Thursday, December 13, 2018

THE REAL MEANING OF THIS SEASON a homily for the Second Sunday in Advent Year C

I remember when my niece was born.  She was a month premature and weighed only six and a half pounds. She was so small and vulnerable yet what I remember most was the heat that came off her.  Without her Mam and the nurses she was helpless.  Christ too was helpless when He was born among us.  He was helpless at His birth and He was helpless at His death on the Cross.  We can say that Christ was born in the shadow of the Cross.  He, the All-Holy, All-powerful God made Himself helpless for us who are without help without Him.
It is so easy to bury the wonder of this approaching feast of Christmas under excessive eating and drinking, under presents, (wanted and unwanted), to build ourselves up to expect some perfect event that can never happen in our fleeting and fallen world.  It is because we are fallen that we so easily take our value from the wrong source.  It is because we are fallen that it is so easy for us to fall into the trap of imposing our own will on others, to try to put ourselves at the centre of everything rather than recognise that the only centre that can ever be is God.  From that temptation to put ourselves at the centre flows all our troubles and sins, from squabbles over what's for dinner right up to who controls what valuable resources.  All our moral ills in this world flow from that one source: we take our measure from the wrong template.  
Please bear with me for there is a point to what I am about to say.  While we are made in God's image and likeness, you and I do not matter.  We, each of us, individually and collectively, are of no importance.  One day most of us will be completely forgotten, gone without a trace at least from the perspective of this world.  Even the few who are remembered for some time will be but footnotes, background noise to someone else's life.  To those whose hope is for this world we are not important; we are nothing and of no value in and of ourselves.
The mystery and wonder of this season and the coming feast is that our true value comes not from ourselves, not from what we have nor from our achievements, not from what we have made of ourselves nor from what we leave behind.  Our true value comes from what God has given us.  In choosing to become one of us God has glorified us.  More than this He if offering each one of us access to the very heart of God forever.  
He could've created us and left us in a state of natural bliss but that was not enough for Him.  After our first parents fell He could've simply declared us forgiven but that was not enough for Him.  Nothing was good enough but that He should enter our world and become fully human.  Nothing was good enough but that He should offer the perfect, eternal obedience and love of the Son on the Cross of Calvary to the Father on our behalf.  Nothing was good enough but that He should make us one Body, one Spirit with Him, His Temple, and that He should feed us with Himself, heal our wounds Himself and unite us with the Most Holy Trinity in Himself.  Nothing was good enough but that He should give us Himself, completely and without reserve.  It is He who declares us and makes us valuable.  He gives us His own infinite value. It is from Him that we derive our dignity and worth.  It is a value that we cannot lose because it is founded in Him not in us.   
The true foundation of all our celebrations is not the birth of a baby - they are born all the time - but the birth of a baby who is also God.  If He was not God then His birth is no more worth celebrating that anyone else's and if He is wasn't human then He cannot have been born and He cannot have died and we are not saved. 
All our traditions of this season point to this mystery.  In the ancient world colours were expensive.  Purple came from a sea-snail.  When caught and crushed it gives a small amount of a greenish-yellow substance but expose that substance to the sunlight and it turns purple.  To the ancients it was magical that the divine sunlight could work such a transformation and purple came to symbolise not only luxury but royalty and divinity.  For the Church it came to mean more.  It points to Christ’s action in becoming human.  He has descended into the darkness and chaos of this world and lifted us into the light of His grace, transforming our nature through the Sacraments and giving us a share in His Royal Divinity.
The Christmas tree too points to the Mystery of Christ for it represents the Cross.  The Cross is the true Tree of paradise which bears fruit for our healing and sanctification.  That's why we cover it with baubles and glitter to symbolise the graces and blessings that come to us through Christ’s Passion.  Our Christmas dinner, is meant to be an icon of the Mass in which we already share in the eternal Feast of Heaven.  Therefore if you get the chance to give someone a place at your table you should take it for then Christ will welcome you at His in Heaven.
Everything about this season points beyond itself to Calvary, through and beyond Calvary to Heaven.  Even the presents are not just echoes of the presents given by the Magi still less are they mere signs of affection and appreciation.  We can do that anytime of the year.  The presents are meant to symbolise the gift we are given in Christ.  
The conception and birth of a child is an act of hope and trust in God.  Every life is sacred for each one is made in His image and likeness.  More, each one of us is made for eternal life with God.  The birth of Christ means we are no longer nothing.  We are no longer valueless.  Our value comes not from us but from God who has made us equal to Himself in giving us a place in His Son.  We are, each and every one of us, equal to God because God has made us so.  This is the true magic of Christmas.  God has emptied Himself.  He holds nothing back.  In His birth we are reborn.  We are no longer mere humans, here to strut our stuff for a few years and then fade away.  In Christ we are a new Creation, cracked pots called to become Immortal Diamonds, filled with the treasure that is Christ. Our task in Advent is to clear out of our lives everything that stands in the way of doing His will.

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