The Disarming Beauty of Christ – The Third Sunday of Advent
I’ve been reading a recent collection of essays by Julián Carrón, president of the global ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation. He is one of the principal Catholic leaders and intellectuals in the world today. Disarming Beauty grapples with the interaction of Christian faith and modern culture.
The means that Carrón uses in his analysis is the disarming beauty of the mystery of Christ. He is using disarming as an adjective to say that the attraction of Christ makes possible an openness that would be impossible without him. We know, of course, that a disarming child comes into our lives with Christmas. Liberation and peace are bound up with the birth of a little helpless and defensive child, a vulnerable child.
We are moving closer to celebrating that birth. We’ve reached Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday. We hear the familiar words, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” The prophet Zephaniah says, “Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” He goes on to reiterate that need to not fear. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Philippians about the need to rejoice and not to worry. John the Baptist – not one to speak of rejoicing – offers illustrations of the concrete actions that come with our baptism.
We certainly need words and actions that help ease the fear and anxiety that we carry around with us. Like the child who will eventually be baptized by John, we are vulnerable. We do not have the capacity on our own to bring about a shift in the state of the world. Nor can we alleviate forever the real pain that individuals live with.
The irony is that genuinely offering to others our vulnerability and weakness is probably more helpful than pretending that we can take away their pain and suffering. We thereby know that all of us are vulnerable and are in this together. We all need that vulnerable and helpless child.
There are many of us who probably do not feel like rejoicing. The cause may be our own personal experience. It is not very easy to rejoice if you are approaching your first Christmas after the death of a loved one. People with profound loneliness and depression don’t usually feel like rejoicing during a time of year when the expectation of happiness is so heightened.
The single mother who cannot afford gifts for her children has a difficult time rejoicing. Increasing numbers of individuals who are relatively free of personal struggles describe a kind of existential angst about the frightening state of the world.
What are we to make of the invitation to let go of our worries and anxieties and to rejoice in the Lord? One option is to put on a smile even though we don’t feel like it. Or, we could so deaden our emotions through alcohol or drugs that we are not really aware of the pain and loneliness we feel.
I don’t recommend either of those unhealthy options. It’s far better to be honest with oneself and with others in our lives. We can be captivated by the disarming beauty of that child who will be born into our midst.