We do not hear enough of a fundamental truth of the Christian faith; the Lord desires our human flourishing and happiness. He wants us to be free.
Too often we associate repentance with some kind of wrong- headed self hatred. To the contrary, for those who have been schooled in its lessons like John the Baptizer, the way of voluntary penitence and conversion becomes the path to freedom and happiness.
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - This Sunday I proclaim the first Gospel of our Advent season which introduces us to John the Baptizer (Luke 3:1-6). This amazing man of God calls us to "Prepare the Way for the Lord". His message, mission and manner of life are presented to us as a model, no matter what our state in life or vocation.
He is repeatedly held out to us as an example in Advent to show us the way we can prepare the way for the lord and live as though he has come, He is coming and He will come again. John freely said "yes" - to who he was and who he was called to become. In that he is an example for each one of us to reflect on during this season. he also discovered the true Joy of Advent.
Our image of John is as the austere ascetic, the odd fellow who lived in the desert eating a strange diet and thundering to Israel about repentance. We forget the joy that was associated with his birth and the happiness which accompanied his prophetic life and vocation. Because He focused on Jesus, he experienced true freedom and happiness.
When Our Lady went to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth - she carrying the Incarnate Word, Jesus,and Elizabeth carrying John - the Gospel tells us: "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said:"Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."
"And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1: 41-47)
Living in his mother's womb, this last Prophet of the Old Testament and First Prophet of the New responded to the arrival of Jesus the Savior with a dance of Joy. St. John records John the Baptizer explaining the reason for his joy, "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." (John 1:29 - 30) He was a man of Joy because he was a man of true humility!
John understood that life wasn't all about him. He emptied himself willingly. His humility opened a space within him for true joy to take root and set him free! John is a sign of contradiction for an age drunk on self worship and lost in narcissistic self absorption. He points to the path of true freedom, living a lifestyle of self emptying." He must increase and I must decrease".
This is the attitude, the disposition, the way of life which can lead each of us into to true freedom. This is the path to becoming the new creation we are called to become by living "in Christ". (2 Cor. 5:17)
John is a man to be imitated this Advent, and throughout our Christian life. We can learn from him how to live our lives as joyful penitents; ever aware of our utter dependency on God's grace at every moment. It is sin which leads us into slavery and takes away our joy. Only by being freed from its entanglements can we become truly happy and free. (See, Romans 6: 6, 7 and Gal. 5:1) John points to Jesus in his birth, his life and his martyr's death.
We do not hear enough of a fundamental truth of the Christian faith; the Lord desires our human flourishing and happiness. He wants us to be free. The Apostle Paul proclaimed to the Galatians "It was for freedom that Christ set us free" (Gal 5:1) He invites us to choose Him over our own selfish pursuits to find that happiness and freedom. In a very real sense, sin fractured our freedom and it is the wood of the Cross which becomes the splint which restores it.
In Catholic theology we speak of receiving the "beatific vision" when we finally stand in the Lord's presence at our death. The word "beatitude" means happiness! Living in the Lord will make us happy; not only in the life to come, but beginning now. Too often we associate repentance with some kind of wrong - headed self hatred. To the contrary, for those who have been schooled in its lessons like John the Baptizer, the way of voluntary penitence and conversion becomes the path to freedom and happiness.
Blessed John Paul II wrote frequently about human freedom. In one of his letters of instruction on the Christian family he wrote these insightful words: "History is not simply a fixed progression toward what is better - but rather, an event of freedom. Specifically, it is a struggle between freedoms that are in mutual conflict: a conflict between two loves - the love of God to the point of disregarding self and the love of self to the point of disregarding God (John Paul II, ...
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