Testify to the light

Posted December 8, 2017 at 12:00 am

I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul … (Isaiah 61:10)

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

The liturgical season of Advent is upon us. Churches, adorned in purple, signify the “posture” by which the faithful are to journey through this season. As the nation hopes for an economic boost in retail sales, a Christian’s “economic” boost is realized by investing in preparation, prayer and joy!

Prepare the way of the Lord

A chant is sung during Taize’ Advent Prayer with the words, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Prepare the way of the Lord, and all people will see the salvation of our God.” The season is about getting ready for the second most important event in salvation history: first being the resurrection, and second, the initial coming of the Messiah.

Week Two of Advent clearly shines the light on the proclamation of the much anticipated savior of the world announced by a bold and courageous soul: St. John the Baptist. The cousin of our Lord, relying on the simplicities of the world for food and clothing, “neither eating nor drinking” (Mk 11:18), spent his adult life baptizing people for the repentance of their sins to signify an inner purity. Yet, he fully acknowledged the one who was to come “will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” (Mk 1:8)

As foretold by the prophet Isaiah, the Messiah will come to rescue the nations from sin, selfishness, evil; all that separates the faithful from God. Jesus is the revelation of the inner voice of God through words and works. This is the proclamation of the Good News. In order to better prepare for the celebration of the priceless gift of Jesus’ birth, our hearts should be attuned to how we are living. Ask yourself, “Am I focused on others during this season? Am I investing more in time-shared with others than gifts? How am I preparing others to hear the Good News? Are my actions rooted in the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope and love? Am I open to the movement of the Holy Spirit?”

Prayer and praise

Preparation involves prayer, which includes praise. St. Paul closed his first letter to the Thessalonians with a hearty reminder to “pray without ceasing” and encouragement to live in gratitude for all circumstances we may face. This means to live in the moment, offering ourselves, our work and daily activities for the glory of God. Whatever we do, we do it for God.

Where does prayer come from? We find in Paragraph 2562 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church this answer, “Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.”

Our prayer is from our heart. Our body frames us; our soul is the source of life; and our spirit is the capacity for praise and worship. Ceaselessly praying leads to an openness of heart. An openness of heart leads to prayer. Ask yourself, “Are my preparations during Advent opening my heart? How can I increase my prayer?”

Rejoice

Gaudete Sunday is the mid-point of the season. We are called to REJOICE, just as Mary, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed in her Magnificat which we pray in the Psalm. She rejoiced in the good God bestowed upon her, recalling his unending mercy and restoration of his people. Mary’s ‘yes’ opens the passageway of one who will “bring glad tidings, heal, release, proclaim and announce.” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger writes in “Mary, The church at the Source,” that “Joy comes from grace.”

We are also called to be open recipients of grace from God in order to grow in fruitfulness and in holy joy! How can we become more open to the graces of God? There are many ways. First and foremost is by participating in the sacraments of reconciliation (to restore the path of grace) and Eucharist (joyfully participating in Mass). Second is living the Ten Commandments, Beatitudes and serving through the Works of Mercy.

Follow the Star

We are naturally drawn to a joy-filled, radiant light. We are born for God. What we choose to do with our life is up to our free will. Yet, we, as living disciples, are called to testify to the light. St. John explains that John the Baptist “came for testimony, to testify to the light.”

What do we testify about? What is the source of this light? Well, follow the star and there you will find the source of life. The shepherds witnessed the star. The Magi followed the star. They testified as to what they found. Ask yourself, “Am I following the light of the star which will lead me from darkness?” Just as a reminder, add a star to your decorations within your home this season and with it place the words, “Joy to the World!”

Dow is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

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