Note: In light of the terrible events of last Friday, I had decided to post-pone my next “In Layman’s Terms” post until next week. It just didn’t feel right to be sarcastically and academically discussing the subject of evil when a real-life evil was so fresh in all our minds. After writing this post, however, I’ve changed my mind (for reasons that will become clear below) and will be posting sometime in the next couple days.
Regardless, my thoughts and prayers go out to those poor people in Connecticut, and for the soul of our nation.
First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18
Give praise, O daughter of Sion: shout, O Israel: be glad, and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord has taken away your judgment, he has turned away your enemies: the king of Israel, the Lord, is in the midst of you, you shall fear evil no more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not: to Sion: Let not your hands be weakened. The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty, he will save: he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will be silent in his love, he will be joyful over you in praise. The triflers that were departed from the law, I will gather together, because they were of you: that you may no more suffer reproach for them.
Second Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say, rejoice. Let your kindness be known to all men. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety: but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Luke 3:10-18
And the people asked him, saying: "What then shall we do?" And he answering, said to them: "He that has two coats, let him give to him that has none; and he that has food, let him do in like manner." And the publicans also came to be baptized and said to him: "Master, what shall we do?" But he said to them: "Do nothing more than that which is appointed you." And the soldiers also asked him, saying: "And what shall we do?" And he said to them: "Do violence to no man, neither calumniate any man; and be content with your pay." And as the people were of opinion, and all were thinking in their hearts of John, that perhaps he might be the Christ. John answered, saying unto all: "I indeed baptize you with water; but there shall come one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; whose fan is in his hand; and he will purge his floor and will gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
This Sunday is the ‘Gaudete’ Sunday: the Sunday of joy. The theme of this week’s readings is to rejoice at the saving work of God.
Some of you might be saying that this is bad timing.
I, however, respectfully disagree. I think this is the perfect time to talk about joy.
Joy, you see, is not the same thing as ‘being merry;’ it is expressed in laughter, but isn’t limited to it. Joy is the act of remembering that, as Paul says, the Lord is near. Joy is calling to mind what God has done for us and will continue to do for us. Joy is the companion of Hope, which is the act of trusting in the Lord. Joy is, basically, the awareness of Hope.
I think we should be merry. We should laugh, and sing, and praise God. Not, of course, because we are glad of what has happened; God forbid! But because we know that such things will not have the final word. Neither this tragedy, nor the Aurora Theater shooting, nor Columbine, nor any act of evil can separate us from God. He has taken it upon Himself and has conquered it.
I am reminded of the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe; a Franciscan Priest who was one of the many thousands of Polish clergy sent to Auschwitz. Together with nine others, he was confined in a cell to be starved to death. All the long weeks of their confinement, he led them in prayer and songs of praise to God. They rejoiced while they starved. The guards were so unnerved that the ended up killing Fr. Kolbe early with a lethal injection.
This is what we call “defiant joy:” the refusal to be overwhelmed by evil, or to allow evil to dictate how we live our lives. These events horrify us, shock us, and grieve us, as well they should, but they cannot be allowed to define us. Joy is a great and potent weapon against evil. If we can rejoice even in the face of tragedy, if we can praise God even in the darkest moments, then evil truly has no power over us. If we ever lose our joy, then we are truly lost.
So, yes, we should mourn. We should pray for all those affected. We should look inside ourselves and ask what kind of a people we have become that this sort of nightmare is becoming commonplace.
Yet, while and when we have done all that, we should rejoice. We should be mindful that God is good, that He is with us, and that He has suffered with us. We should remember this and, despite everything, we should still laugh and be merry at the coming of the Lord.
Vive Christus Rex!
Vive Christus Rex!