THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Second Sunday of Advent
5 December 2021
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Blessed are they that are not scandalized in Jesus. The many miracles Jesus performed convinced the disciples of St. John the Baptist that Jesus is the One for Whom they were waiting. The powers of God are mighty and wonderful, and these easily attract us towards Him. Jesus' poverty, humiliation, suffering, and death scandalize many. While our fallen nature is drawn to the Divinity of Jesus, we are turned off by His humbling Humanity.
It is not surprising that men are easily led to follow Jesus when He performs miracles. The sign of His true disciples is that they follow Him in self-denial and the Cross. When St. John's disciples went out into the desert to see him, they were obviously not looking for someone dressed in fine or soft garments. They did not seek someone who vacillated with the prevailing fashions or customs of the world. What impressed people and drew them to St. John the Baptist was his penances and austerity of life. When they came to Jesus, they were not so impressed with His austerity and mortifications because Jesus had not yet offered His Supreme Sacrifice to God. A double standard seems to be applied here. St. John is accepted and believed because of his penances and austerity, while Jesus is accepted and believed because of His wondrous miracles. The thoughts and ways of our fallen nature are indeed very fickle.
What St. Francis of Assisi found in Jesus was a mixed life. Jesus practiced fasting and mortifications, but He also attended wedding feasts, suppers, and various celebrations. He led multitudes into the desert to hear Him, and then when they were out of food, He miraculously fed them. Some are attracted to the penitential side of Jesus going out into the desert without sufficient food, while others are more attracted to the miraculous multiplication of bread and fish. We are made of both body and soul, and both must be nurtured. In penance, self-denial, and mortifications, we feed and nourish our souls. In resting, eating, and drinking, we nourish our bodies. We must do both.
God has made all things, and all things are good. It is not in the use of things or in not using them that we sin. Both virtue and sin are acts of our wills. If we have a spirit of rebellion against God, we sin, whether we feast or fast. If we have a heart of love for God, eating as well as fasting becomes meritorious. What we do or fail to do is not what is essential. If we do all things for the love of God, we always act correctly.
There is a time and place for fasting, mortification, self-denial, and penance, and there is a time for eating, celebrating, and rejoicing. The penances of Advent precede the celebrations of Christmas. We cannot truly have one without the other. There is no true celebration without its previous sacrifice. There is no true sacrifice without its concomitant celebration.
As we look forward to celebrating Jesus' Birth, we must not allow ourselves to be scandalized by His humiliating Birth in a stable. When we contemplate Jesus' suffering, cold, nakedness, rejection, etc., we must not allow ourselves to be scandalized with the richness of Divine honors that were paid to Him by the angels, shepherds, the Magi, and others.
Advent is the season of penance, and we should strive to spiritually follow St. John the Baptist into the desert with self-denial and penance as we prepare the way for Jesus to be born into our hearts and souls. Then, when the time arrives for the celebration of Christmas, we should moderately celebrate with true joy in our hearts because Jesus will willingly enter into the unworthy abode of our hearts and souls.
As we shift our focus from self-denial to rejoicing, from season to season, we will, hopefully, find that the line separating joy from sacrifice will fade and then disappear. When this happens, we continually hold on to the peace and joy of Heaven even when we must suffer. Jesus never lost the peace of Heaven, even in His most bitter suffering. He entered knowingly and willingly into every sacrifice with complete peace and even a kind of joy because He was doing the Will of God. When we cease to be scandalized by opposing Natures of Jesus in the hypostatic union, we draw ever closer to Him following Him in humble imitation. We learn from Him because He is meek and humble of heart. When Jesus lives within us, we neither turn away from suffering in fear nor do we rush forward in pleasure. With this spirit of moderation, calm, and peace, Jesus blesses us because we are not scandalized in Him or in being asked to follow Him.
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