4th Sunday of Advent Year A ~ December 18, 2022
THE GREATEST GIFT OF LOVE
We have come to the completion of our Advent Season as we light the 4th Candle which opens our hearts and minds to reflect on the theme of Love. The season of Advent basically is a time to reflect on the journey of greatest gift of love ever given to human as St. John says, “He became flesh and dwelt among us”. This journey started right before the creation of the world as Jesus said, “he was even present when the world was created” and the author of Letter to Hebrews adds witness in this way “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds”.
Blessed Isaac of Stella, Abbot has reflected on this mystery this way “The Son of God is the first-born of many brothers. Although by nature he is the only Begotten, by grace he has joined many to himself and made them one with him. For to those who receive him he has given the power to become the sons of God.
He became the Son of man and made many sons of God, uniting them to himself by his love and power, so that they became as one. In themselves they are many by reason of their human descent, but in him they are one by divine rebirth.
The whole Christ and the unique Christ—the body and the head—are one: one because born of the same God in heaven, and of the same mother on earth. They are many sons, yet one son. Head and members are one son, yet many sons; in the same way, Mary and the Church are one mother, yet more than one mother; one virgin, yet more than one virgin. Both are mothers, both are virgins. Each conceives of the same Spirit, without concupiscence. Each gives birth to a child of God the Father, without sin. Without any sin, Mary gave birth to Christ the head for the sake of his body. By the forgiveness of every sin, the Church gave birth to the body, for the sake of its head. Each is Christ’s mother, but neither gives birth to the whole Christ without the cooperation of the other”.
He continues to say “In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary, and what is said in a particular sense of the virgin mother Mary is rightly understood in a general sense of the virgin mother, the Church. When either is spoken of, the meaning can be understood of both, almost without qualification. In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful. These words are used in a universal sense of the Church, in a special sense of Mary, in a particular sense of the individual Christian. They are used by God’s Wisdom in person, the Word of the Father. This is why Scripture says: I will dwell in the inheritance of the Lord. The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul”.
As I was searching for a story to add to my reflection, I came across to this wonderful letter written by an unknown on behalf of Jesus to remind us that as we are preparing ourselves to celebrate his birthday, we must allow him to enter into our life.
“As you well know, we are getting closer to my birthday. Every year there is a celebration in my honor, and I think that this year the celebration will be repeated. During this time there are many people shopping for gifts, there are many radio announcements, TV commercials, and in every part of the world everyone is talking that my birthday is getting closer and closer. It is really very nice to know, that at least once a year, some people think of me. As you know, the celebration of my birthday began many years ago. At first people seemed to understand and were thankful of all that I did for them, but in these times, no one seems to know the reason for the celebration. Family and friends get together and have lots of fun, but they don’t know the meaning of the celebration. I remember that last year there was a great feast in my honor. The dinner table was full of delicious foods, pastries, fruits, assorted nuts and chocolates. The decorations were exquisite and there were many, beautifully wrapped gifts. But do you want to know something? I wasn’t invited. I was the guest of honor, and they didn’t remember to send me an invitation. The party was for me, but when that great day came, I was left outside they closed the door in my face, and I wanted to be with them and share their table.
In truth, that didn’t surprise me because in the last few years all close their doors to me. Since I wasn’t invited, I decided to enter the party without making any noise. I went in and stood in a corner. They were all drinking; there were some who were drunk and telling jokes and laughing at everything. They were having a grand time. To top it all, this big fat man all dressed in red wearing a long white beard entered the room yelling Ho-Ho-Ho! He seemed drunk. He sat on the sofa and all the children ran to him, saying: “Santa Claus, Santa Claus” as if the party were in his honor! At midnight all the people began to hug each other; I extended my arms waiting for someone to hug me and do you know no-one hugged me. Suddenly they all began to share gifts. They opened them one by one with great expectation. When all had been opened, I looked to see if, maybe, there was one for me. What would you feel if on your birthday everybody shared gifts and you did not get one? I then understood that I was unwanted at that party and quietly left. Every year it gets worse. People only remember the gifts, the parties, to eat and drink, and nobody remembers me. I would like this Christmas that you allow me to enter into your life. I would like that you recognize the fact that almost two thousand years ago I came to this world to give my life for you, on the cross, to save you. Today, I only want that you to believe this with all your heart. I want to share something with you. As many didn’t invite me to their party, I will have my own celebration, a grandiose party that no one has ever imagined, a spectacular party. I’m still making the final arrangements.
Today I am sending out many invitations and there is an invitation for you. I want to know if you wish to attend, and I will make a reservation for you and write your name with golden letters in my great guest book. Only those on the guest list will be invited to the party. Those who don’t answer the invite will be left outside. Be prepared because when all is ready you will want be part of my great party.
See you soon. I Love you! Jesus
God created the universe when there was nothing and his spirit was hovering over the waters which clearly shows how God loved the world and for that love, he gave his only Begotten Son that anyone who believes in him, may have life and life in abundance. After creating the universe, God saw something missing and then he created his masterpiece on his own image “Adam” from the dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became living being. Did God’s love stop there? Absolutely not, but rather started growing deeper and deeper even though Adam and Eve committed sin and became unfaithful to him, but “he could not deny himself” as St. Paul says, because God created Adam on his own image. The greatest mystery was completed when people saw God walking in their streets.
Throughout salvation history, God always walked with us but there was still a long time to wait and see him taking on our human form and walking with us on earth. God was preparing people for centuries to see him becoming human and taking on human form to be like us in all things but sin. God’s deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egyptian slavery and leading them to the promise land was the first step to prepare them for the journey of experiencing the greatest gift of God.
The story starts out where she, Beth, is sitting at an airport terminal, waiting to board a plane. She was sitting there with several other people who were also waiting, whom she did not know. As she waited, she pulled out her Bible and started reading. All of a sudden, she felt as if the people sitting there around her, were looking at her. She looked up but realized that they were looking just over her head, in the direction right behind her. She turned around to see what everyone was looking at, and when she did, she saw a stewardess pushing a wheelchair, with the ugliest old man that she had ever seen before sitting in it. He had this long white hair that was all tangled and such a mess. His face was really, really wrinkled, and he didn’t look friendly at all.
She didn’t know why, but she felt drawn to the man, and thought at first that God wanted her to witness to him. In her mind she was thinking, “Oh, God, please, not now, not here.” No matter what she did, she couldn’t get the man off her mind, suddenly, she knew what God wanted her to do. She was supposed to brush this old man’s hair.
She went and knelt down in front of the old man, and said “Sir, may I have the honor of brushing your hair for you?” He said “What?” She thought, “Oh great, he’s hard of hearing.” Again, a little louder, she said, “Sir, may I have the honor of brushing your hair for you?” He answered, “If you are going to talk to me, you are going to have to speak up, I am practically deaf.” So, this time, almost yelling, “Sir may I please have the honor of brushing your hair for you?”
Everyone was watching to see what his response would be. The old man just looked at her confused, and said “Well, I guess if you really want to.” She said, “I don’t even have a brush, but I thought I would ask anyway.” He said, “Look in the bag hanging on the back of my chair, there is a brush in there.” She got the brush out and started brushing his hair. She had a little girl with long hair, so she had lots of practice getting tangles out and knew how to be gentle with him. She worked for a long time, until every last tangle was out.
Just as she was finishing up, she heard the old man crying, and she went and put her hands on his knees, kneeling in front of him again looking directly into his eyes, and said “Sir, do you know Jesus?” He answered, “Yes, of course I know Jesus. You see, my bride told me she couldn’t marry me unless I knew Jesus, so I learned all about Jesus, and asked Him to come into my heart many years ago, before I married my bride.”
He continued, “You know, I am on my way home to go and see my wife. I have been in the hospital for a long time and had to have a special surgery in this town far from my home. My wife couldn’t come with me because she is so frail herself. “He said, “I was so worried about how terrible my hair looked, and I didn’t want her to see me looking so awful, but I couldn’t brush my hair, all by myself.”
Tears were rolling down his cheeks, as he thanked Beth for brushing his hair. He thanked her over and over again. She was crying, people all around witnessing this were crying, and as they were all boarding the plane, the stewardess, who was also crying, stopped her, and asked, “Why did you do that?”
And right there was the opportunity, the door that had been opened to share with someone else, the love of God. We don’t always understand God’s ways, but be ready, He may use us to meet the need of someone else, like He met the need of this old man, and in that moment, also calling out to a lost soul who needed to know about His love.
Later we read in the Scripture God kept sending his messengers and prophets to prepare people for this great mystery of “God becoming man”. We read from the Letter to Hebrews “Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will”. This mystery was also announced 700 years ago by Prophet Isaiah “a virgin will bear a son and she will name him Emmanuel which means ‘God is with us’”. After the long the wait, God started to become human “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth”. God, leaving his heavenly throne, came down to this earth, the footstool for his feet because he loved the world so much. The following story will help us to understand that once we have Son, we have everything.
God fell in love with the world the day Adam and Eve disobeyed him and committed sin: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” and this love never ended. God continued to journey with people.
As we reflect on the Readings of today’s Sunday, we come to know that the greatest gift of love was finally completed in Blessed Virgin Mary when the Angel Gabriel came to her and greeted her in a very solemn way. God’s promise to become human was fulfilled when Blessed Virgin Mary said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your Word”. God loved the world so much that he gave his only Begotten Son, so that anyone who believes in him, may have life and life in abundance. Christmas (Nativity of the Lord) is a day where we reflect God’s greatest gift of love which took flesh and dwelt among us.
Furthermore, we are invited to ponder deeply on this greatest gift of God’s love as we read a passage from a letter to Diognetus by Mathetes opens our hearts and mind to understand the true meaning of it.
No man has ever seen God or known him, but God has revealed himself to us through faith, by which alone it is possible to see him. God, the Lord and maker of all things, who created the world and set it in order, not only loved man but was also patient with him. So he has always been, and is, and will be: kind, good, free from anger, truthful; indeed, he and he alone is good. He devised a plan, a great and wonderful plan, and shared it only with his Son. As long as he preserved this secrecy and kept his own wise counsel, he seemed to be neglecting us, to have no concern for us. But when through his beloved Son he revealed and made public what he had prepared from the very beginning, he gave us all at once, gifts we could never have dreamt of, even sight and knowledge of himself. When God had made all his plans in consultation with his Son, he waited until a later time, allowing us to follow our own whim, to be swept along by unruly passions, to be led astray by pleasure and desire. Not that he was pleased by our sins: he only tolerated them. Not that he approved of that time of sin: he was planning this era of holiness. When we had been shown to be undeserving of life, his goodness was to make us worthy of it. When we had made it clear that we could not enter God’s kingdom by our own power, we were to be enabled to do so by the power of God.
When our wickedness had reached its culmination, it became clear that retribution was at hand in the shape of suffering and death. The time came then for God to make known his kindness and power (how immeasurable is God’s generosity and love!). He did not show hatred for us or reject us or take vengeance; instead, he was patient with us, bore with us, and in compassion took our sins upon himself; he gave his own Son as the price of our redemption, the holy one to redeem the wicked, the sinless one to redeem sinners, the just one to redeem the unjust, the incorruptible one to redeem the corruptible, the immortal one to redeem mortals. For what else could have covered our sins but his sinlessness? Where else could we—wicked and sinful as we were—have found the means of holiness except in the Son of God alone?
How wonderful a transformation, how mysterious a design, how inconceivable a blessing! The wickedness of the many is covered up by the holy One, and the holiness of One sanctifies many sinners”.
God himself is love and that love is being completed in his Son who took our human image to make us feel he always loves us.
Other Sermons In This Series
June 16, 2023
March 31, 2023
September 08, 2022