Week of 12/17/2017
Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday which means “rejoice.” The people of God indulge in the prospect of joy, that the birth of Jesus Christ is imminent. Hence, we light the pink candle in joyful anticipation. We have passed the half way point of Advent, and thus, hope begins to manifest joy! This practice stems from the fourth century, that Advent is a time of penance and making up for our sins to prepare pure hearts for the arrival of the Godman Jesus Christ. As well, it is a reminder to us that there will be a second coming of Our Lord!
It remains a seeming paradox that God has made us not for this world but for the next, that despite the hardship and tragedy of this world, He has actually made us for joy. A joy the world cannot comprehend without the help of God. Joy at its core cannot be something opposed to God because God is the source of all joy. Thus, how Christ lived becomes the template for real joy. How did Christ bring joy to others? By teaching them about the love of the Father and the joy of paradise, but that demands sacrifice. It would involve suffering. It would involve believing in things that the majority will say are crazy or impractical. Sound familiar?!
The key to Christmas joy is giving authentic love to another person that is rooted in Christ and His teachings. The world tries to eliminate parts of the Christmas message; what is more challenging becomes “controversial” rather than the simple truth that Church teaching raises us to higher levels of dignity. We know it at the level of virtue. People sacrifice for sports or the arts because they want to optimize their talent and reach deeper fulfillment. When we sacrifice for God, be it praying as a family and delaying recreation for a moment, or going to confession as a family, there is an initial degree of awkwardness perhaps, but joy becomes profoundly deep and fulfilling from accomplishing the task.
On human intimacy Church teaching is simple; it is the sole privilege of a man and woman who have pledged before God to love each exclusively in marriage. This teaching regarding chastity
is one that is very challenging and mocked by the world, but is really the only one that makes sense if one seeks authentic love rooted in God. If adhered to, such teaching leads to better health, bet- ter peace of mind, easier to break off the dating, and most fundamentally, keeps and increases God’s grace in the soul.
The world looks at the Church’s teaching and says, “you spoil the fun and my freedom” while Christ teaches through the Church, “follow Me and I will give you peace and a deeper freedom the world can never give.” It’s ironic how we admire coaches, teachers, and bosses who are demanding but stretch our abilities in good ways, while when the Church offers to do the same, the world says, “hey, accommodate me or I’m not interested.” Ironically, by becoming flesh at Christmas, God has accommodated us in more ways than we could ever fractionally return the love. As we approach Christmas, let us look to sacrifice to the God who died for us. The more we follow the challenges of Jesus Christ through Church teaching, the more we find a deeper joy the world cannot give; not the hope of an easier life, but the hope of everlasting joy.
A little over a week ago Bishop Caggiano celebrated the funeral Mass here of our beloved Deacon Salvatore Clarizio. Many deacons attended and a number of priests to concelebrate. We remain forever in debt to Deacon Sal for quiet yet extraordinary work of spiritually directing the Legion of Mary, bring the Eucharist and Word of God to nursing homes, directing our bereavement group, visiting the imprisoned, and giving a good deal of his life as a psychologist to assisting many special needs people under the care of the state. With also the extraordinary work of his wife of 57 years, Agnes, who has done so much for decades for the suffering in our parish. Sal was the good and faithful servant! Requiescat in Pace.
God love you,Fr. Brian Gannon