Newtown & Gaudete Sunday

As promised in the previous post, here is the Gaudete Sunday homily delivered by Rev. Richard Kramer of the Archdiocese of Washington. I think you'll find it edifying. --RC2

The Rev. Rick Kramer
Advent III, Year C

“Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
The Lord is near.”

This third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday because ‘Gaudete,’ a Latin word, means rejoice.  It is the first word in today’s, entrance antiphon or introit:

Gaudete in Domino semper.”—Rejoice in the Lord always.

Like Lent, Advent is liturgical season with a penitential character--when we prepare our hearts to celebrate both the Advent or coming of Christ into the world, through our observance of Christmas, and our Christian hope that he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

We wear the Rose colored vestments to indicate that on this day and in the midst of our penitence, we pause to celebrate and rejoice that the Lord is near. Rose is a lighter color, not yet white, and certainly not pink, but lighter than violet. It is an indication that the light that is coming into the world is, indeed, near.

And yet on this ‘Rejoicing Sunday’ we are perplexed by the paradox that our joy is not complete but that the exultation of our hearts has been turned into mourning. Our hymn to gladdening light has been muted by dark clouds in the valley of the shadow of death.

While we hear the Word proclaimed, “the Lord is near,” our faith is confronted with the question:

“Where was God on Friday?”

Now this is not a new question.  Ever since the first time God promised to be with his people, in times of persecution and when confronted with senseless evil, believers have been asked, “Where now is thy God?”

Our first and most appropriate response is perhaps: silent grief.

The media, however, rather than silence or grief would have us all relive the horrific events moment by moment and in greater detail never telling the true story of what happened.  In addition, we are besieged by a cacophony of opinions about gun control, accessibility to violent video games, the need for a greater security presence in schools and access to mental health care.  Regardless of how necessary these reforms may be, they, in themselves, cannot ensure a good moral outcome in our society.

But I do not wish to linger in the company of these modern-day friends of Job.

Our attention, rather, must turn to the fact that last Friday, we saw the darkness of evil exhibited in a remarkably clear way: in the meaninglessness of death and senseless violence,  --And our hearts are grieved.

Admittedly, the painful truth of our faith, however, is that we cannot account for God’s silence.  Simultaneously, we cannot simply interpret God’s silence as either absence (that he was not there) or complicity (that this evil serves some greater good).

The God through whom the creation of the world was accomplished endowed us with freedom to be agents, protagonists like him. That he has permitted our use of freedom for evil purposes, however, does, not, in the least, diminish his goodness, nor the fact that we are still created in his image from and for love.

Rather, that he might deliver us from our captivity to sin and death, he loved the world so much that he sent his only Son into the world that, through him, the world might be saved.

Notice how he accomplished this: by entering, himself, as a child, the Son of God and Son of Mary, into the silent meaninglessness of death and exceeding and overcoming evil through his resurrection, return to the Father, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

This great mystery, the scandal of our faith -that God could die- has made clear to those with faith that we are living in a fractured world.  We were made to radiate the light of God’s goodness and love but we have silenced God and our world has splintered into shards of piercing darkness.

We have a need that we cannot attain on our own.

In the midst of this silent wilderness, we hear the voice of John the Baptist, crying out in today’s Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus comes into the world like one gathering the harvest.  This is an image that affirms the reality that the world is fractured -that there are forces of good and evil at work in the world-we hear that when he comes some of what has happened in the world will be damned and like chaff thrown into the unquenchable fire, but the good wheat he will gather into the barn.

So what becomes of this wheat?

The early Church Fathers saw in this Gospel imagery a depiction of the Eucharist. The purpose of wheat is to be ground into flour and made into bread.  This is the bread taken by Christ, blessed, broken, and given to his disciples as his body.  At the same time, the disciples are like scattered grains of wheat to be gathered into the body of Christ as the Church.  This is what we mean by communion.

Through this Eucharistic meal we are nourished with his body and blood: the offering of himself, as a pure, holy and spotless victim.  Through this meal we come to share the divine life of Christ as his body the Church.  In this communion with him, the shards and pieces of our lives are gathered into one in him to shine through the darkness; we are the light of the world.

The conflict between good and evil has not ended.  The latest eruption of darkness in these last days has jarred us awake to this reality. Please, we need no more evidence of this.

But because of Jesus, because he came down from heaven and became man; Because the cross redefines and transforms the terms of the conflict between good and evil, by standing at the center of our world and history; Because of Christ’s victory over sin and death which is given to us in this bread of life and cup of salvation, we discover in God’s silence, not absence, but Hope.

Hope which surpasses all our day in and day out hopes in our own personal struggles, Hope that confirms our right-headed suspicion that there must be something good and holy in the world, Hope that fulfills our lives and what we desire most—to find the truth and meaning of life’s mystery, Hope which is presence, Emmanuel, God with us.

Because Jesus, who has passed through death and is raised, leads us along the path to eternal life—Because Jesus is with us—we have the courage to embrace godly and reverent silence in the face of gratuitous evil and grieve.
And we rejoice in hope, the Lord is near!

In Nomine…