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  • Writer's pictureMarco Casanova

Festive Refinement

“Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4) Today is known as “Gaudete Sunday” (Gaudete--Latin “rejoice”). We set a fire to the lone rose-colored candle. The rosy wick is a bold reminder that an event is underway. “The Lord is near!” (Phil 4:5) Therefore, rejoice!

As a kid, I approached Advent full of wonder. Of course! I loved awaiting the feasts, buoyed by holiday cheer. Innocence has room to celebrate. Growing into adulthood tempered the experience.

Advent seasons in college were broken up by hidden divides. Tripped up on pornography and restlessly looking for the next “gay” hookup, my Advent expectation became anxiety. The Church’s call to “rejoice” couldn’t deepen in me. I had clutter in my heart that was chocking my freedom to rejoice.

What’s the remedy? John the Baptist models it.

“Who are you?” the priests and Levites asked John. “I am not the Christ…I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord” (Jn 1:19-20, 23).

Revealing oneself is the remedy for making His way straight in us. Expose the clutter. Allow the light of the Gaudete candle to come near. Blaze a way for the Babe of Bethlehem. Extinguish any shadowy habit or lusty lover that is choking your freedom. Tis the season! The moment is now. The Lord is near!

A German pastor, Fr. Alfred Delp, took a prophetic stance against the Hitler regime. Delp loved Advent. His Advent preaching was fire. Eventually imprisoned and murdered, his spoken homilies became writings that were compiled in a fine read, Advent of the Heart.

From jail, he writes on Gaudete Sunday 1944: “Man must be brought to an absolute clarity about himself and honesty before himself and others…He must come down from the high horses of vanity and self-deception that, for a time, let themselves be trotted forth so proudly.”[1] Delp urges us to take action. Have a hand in your conversion. Sweep the mess from your lives, and then, like the Baptist, point to Him. “He is the One” (Jn 1:27).

I remember moments when floods of Jesus’ light exposed the darkness in me. Those little “events” of redemption are forever etched on my heart. I’m grateful for the priests and friends who would weep and pray with me as I spoke out my crippling divides. It was then that I was free to rejoice. His joy became my strength; I was clean, awaiting Him with expectancy. I could authentically point to Him.

Now I help others find this light. My main battles are not personal but interpersonal as I point out the Way to others. As I have learned to walk in the Light, I invite others to do so alongside of me. Jesus trained me in coming close to me. The way He “advents” towards me teaches me to go and do likewise.

With Abbey, I co-lead a Living Waters group in my local Catholic parish. This group is gift. The Lord is refining me to battle with the heart of a pastor for persons weaker than me. Don’t be so self-focused. Behold the other. Fight for their freedom. Become the Baptist who points to the One who takes away every sin of the world. My personal fight for chastity can easily become a bit self-focused. Jesus’ light is refining this father heart.

The exposing light of Advent is ongoing. Thank God. Pivotal moments are just the beginning. I need Advent to sweep house for the Guest. Rejoice. He draws near.

[1] Alfred Delp, Advent of the Heart (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 108-109.


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