Glenn and I have recently become hooked on the PBS series, “Call the Midwife.” The series features midwives working in a poor but tight-knit London community in the 1960’s. Every episode dramatizes at least one birth.
In this season of Advent, Jesus wants to help give birth to a new ME and a new YOU. That means growing in: love, charity, (giving benefit of doubt), forgiveness, patience, honesty, generosity, etc. I often decide how I should grow (influenced by our American ideals)….when in reality, I need to listen more to the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother. And go to Confession. There is so much healing in the sacraments!
In the third chapter of John’s Gospel, the pharisee Nicodemus surreptitiously visits Jesus at night. * He probably heard about Jesus and wanted to see for himself. He acknowledges that Jesus must be with God because of the miracles he performs. Jesus tells him that “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (Jn. 3:3) He also says, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn. 3:6) Before original sin, we were perfectly united with God. But after the fall, we need redemption and to be born anew.
Advent (and Lent) are times set out to do this; we can grow in virtue and become ready to meet Jesus. We remember Jesus coming as an infant and prepare for His second coming as the Just Judge. The purple candles and vestments of the priest signify repentance. Although on the third Sunday of Lent (Gaudete in Latin or ‘Rejoice’ Sunday), we light a pink candle on the Advent wreath and the priest wears pink vestments, signifying JOY that Christmas is drawing near.
In these four weeks, we’ve heard and will hear messages from the Prophet Isaiah, John the Baptist and Jesus to stay awake. At Mass this past Sunday, Jesus said, “…stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” (Mt. 24:42) Listen to the beautiful poetry of Isaiah and the courage of John the Baptist.
Many of you have seen Bishop Robert Barron’s “Letter to a Suffering Church.” Bishop Barron is writing to a Catholic Church that has been rocked by the sexual abuse scandals of some of its priests. The morale of many Catholics (and non-Catholics) is very low. As a life-long Catholic, Barron calls the scandal, “lacerating.”
He lays out how the framework for how it could have occurred. He calls it a “diabolical masterpiece.” He writes of “a ‘moral relativism,’ especially in regard to matters sexual, that came to be taken for granted in the years following the Second Vatican Council.” He says this attitude was adopted by too many within the priesthood. He notes that some priests and bishops looked the other way, while others lacked the courage to make corrections.
He expresses the greatest sympathy to the victim-survivors. In his capacity as Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, he’s had people share “bitter words and tears.” He senses both a “deep love for the Catholic Church and a practically bottomless disillusionment with it.”
I find myself praying more for the victims and their healing. The people whom they should have been able to trust the deepest hurt them the most. May they receive healing and peace. At the very least, their experience is being heard and validated.
Barron notes the changes that the Church has been instituting since 2002 to prevent abuse, such as background checks, helping people to recognize the signs of sexual abuse and the reporting of offenses to the police. He notes that there have been very few new offenses reported.
Lastly, Barron encourages people not to leave the Church. He writes about “the treasure, which is the life of Christ available in and through the Church.” He says that the Church speaks of God and quotes St. Augustine: “our hearts are wired for God and therefore will remain restless until they rest in God.” Despite its many failings, he says, “The Church speaks of God, of the transcendent Mystery, of that which corresponds to the most ardent desire of the heart, of the Ultimate Reality – and this word, especially today, is like water in the desert.”
May you have a blessed Advent & Christmas season – all the way through the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord on Jan. 15!
* For a beautiful rendition of this, watch the movie, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
For an Advent song that’s speaks to Glenn and me, ” Alleluia, Hurry the Lord is Near” click on this green link.