December 25, 2011
Today we celebrate one of the great mysteries of our faith, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, became flesh, humbling himself to take upon our human nature. The world celebrates this day. Even those without faith decorate their houses with lights, place a tree in their house and buy each other gifts.
But, what is this season really about? Why did God become man? Why did the Eternal Word become flesh? As I was contemplating my response to these questions and preparing to write this message I visited our Mary Star Eighth grade class to explore their responses. They were very perceptive understanding that Jesus came as the Christ, the Messiah, into the world in order to save us from our sins. It was reassuring to me that they realized the great gift of God’s love and the true peace that Christ brought into the world. Not a peace that ended all violence, but a confidence that we could accomplish all things through the love of God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides five reasons for the birth of our Savior. First, Jesus becomes flesh to save us by reconciling us with God. Reconciliation is different than forgiveness. God loves us more than a mother loves her child and I am sure that God forgave Adam and Eve, but they and their children were not reconciled to God. Our first parents turned away from God by their act of pride and disobedience. God could have easily shown them His might and forced them to submit to His power, but His desire is always that we choose Him out of our own free will. The history of salvation is the history of God preparing the way for His Son to enter into the world so we could be restored to our friendship with Him. By the Word becoming flesh of our flesh He could become the new Adam that could humbly reconcile our humanity to the Divine.
Second, the Word became flesh so that we might know God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). Our whole faith could be summarized in these three words, “God is Love”. It is only through contemplating the immensity of God’s love that we can begin to appreciate what the birth of Jesus really means, that the Almighty, the All-Powerful would take on our weak human flesh. This is the same Lord that is present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament at every Mass. A God who loves us and desires that we share in His Divine life.
Third, “The World became flesh to be our model of holiness” (459) Our first parents did not really give us the best model of how to respond to the gift of God’s love and life. Jesus by becoming one with us teaches us how to be a good child, an obedient son, a good friend, a good man, a faithful witness of God’s love to the world and a humble servant of His Father. By accepting death on a cross and witnessing to that love against the evil of the world, Jesus not only taught us with his words, He modeled to us through His life and actions what it means to be a child of God.
Fourth, “The World became flesh to make us partakers of the divine nature.” (460) St. Therese of Lisieux entered the Carmelite Order and dedicated herself to a life of love after a Christmas conversion at the age of 14 in 1886. After midnight Mass she became overwhelmed with the reality that God would become a weak child so that we could share in His greatness. She was consumed like Jesus with a thirst for souls. She would later say of this day that, “My heart was filled with charity. I forgot myself to please others and, in doing so, became happy myself."
My dear friend and golfing buddy, Bishop John Steinbock, who passed away last year, used to sing “Joy to the World” throughout the year. When people told him that it was not Christmas, he told them, “It doesn’t matter. We should still be happy about Christ being born into the world.” Today and every day we should be celebrating the great joy of this day. We have a God who loves us so much that He gave us His only Son who would die on the cross to rescue us from our foolishness. Christmas should remind us of the simple fact that we are loved, and as a people who are loved, we should love one another.
On behalf of Fr. Ivan Gerovac, S.J., Fr. Brian Nunes, Fr. Henry Hernando and the entire staff of Mary Star of the Sea Parish, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Thank you for your generosity to our parish and each of us individually. And may all of us keep the joy of Christmas alive throughout this coming year.
Father John Provenza