Advent 3: Rejoice and sing (Act)
On this third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we light the pink candle on our Advent wreathes. With Mary, we allow our spirit to rejoice in God our Saviour. We delight in the good news that frees us from the yoke of bondage, that sets prisoners free, and gives sight to the blind. We sing, for the Lord is near.
Rejoicing is a radical stance. It flies in the face of empirical evidence. How can we rejoice in the midst of a global pandemic? How can we sing when, indeed, “the world is burning”? Yet, scripture calls us to rejoice and claim a deeper truth, a truth that God does not abandon God’s people; a truth that sees God’s power reverse the status quo and “fills the hungry with good things”. The Spirit of God blows through the world and turns established orders upside down. Therein lies the cause of our rejoicing.
Fratelli Tutti invites all people of good will to join in this movement of turning established orders upside down. We are called to move beyond ourselves in love, indeed in ekstasis, so that we can find a fuller existence in each other (FT, 88). We are called to reverse the logic of despair, the logic that divides humanity to “us” and “them,” that places self-interest and self-preservation over the common good. While admitting that this vision might sound utopian, Pope Francis declares that love is able to transcend borders. Such love both respects our individual and cultural identities and is open to others, in all their rich diversity. In such a vision, we can rejoice.
Development and Peace — Caritas Canada has always given us a vision of a world in which we can rejoice. The images of our friends and partners in the Global South are rich and varied. These images shine a light on human resiliency and creativity. Catholic social teaching is founded upon the concept of our inherent and shared human dignity. The stories and images of our partners around the world are cause for rejoicing. Indeed, in their faces, the face of God is revealed.
As we rejoice and sing during this third week of Advent, where will we discover the face of God? In what hidden corner of creation is God’s Spirit breaking free?
Advent 4: Welcome and serve (Act)
This is the week of perplexing angels. The Angel Gabriel comes knocking at Mary’s door with the most puzzling announcement. She, a virgin, will bear a son but not just any son, a son who will be the saviour of the world! We’ve all heard this story a million times. We’ve pondered the movement within Mary’s own heart, how she moves from perplexity to acceptance, from questioning (How can this be?) to action (Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word). As she allows the Holy Spirit to take hold of her life, she is empowered to reach out and serve her kinswoman, Elizabeth. As she welcomes the Son of God into her womb, she unleashes the power of salvation upon the Earth.
Here am I, the servant of the Lord.
What was true so long ago remains true today. The act of welcoming walks hand in hand with acts of service. Welcoming the spirit of God into our lives propels our activism. Pope Francis, in Fratelli Tutti, gets very practical on this score. He calls for a “better kind of politics” (Ch. 5) and describes politics as “a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good” (FT, 180). He proclaims dialogue as the primary mechanism of solidarity (Ch. 6). He rejects war and the death penalty (Ch. 7). He calls world religions to come together to proclaim a message of hope for all (Ch. 8). Concrete actions fuelled by hearts open to welcoming love and imaginations willing to host the visitations of angels!
The members of Development and Peace — Caritas Canada have such hearts, hearts that welcome the Spirit of God to dwell within. The have such imaginations, imaginations that allow angels to proclaim a different vision for humanity. Their activism is fuelled by faith, their conviction is built on love.
As we welcome and serve during this fourth week of Advent, how will we open our hearts to God’s Spirit? How will we open the door to the knocking of angels? To which Elizabeth will we reach out? How will we help unleash God’s salvific love onto the world?
Advent is my favourite season. It is replete with rich callings and compelling witnesses to God’s transforming power in our lives. May this Advent season allow us to reclaim our hope, see God in our sisters and brothers, and enflame our desire for justice built on love (caritas). Blessings to you all!