By Sr. Jamie T. Phelps, OP, Ph.D.

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 | 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 | John 1:6-8, 19-28

“Do not quench the Spirit!” (1 Thessalonians 5:19)

Joy is the central theme of today’s three readings. The followers of Isaiah profess the source of their joy. “I rejoice heartily in Yahweh, in my God is the joy of my soul” (Isaiah 61:10). Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul concludes his letter by admonishing the community to “rejoice always…pray without ceasing…and in all circumstances give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Those who live in communion with God know a profound sense of joy that is not disturbed by the conflicts and anxieties of life. Furthermore, this joy is not a worldly joy rooted in economic wealth, the abundance of material possessions, or the acquisition of power and fame. Rather it is a joy attributed as a “fruit of the Holy Spirit.” While awaiting the fullness of the Reign of God promised by Jesus, the followers of Christ, who have been anointed by chrism in baptism and confirmation, are empowered by the Spirit to participate in the works of Jesus. They are “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive” [those imprisoned physically as well as those entangled in sin and all that oppresses] (Luke 4:18).

The Christian community rejoices as it discerns the presence of the Spirit in love, joy, and hope of salvation among the men and women of this age, particularly those who are poor and afflicted.

“The joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men (and women) of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men (and women). United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for ever [human being]. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with [humankind] and its history by the deepest bonds.” (Gaudium et spes, “The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December 7, 1965, Preface #1)

On our spiritual journey, our peace, hope and joy are deepened as we, like John the Baptist, discern “who we are and whose we are.” We do not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) but live in the consciousness of the Spirit.

The petition of the blind man becomes our prayer this Advent season: “Teacher, that we may see!” (Matthew 21:33)

This reflection is from Be Watchful and Alert – Seek God’s Spirit in Our World: Reflections for Advent 2008, by Sr. Jamie T. Phelps, OP, Ph.D. This year’s booklet by Diane Lopez Hughes is still available and can be ordered online here. Sr. Jamie T. Phelps, OP, Ph.D. is a member of the Adrian Dominicans and the Katherine Drexel Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. 

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3 thoughts on “ADVENT 2011: Reflection for Third Sunday of Advent, December 11

  1. As a former seminarian from Adrian, what is a Black Catholic? Why
    is there a black Catholic Institute? Is there a White Catholic Institute
    somewhere also? Thought being Catholic had no relevance to race.
    Dominican Theology sure has changed since Thomas wrote the
    “Summa Theologica”!! “Jack” D.

  2. Dear Jack,

    I wish that you had commented on Sr. Jamie’s reflection, which invites us to deepen our spiritual journey toward truth and love made incarnate, dwelling among us, and awaiting the perfection yet to come.

    Permit me to answer your questions.

    The White Catholic institute is present in just about every Catholic college and university in the United States. You see, the White institute is the default institute in Catholic studies and in most academic disciplines. It is the default not necessarily from any intentionally exclusive practice (I leave that discussion for another day), rather, it is the default by the very nature of the founding of the historic Catholic colleges and universities in the US. Their founding occurred not in an a-contextual vacuum of Catholic teaching on the imago Dei or radical discipleship equality, rather they were founded in the context of institutionalized inequality between the races, which inequality resulted in an ethos that gave permission to some to ignore (or do worse to) others. Not unlike the ways in which women could be ignored or presumed to be included (in affairs of a public, secular, or religious nature), Black Catholics have been ignored, excluded, or rendered invisible by the White institution’s presumption of their presence in and contributions to these affairs. The rendering of invisibility remains a function of white privilege. And white privilege remains the order of the day, even in the Catholic Church.

    Founded in 1980, the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University, the only historically Black Catholic institution in the US, provides certificate and graduate theological studies curricula that reflect the experiences of being Black and Catholic in the US. The IBCS makes visible the experiences, traditions, and achievements of Black Catholics as it prepares women and men for pastoral and educational ministry. “Such educational programs are of crucial historical and existential necessity if the Catholic Church is to play a significant and positive role in the struggle, liberation, and evangelization of the Black community” (Mission, IBCS).

    Until race has no relevance for being “American” it will remain a relevant concern for being Catholic.

    Mary Jo Iozzio, PhD
    Professor of Moral Theology, Barry University
    Member, Pax Christi Anti Racism Team

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