Sunday, December 10, 2006

Advent Is All About Joy

There was a time in the Church when a spirit of gloom seemed to dominate the thinking of most Catholics. That's why I was fascinated by Pope Benedict XVI's talk given at a youth rally in Cologne, German at the beginning of his pontificate. He said, "I would like to show them how beautiful it is to be Christian, because the widespread idea which continues to exist is that Christianity is composed of laws and bans which one had to keep and, hence, is something toilsome and burdensome."
The pope clearly favors joy over gloom. Jurgen Moltmann, a German theologian, expresses the same perspective in his book, "The Passion For Life," (Fortress Press), where he answers the question, "where did Jesus come from?"

"Jesus came from the overflowing joy of God, and he gives up his life for the joy of the world."
The Lord comes from Joy with the express intention of denying himself to the point of death, so that our joy may be complete. Therefore, shouldn't we try to put aside the attitude of gloom and doom that sometimes rises up in the Church?
Moltmann answered another interesting question: "In the public ministry of Jesus, why did he go first to the outcasts of his world, and not to the scribes and high priests?"

"The inner motivation for Jesus' striking friendship with sinners and tax collectors lies in His joy in God, and in the future of human existence. Jesus does not bring a dry sympathy, but an inviting joy in God's kingdom to those who, according to the law, were reprobates."
The Lord's first concern was to reach out to the "poor in spirit," i.e., those most in need of his message, who would therefore be more open to hearing what he had to say.
Jesus comes primarily as a liberator as Moltmann explains, "The history of the liberation of human beings, the history of their gathering at the banquet of the Lord (the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass), and the history of their unification in the Spirit (the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation), are nothing less than the history of God's joy."
Moltmann comments on this:

"The story of God's suffering in Christ, leads to the story of God's joy in the Spirit. In the fullness of God's joy, Christ's suffering is certainly not canceled, set aside and forgotten, it remains a fruitful, saving, and renewing suffering."
At the Last Supper, Jesus said, "I have told you all these, so that your joy may be complete." His purpose was to give up his life for the joy of the world. That means the cross was never intended to be an end in itself. True, it is a symbol of self-denial, but only within a limited context.
As C.S. Lewis points out: "The New Testament has much to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. I submit that this negative notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics, and is in no way part of the Christian faith."

Advent is a season of great joy because it is a season in which we anticipate the coming Feast of Christmas. Therefore, even if you only have a tiny bit of joy in you, please notify your face.

Merry Christmas!

by Father John Catoir

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