Be the Moon
Gospel Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Today we light the pink (or rose) candle on the Advent wreath symbolizing joy on this Gaudete Sunday! When I taught the faith to kiddos years ago, one told me the pink candle was the one that Mary got to pick. Since she’s a girl like many of us, who says she wouldn’t pick a pink one?
Henri Nouwen distinguishes between happiness and joy in saying, “While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death - can take that love away.” So, amidst all the darkness, confusion, sadness, and unknown swirling around us, we can still be filled with joy. Yes, in 2020, we are called to rejoice even still.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “joy” as the emotion evoked by the prospect of possessing what one desires. As we are just a couple of weeks away from Christmas, we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Emmanuel (God-with-us). This newborn baby wants to live in and through us while giving us everything He receives from the Father. That’s some amazing grace!
This past week we have been reminded of Mama Mary’s constant intercession for us. We celebrated the feasts of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the United States of America, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas. These are two Marian devotions that our near and dear to the heart of the Church. Mary truly meets us where we are at and never ceases to point to the hope that is found in her Son. One of my favorite professors said that God became a child in order to have a mom. A mother’s love is so special and Jesus wanted to fully experience it.
I always connect this Sunday with the Visitation because every three years we hear about Mary being greeted with Elizabeth’s joy. Not only is Elizabeth’s joy mentioned, but also that of her unborn son. Even though John could not see the unborn Christ since He was hidden within Mary’s womb, he naturally leaped for joy in His Presence! He rejoiced without seeing. Without knowing all that was to come.
Mary vowed to being a lifelong virgin before ever meeting Joseph, so she never expected to become pregnant, especially with the Son of God! She could certainly have been surprised by joy, but we also know that she was greatly troubled when she received the news from the angel Gabriel. Again, we can hold joy in tension with other emotions as we ponder what is happening around us.
Though Jesus and Mary would lead others to eternity with God, Mary carried Jesus to John and Elizabeth for guidance. It’s clearly not a sin to ask for help. It’s not shameful to seek guidance. That’s what God asks us to do with the Saints. We are all part of God’s family and can encourage and support one another in our unique seasons of life. Mary went “in haste” to meet Elizabeth and John. Like all new moms, the sole focus is on doing whatever’s best for the living, moving, breathing baby within. What a rush!
Mary focused on being a tabernacle for Jesus.
John focused on being a messenger for Jesus.
As a tabernacle holds the Host,
a messenger holds the Message.
Mary and John did not live as if the world revolved around them. Instead, they remained centered around the God who gave them life and called them to be His light in the world. Similarly, the moon does not shine on its own but revolves around the sun so it can reflect its light for the world to see.
“Jesus is the true center of the world, and the world ought to be in continual movement towards him. Jesus is the sun of our souls, from whom they receive all graces, lights, and influence. And the earth of our hearts ought to be in a continual movement towards him, in order to receive in all its powers and parts, the favorable aspects and the benign influence of that great star. Let us then bring into action the movements and the affections of our souls towards Jesus. Let us give ourselves in eagerness to the praises of God, on the subject of his only Son and of the mystery of the Incarnation…
...mathematicians claim that there are stars surrounding the sun, which is their center. They revolve around it, just as the sun revolves around the Earth. May it please God that we might be one of those stars revolving around Jesus, rather than around ourselves, as we do on a daily basis. We must forget ourselves in this so that we might remember only Jesus and the Virgin. Thus, he is a sun and the Virgin is a planet that revolves around Jesus, around this glorious sun. She revolves around him. He is her center. He is her circumference. It seems that she encloses and brings to perfection his greatness and his power. He looks at her unceasingly from every angle. She is directed only toward him.” Cardinal Bérulle
When we try to shine light without the sun, we are dimmed and disappointed. We become imposters. As the moon, we will never be the sun. When we try to be the sun, we will always be a fraud. When we embrace our role as the moon, we are filled with gratitude for the abundant light the sun provides for us to shine.
“A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.” (John 1:6-8)
John was not the light.
You are not the light.
I am not the light.
Christ is our light.
The sin that causes me to stumble most often is pride. I try to do things on my own. I expect myself to be perfect on the first try. I try to advise God on how to do His job. I’m a big sister… what can I say? One of my favorite lines from the movie Rudy is “there is a God and I’m not Him.” What freedom I experience when I say that out loud.
“Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,
“I am not the Christ.” (John 1:19-20)
St. John the Baptist was asked such a question at a time where his popularity and influence could have coaxed him to consider a more vague response in the case others may be disappointed: Not only did he speak in a concise and complete sentence, he used an “I statement.” Though we cannot control others, we can control what we say and do. When asked about his identity, John described himself in relation to God, “I am not the Christ.” Knowing who he wasn’t helped him to embrace who he was.
He was not the Christ, but gave his whole life for the Christ.
He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
“Some saints described themselves as terrible criminals becausae they saw God, they saw themselves -- and they saw the difference." St. Teresa of Calcutta
Knowing the awesome love of God loosens our burdens and allows us to rejoice in the gift of today. The gift of our salvation.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:4-7
Pope Francis invites us to live a life of joy in the light of God’s love for us. There’s a lot in this world that I don’t know, but I do know that God loves you infinitely, completely, and unconditionally. He delights in you and cherishes you.
We who are Christians have a further cause for joy: like Jesus, we know that we are loved by God our Father. This love transforms our lives and fills us with joy. It makes us see that Jesus did not come to lay burdens upon us. He came to teach us what it means to be fully happy and fully human. Therefore, we discover joy when we discover truth–the truth about God our Father, the truth about Jesus our Savior, the truth about the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts. -Pope Saint John Paul II
As the sun, God depends on us to light up the darkness. We just need to remain fixed on Him and anticipate the dawn that He promises! Until then, let your light shine!! Be the moon!!
Also, today we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, whose name means "light" or "lucid."
Let us pray for her intercession:
You did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see.
We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives.
Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation
-- every corner of our day.
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