Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Third Week of Advent: Joy

This third week of Advent, we meditate on the blessings of JOY that the coming of the Savior brings, which is what our rose-colored candle symbolizes (pink is not just for girls, although some would say it does indeed make for the "prettiest" vestments. Sorry boys, but there are no blue vestments!). The purple of the rest of Advent is both a royal color of reverence for the coming of the King, but it is also a penitential color reminding us (as Christ does) of all that we need to rely on Him to perfect in us before His coming. But this Sunday was "Gaudete Sunday," which means "Rejoice," and it's not hard to understand why. Certainly the coming of the Lord for your salvation ought to inspire joy, even if just because His grace is the only reason your penance can avail you anything. 

How can the childlover have any joy though? It would seem everything about living a life set apart for the concern of children and often having no friends for whom to turn to would be devoid of joy and entirely about pain and suffering. Even more for the Christian childlover, who may look out and only see the condemnation of other childlovers for following so "rigid" a path. But even here joy is not only available, but abundantly so! We should be reminded that the coming of the Savior was not so ideal in the lives of both the Blessed Mother or her spouse Joseph, who were also simple and ordinary people tasked with a great burden (to bear the Son of God!). And yet, because they willingly took on this burden and rode that long, arduous, and crooked path all the way to Bethlehem by secular decree--over hills and streams and deserts, in the cold of the night and the heat of the day, they helped bring salvation to all of mankind, which is the source of all joy. This is what He wants for us:
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” JN 15:9-11
When we consent to live chastely and without recourse to sin, despite the very real daily STRUGGLE of it (for it can't be understated), we become like "little Bethlehems" in ourselves toward which the Lord makes His way. During this season of Advent, our joy that God is willing to come to us to save us should prompt us to, as John the Baptist did, "make straight" His paths for him, and put nothing before Him that would hinder His arrival. This is not to say that God can be "hindered," but that we hinder our own ability to receive the graces and joys He alone is always capable and willing to give. How can we truly receive His graces and feel the joy his salvation brings? Let's turn to Isaiah the prophet: 
"Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing." IS 35:3-6A,
This could mean that, as a childlover, it's time to clear out of your life everything that causes you weakness, or at least, everything you are weak to resist. If you are "made weak" by desires and lusts for a children or youth in pictures or in real life, turn your mind and heart away from such thoughts and desires as a way to "make straight" His paths. It only makes sense that "strength training" yourself against whatever your "weakness" is will only make you "stronger." Then, as Isaiah points out, your strength will cause you much joy and even singing: 
"Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee." IS 35:10
Then of course you might be wondering how this solves the problems and struggles that accompany a life of such "rigid self-denial" that may seem unfair, even as other people get to live lives of companionship and sexual practice. But this desire only represents yet another obstacle we must all rid from the path we want to make straight for the Lord, which is the desires of covetousness and envy (forbidden by the 9th and 10th Commandments: "Thou shall not covet..."). Surely, not everyone is born to suck the same juices out of the fruits of life, but all are guaranteed to find their own sweetness in Jesus Christ. Some people are diabetic and can't eat sugar, and we might think this is unfair as well, but whether that be the case, such people also have to "do with what they have been given." It is no different for childlovers, who may have desires that they can never fulfill in the ways that they want. It is the very inability to get what we want that causes us not to have joy, but this "wanting what we can't have" is entirely self-imposed, and can only affect us if we allow it power over us. In this life, no one can truly get "what they want," we can only receive what God gives us, and because this is true for everyone, we can find our companionship with our fellow men (and children) not by always getting what we want, but by our mutual wanting for whatever we are given. 

St. Paul describes in such a perfect way what "true joy" really amounts to in this world, and that it is not in "wanting everything" and feeling miserable over what we "can't have," but in having nothing and feeling great joy over what we "do have." How much does this not describe the path of the childlover: "Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2nd Corinthians 6:4-10). 

Obviously we will never have joy if we are wanting something we can't have, but joy is very readily available if we are instead wanting only for whatever we are given. What we are given is Christ. This means that our joy can never come by merely attaching ourselves to our own desires, but by doing the things that He desires and thereby accepting the gift that He gives, which is joy itself. What does Christ desire for childlovers? That we live chastely and justly and respect the dignity of children and give to their causes charitably and open our hearts to them and to those who care for them: "And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me" (Matthew 18:15). This gift though, which produces true joy, may be a long time coming, and we may have to wait for it and even endure long struggles before we attain it, but nonetheless our joy is and will be all the more "complete" when it comes, as James wrote in his epistle: 
"Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates." JAS 5:7-10
And our Blessed Lord Himself affirmed us of how valuable we really are before the Lord in these times when He has revealed Himself to us, and how worthy He has made us to receive Him, and therefore just why we should be so joyful. Indeed, as the one sent to prepare the way of the Lord, John the Baptist was the greatest man born of a woman just for having lived to announce the beginning of Christ's redemptive ministry, even greater are those who will benefit from that ministry, which Jesus is still carrying out in His Church right now in the Kingdom of God for you. How blessed are "you!"  
"This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you. Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” MT 11:2-11
We who are actually least in His Kingdom (us lowly sinners) are really greater than they who could only anticipate His Kingdom (like all the prophets and even the greatest of them all, the last of the Old Testament prophets John the Baptist himself), and so we only have all the more reason to be joyful, both that He came, and that He is soon to come again, all for us. 

May the grace, peace, and joy of Christ be to you. 

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