Fourth Sunday in Advent December 23rd, 2017
In the past three Sundays of Advent we have heard differing themes about Staying awake, preparing the way for the Lord, and the Joy that can only come from being close to Jesus. And now, we come to the last of the four Advent Themes, “Jesus desires to be born again, not in a crib in Bethlehem but in us, through the “Obedience of Faith, that is living out the truths of our beautiful Catholic faith.”
Around the turn of the 20th century, that is around the year 1900, many in the Church began to notice that the world was beginning a great downward spiraling of morality and a departing from the protection and mercy of God through disobedience to His Commands. They saw already the beginning of the current evils that are beseeching us in our own times. They saw already the loss of authentic fatherhood and Christian family life, they saw great and terrible wars, unlike any in history on the horizon, they saw as well, great new ideological errors, such as totalitarianism, fascism, socialism and communism. In response, they begin to ask the following questions, “If we Catholics have the Holy Mass—the Sacred Liturgy, which is very source of all grace and mercy and all goodness and love in this world, what is going on? If one Holy Mass offered makes present the power to save the whole world past, present and future, because it is the work of the Head—Christ, Himself, why is the balance between good and evil becoming so grossly unbalanced?
Through the great prophets of the day, the Holy Spirit began to answer for us these and other such questions. Men such as St. Pope Pius X, Dom Prosper Gueranger and later Pope Pius the twelve and others, began to point out that the problem was not with the Sacred Liturgy or with how it was being offered, in what language it was said in, or even in what direction the priest was facing. They rightly taught the Sacred Liturgy and how it was being offered at the time, had been received by Moses from God on Mount Sinai (along with the Ten Commandments), it had been fulfilled by Christ at the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, it had been developed and perfected throughout the 1900 years since. So no, the problem was not with how the Liturgy was being offered (excepting for abuses in the Liturgy). No, the problem was somehow with the Mystical Body of Christ and how its members were attending the Sacred Liturgy—the Holy Mass.
This was brought out very nicely in 1943, in an encyclical letter by Pope Pius the XII entitled, “The Mystical Body of Christ.” In this encyclical, the Pope again said that the Sacred Liturgy, because it is primarily the work of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, and because it makes His once and for all Sacrifice of love on Calvary present in time wherever and whenever it is being offered, and because it is God-Jesus adoring God the Father on our behalf, one single Mass makes present, truly and really, unlimited grace and an ocean of infinite mercy. However, the Pope said, God in His divine providence has declared that none of the mercy and grace goes forth from the Holy Mass into the world except through the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, that is through members of the Baptized participating in the Holy Mass. And so, if the world is spiraling downward toward hell, the reason is that not enough members of the Church understand the true nature of the Holy Mass, and so no longer know how to participate in it with full, actual, conscious, participation, (which he pointed out is primarily an interior participation in which we offer our hearts—our everything, totally and completely on the paten). And so, they longer bear and bring the fruit of the Holy Mass into the world because they are not being transformed by the Mass into another Christs for the world.
And this brings us to our theme in this fourth Sunday of Advent…for another way of saying being transformed into other Christ’s is to say allowing Christ to be born anew in us in order to live anew in us. And this new birth of Jesus into the minds, hearts, souls, bodies and lives of the Faithful in order to live anew in them reveals to us as well the true meaning of Christmas…
Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ the Eternal Son of the Father and the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity was born into this world according to the flesh, as true Man, as one of us, like us in all things except sin, yet still remaining true God. At this Holy Mass and at every Holy Mass He is reborn again in the flesh on this and every sacred Altar and present in every Tabernacle of the world. But He is not content to stay there. Jesus wants to be born anew in us, He wants to live again in us, suffer in us and die in us in order to show the world, through our lives, His love and His Infinite Mercy, in order to bring his redemption to the souls in the world today through us…in this way and only through this way are souls brought to Christ so that He may redeem them, heal them, save them and bring them into intimacy with Him so they may also share in the joy that is ours.
This brings up another important meaning of Christmas than can easily be overlooked. Celebrating Christmas means then a dying to ourselves so that Jesus may live in us and we may live solely for Him and for others. This is the basis of the JOY of Christmas—Jesus, Others, and then Ourselves.
Immediately after Christmas, on the 26th we have the feast day of St. Stephen the first Christian Martyr, then feast of The Holy Innocents, and St Thomas Beckett—all Martyrs—all who gave their lives for the love of God and to give testimony to the truth of the Gospel. In light of these feasts, at Christmas we can easily say very Martyr Christmas.
The Martyrs show us in their deaths, that Love is an exchange of the gift of Oneself to the beloved—the meaning of exchanging gifts at Christmas. The gifts symbolizing the offering of our love, the offering of ourselves to the ones we love, they show of our desire to sacrifice our self-interest for their sake, to live for the sake of them, the ones that we love. However, the deeper meaning of the giving of gifts to one another is they symbolize or should symbolize our desire to give ourselves in love to the (number) One we Love (capital O) -Jesus.
The first ever gift of Christmas was Jesus giving us the gift of Himself by becoming Man…He gives up everything for love of us, by coming to earth as one of us and by offering His life for us even to the shedding of His blood. The only appropriate response on our part is one of love…offering our everything to Him in return. Hence, the only really necessary gift this Christmas, and at every Christmas and at every Christ Mass, is the one we give to Jesus—the gift of ourselves. In fact, it is only to the degree that we give ourselves to Jesus that He can be born again in us, and take His grace and mercy through us out into the world..
This is why we must turn to the Mother of God for help and why Advent is time to spend close to Mary who bore Jesus in her womb that first advent. Before she gave birth to Jesus, even before she conceived Him in her womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, by the Same Holy Spirit she conceived Jesus in her soul and gave birth to Him in her life.
And so, the rebirthing of Jesus in our souls and in our life can only occur in the same way through the work of the human and the divine, through the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit….the Bride and Her spouse will help us to offering ourselves to the Divine babe in a new way and deeper way this Christmas and at every Holy Mass. Mary and the Holy Spirit will help then help us to do the hard work of birthing Him fully in our lives by ridding ourselves of selfishness and sin, of dying to our wills in order to do the will of God, which includes living our lives according to the truths, to all of the teachings of our beautiful Catholic Faith.
Let us ask the Virgin to help us adore in a deeper way the Christ Child this Christmas season. Amen.