Occasionally I am able to write on command. It’s not one of my strengths, honestly (as you may have noticed by the inconsistent rate at which I post). But, occasionally, it does happen.
One of my friends mentioned this past weekend that I should write a Gaudete Sunday post, but about the Sandy Hook massacre.
Well, there’s a nice simple assignment.
Just to be clear here: Gaudete means “Rejoicing”. The third Sunday in Advent is “Rejoicing Sunday.” Or as I sometimes call it in my head: Pink candle Sunday.
My friend had a good reason for frustration, though: the deacon giving the sermon at the parish she attended that weekend had given a rather unsatisfactory sermon about “having joy, being joyful” which apparently didn’t touch much on what joy actually was.
Quote: “It’s simple: just have joy.”
“But it’s not that simple,” my friend agonized. “You should write about it.”
Easier said than done.
So I put it off.
And then Monday I got some inspiration: the beautiful priest who helps out at my parish and speaks English as his second language, Father Josemaria, said the morning Mass.
He started off by talking about the Gospel of the day, which had been the genealogy of Jesus. As in, the 17 verse genealogy from Matthew.
“This,” he chuckled, “is verrry boring.”
“But,” he went on, “I have asked Jesus: ‘Jesus, how do You wish me to see this?’ Because to look at this as boring, that is a human consideration. But what does Jesus wish us to see here? For the Jews, this was very important, to see a person’s family tree. This is Jesus saying to us, ‘You see, I follow your boring human rules, just to be close to you, just to prove to you that I love you so much.’”
He described this tender love of Jesus and then asked how we ought to respond. For a moment he paused, and then said:
“This tragedy this past weekend,” he said softly, “It hurts the Heart of Jesus. And we – WE – must console Him.”
Father then told us something about Blessed John Paul II. Apparently there is a story that, after some great tragedy had occurred, people were looking all over the Vatican for him. They finally found him in his chapel.
He was holding the Blessed Sacrament against his heart and singing a little Polish song to Him.
“He wanted,” Father Josemaria told us, “to console the Heart of Jesus. To say: ‘I love You, I love You, I love You.’ Because only this will console His Heart, which suffers so much. ‘I love You, I love You, I love You.’”
As I listened to him, I was reminded of something Fr. Alfred Delp wrote:
“The gray horizons must light up. Only the foreground is screaming so loudly and penetratingly. Farther back, where it has to do with things that really count, the situation is already changing. The woman has conceived the Child, sheltered Him under her heart, and has given birth to her Son. The world has come under a different law.”
For those of you unfamiliar with Fr. Delp, let me give you a brief history surrounding those words of his. He wrote them in solitary confinement, after enduring 5 months of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Nazis for opposing their regime. He wrote those words with his hands cuffed together, about two months before his execution in February of 1945.
For Father Delp, the reason for joy in the face of such horror and suffering was clear: God has come close to us.
And Father Josemaria described it beautifully when he told us to turn towards the Heart of Jesus to console Him: the very fact that we CAN turn to Him, draw close to Him, that is the cause of our joy.
“Just have joy…but it’s not that simple.”
Or is it?
I’d say yes, and no.
It’s simple as God is simple, complicated as we are complicated.
Simple, and complicated: like the God who subjects Himself to complicated human genealogies to simply say “I love you.”
The reason for our rejoicing is that we can always turn to Him, He is always close. We can, at any moment, turn and instantly find the God Who makes Himself small to be close to us.
Close enough to hold Him within our very hearts, to sing to Him in our broken, weeping voices: “I love You, I love You, I love You.”
Close enough that we can offer Him our weary, ragged hearts as Veronica offered Him her veil: to console Him, and to leave with His very Image seared into our souls.
With such a God, such a Lover, such a Love…we can rejoice, even in darkness. Just because we can know He is near.
“The world is more than its burden, and life is more than the sum of its gray days. The golden threads of the genuine reality are already shining through everywhere. Let us know this, and let us, ourselves, be comforting messengers. Hope grows through the one who is himself a person of the hope and the promise.”
– Fr. Alfred Delp.