Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Advent and the Newness of God

The Virgin Holding the Sleeping Child With St. John and Two Angels by Bernardino Luini

During a 2013 sermon Pope Francis explores the theme of expanding our hearts. He says, “Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives.”

Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. In other words, the God that I know, that I love, that I adore, that I worship— is a dynamic God. He’s a God who is ever creative, and full of surprises. He’s never dull, never boring, He’s not a God of reruns— like old TV shows — He’s a God of newness, everlasting newness. A God of infinite youth.  And we are to not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. God always wants to bring something new.

Pope Francis says let us not close our hearts. Let us not lose confidence. Let us never give up.  There are no situations which God cannot change, if only we open ourselves to Him, as in Mary’s “Yes” during the Annunciation. It only took a single “yes” to open up Paradise. And that “yes” allowed Mary to be the dwelling place of Paradise-in-person – Christ incarnate.

Pope Francis continues, “Let the Risen Jesus enter your life.” Let the Risen Jesus enter your life. He is Life. And He will give you the strength to live as he would have you do.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis, says, “The Christ is the Eternal Gospel, and His riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is…”  — I love this expression—  “… He is forever young.

The youthfulness of Christ is inexhaustible and the constant source of newness for us is that we’re to be forever young in our hearts. Everything else and our bodies are going to breakdown, but our hearts are to be forever young. 

Then Pope Francis quotes St. John of The Cross, “The thicket of God’s wisdom and knowledge is so deep and so broad that the soul, however much it has come to know of it, can always penetrate deeper within it.”

We can always go deeper. So as St. John Paul II called us at the turn of the millennium, to “launch out into the deep.” We must never cease launch out into the deep. We can always go deeper because there will always be new depths.

And hopefully our hearts will always burn brighter, and always burn with more fire.

Pope Francis continues with this idea of freshness when he says, “He [Christ] is always able to renew our lives, and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old.”

There’s always going to be a perennial youthfulness and power in the Gospel. We’ve heard it before, a thousand times, the Gospel is always fresh, and new. Similarly, in referring to God as Beauty, St. Augustine said: “O Beauty ever ancient, and ever new. Late have I loved You.” God is Beauty ever ancient and ever new. 

Pope Francis continues, “Jesus can also break through the dull categories within which we would enclose him.” We want to put Jesus and God in a little box that we’re comfortable with, and we want to try to be able to figure everything all out. Jesus wants to get out of all of our boxes, to knock our socks off, and expand our horizons.

Pope Francis says, “He constantly amazes us by His divine creativity” — this is Spirit-laced language.  He continues, that we must “return to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel…” and the focus of the Gospel is God, and not us. In other words, as St. John says in his letter, it’s not that we have loved God; God has first loved us. The focus of the Gospel is God’s initiative, God coming down from Heaven.

It’s not our seeking and looking for Him, it’s Him seeking and looking for us! And God expresses that there is no extreme that He will not take — by becoming Incarnate in order to rescue us. He does this to the point of the scandal of the Creator entering into his own creation and taking on our own weakness!

He was born in poor circumstances, not in a palace, but in utter poverty. The scandal of the Incarnation is that God is so humble, that he would become so small and take on all our vulnerability to the point of becoming an infant. There is nothing like this.

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