Each one of this week's readings speaks of holiness, letting the Divine Life enter into you so that you become set apart. To be holy is to love with a divine indifference, shining on the good and the bad alike. What a revolution this is! Think how different your life would be were you to love this way all the time, rather than measuring out your love based on merit. Dedicate your whole life to love and you will be truly holy, set apart, a sanctuary.
What a privilege we have in this week's readings to hear from the book of Sirach, composed by an ancient sage who was deeply immersed in the Torah, the law, and the rituals of the Temple. As such, he delivers one of the deepest truths of the spiritual life: God so respects our freedom, that he will allow us to experience life or death, good or evil. He will give us what we choose and, more to it, we will become what we choose. Each day, every moment, choose the path of love, and you will become the kind of person fit to live in heaven.
At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares his disciples to salt, light, and a city set on a hill. All these things exist not for themselves, but for something else. In the same way, Christians are meant to make the world a better place. The Christian responsibility is to affect the culture as salt, light, and a city on a hill.
As we look into the famous “Beatitudes” described in this weeks Gospel, we learn that the Divine Mercy is the path to true joy. The more we allow the Divine Mercy to flow through us the more it grows in us. Once we eliminate the idolatrous rivals of wealth, pleasure, power, and honor and make Christ the priority in our lives we begin to live like saints.
This week's reading from the prophet Isaiah emphasizes God's tendency to bring the best from the worst situations, light from the darkness. Throughout the Bible we see wonderful things come from the most unexpected places, and this is reflected in our own lives as well. Often our greatest goodness can come from the darkest places of our beings.
The entirety of this Sunday's second reading might be seen as so much boilerplate, throwaway lines that a writer used at the commencement of his letter, something like a formal salutation. But in point of fact, almost the whole of Christianity is contained in these lines, if we have but the eyes to see. So take out your Bibles today and revisit the beginning of 1 Corinthians. It will tell you pretty much everything essential that you need to know about yourself and your mission.
There are three words that jump out at me from our Gospel reading for today's feast: "haste," "astonished" and "treasured." Each one says something important about the spiritual life. When we know what God wants for us, we should act without hesitation; we should "go in haste." When God breaks into our natural world, we should be astonished. And then, like Mary, we should learn to treasure God's revelation in our minds and hearts.
Our Gospel for Christmas day is, of course, one of the most famous texts in the entire Bible: the Prologue to the Gospel of John. In many ways, it is the entire Gospel, indeed the entire Bible, in miniature. This scripture alludes to a feast day called "Christmas", a name that has rarely been reflected upon, at least in my lifetime. The day is Christmas, because it signals Christ’s Mass. The only fitting way to celebrate is to go to the Mass!
As the Advent season comes to its climax, we are reminded that all of time and history comes to a kind of fulfillment in the Messiah. All of the strands of history are gathered together in him. To use the language of St. Paul, all of space and time is recapitulated in Christ. This Sunday our three readings show a pattern in history that spans seven centuries and calls out to us now two thousand years later: It's all about Jesus.
Our Gospel for this weekend is taken from the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, where John the Baptist has been arrested and wonders from his jail cell whether Jesus “is the one or should we look for another?" When this inquiry is conveyed to Jesus, the Lord does not respond theoretically, but rather by pointing to things that are happening, namely, God's grace is making people whole again. “Go tell John what you see and hear".