelait un homme tout divin. Il écrivit des ouvrages spirituels d'une élévation sublime. Une colombe le suivait partout, et une odeur suave s'exhalait de son corps. Au moment de sa mort, un globe de feu brillant comme un soleil entoura son corps.

Le Pape Pie XI l'a proclamé Docteur de l'Église, le 24 août 1926. [Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.]

* * * * * *

Détachement
Pour arriver à goûter tout, veillez à n'avoir goût pour rien.
Pour arriver à savoir tout, veillez à ne rien savoir de rien.
Pour arriver à posséder tout, veillez à ne posséder quoi que ce soit de rien.
Pour arriver à être tout, veillez à n'être rien, en rien.
Pour arriver à ce que vous ne goûtez pas, vous devez passer par ce que vous ne goûtez pas.
Pour arriver à ce que vous ne savez pas, vous devez passer par où vous ne savez pas.
Pour arriver à ce que vous ne possédez pas, vous devez passer par où vous ne possédez pas.
Pour arriver à ce que vous n'êtes pas, vous devez passer par ce que vous n'êtes pas.

Moyen de ne pas empêcher le tout.
Quand vous vous arrêtez à quelque chose, vous cessez de vous abandonner au tout.
Car pour venir du tout au tout, il faut se renoncer du tout au tout.
Et quand vous viendrez à avoir tout, il faut l'avoir sans rien vouloir.
Car si vous voulez avoir quelque chose en tout, vous n'avez pas purement en Dieu votre trésor.
Peu importe que l'oiseau soit tenu attaché par un lien faible ou fort. Le lien serait-il faible, tant qu'il n'est pas rompu, l'oiseau restera prisonnier sans pouvoir s'envoler. Ainsi en sera-t-il de l'âme qui se laisse attacher à une chose insignifiante.
Aimer, ce n'est pas éprouver de grandes choses, c'est connaître un grand dénuement et une grande souffrance pour l'Aimé.
Jésus-Christ est très peu connu de ceux qui se croient ses amis, car nous les voyons rechercher en lui non ses amertumes, mais leur propre consolation.
Il est mieux de souffrir pour Dieu que de faire des miracles.
--Saint Jean de la Croix


O God, who gave the Priest Saint John an outstanding dedication to perfect self-denial and love of the Cross, grant that, by imitating him closely at all times, we may come to contemplate eternally your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

* * *
St. John of the Cross

Juan de Yepes was the Castilian son of a poor silk weaver of Fontiberos, Toledo, Spain and was born in 1542. His father was of noble birth; he had married much beneath him, and for that offense had been entirely cut off by his family. He had taken to silk weaving as a means of livelihood, but had never been able to make much of it. Soon after the birth of Juan he died, worn out with the effort to keep his wife and three children. The family was left in direst poverty; the children grew up always underfed, so that to the end of his life Juan remained dwarfed in stature.

Unable to learn a trade, he became the servant of the poor in the hospital of Medina, while still pursuing his sacred studies. In 1563, being then twenty-one, he humbly offered himself as a lay-brother to the Carmelite friars, who, however, knowing his talents, had him ordained priest. He would now have exchanged to the severe Carthusian Order, had not St. Teresa of Avila, with the instinct of a saint, persuaded him to remain and help her in the reform of his own Order.

Thus he became the first prior of the Discalced (meaning "barefoot") Carmelites. His reform, though approved by the general, was rejected by the elder friars, who condemned the saint as a fugitive and apostate, and cast him into prison, whence he only escaped, after nine months' suffering, at the risk of his life. Twice again, before his death, he was shamefully persecuted by his brethren, and publicly disgraced. But his complete abandonment by creatures only deepened his interior peace and devout longing for heaven.

St. John was a great contemplative and spiritual writer. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI on August 24, 1926. He is the patron of contemplative life, mystical theology, mystics, and Spanish poets. [ Excerpted from Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints © 1878 and Saints for Sinners by Alban Goodier, S.J.] – www.catholicculture.org

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