December 18, 2016
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, (YEAR A)
Christian Life Is Divine Life
Appreciating and Accepting Jesus as “Son of God”
who empowers us to live on the level of God
What does it mean to me to live a “good life”? Is it the same as a “Christian life”? Is it enough for a Christian to be just a really good human being?
In the Entrance Antiphon we ask God both to let the “earth to bring forth” and the “clouds rain down” our Savior. Jesus comes from both heaven and earth — to give us the fullness of life, both human and divine.
In the Opening Prayer we ask God to “fill our hearts with your love” —the divine love proper to God himself. This is Jesus’ “new” Commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another…. just as I have loved you….” This is the “perfection of charity” that Vatican II holds up as the goal of every Christian way of life. “It is evident to everyone that all the faithful of Christ, of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (Church, no. 40; Ecumenism, no. 4). This is love on the level of God.
The “King of Glory”:
The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 24) alerts us to the theme of the readings: the Savior whom Advent prepares us to welcome is no ordinary human. He is “the Lord… the king of glory.”
Isaiah 7: 10-14 predicts the sign that is actually given in the Gospel reading (Matthew 1: 18-24): “The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” — which means, “God is with us.”
Mary’s virginity, the absence of a human father, is proof that Jesus was conceived “through the Holy Spirit.” The absence of a human cause reveals the presence of a divine cause (cp. Luke 10: 3-4). That is why the angel concludes, “Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The Father of Jesus is God.
Call to holiness:
Romans 1: 1-7 bases our call to holiness on this. Paul identifies himself as sent to proclaim “the gospel [good news] of God… about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness… Jesus Christ our Lord.” All who are “called to belong to Jesus Christ” are “called to be holy.”
This holiness is not some human goodness attainable by human efforts. No, it is “grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the holiness we have through union with Jesus as “sons in the Son.” It is the holiness of the “children of God,” who are born “not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1: 12-13). Because we “became Christ” at Baptism, our standard of morality is the holiness of Christ. “Jesus' way of acting and his words, his deeds and his precepts constitute the moral rule of Christian life. Indeed, his actions, and in particular his Passion and Death on the Cross, are the living revelation of his love for the Father and for others. This is exactly the love that Jesus wishes to be imitated by all who follow him” (John Paul II, The Splendor of Truth, no. 20).
Called to “be Christ”
This follows from the fact that at Baptism we “became Christ.” John Paul continues (no. 21): “By the work of the Spirit, Baptism radically configures the faithful to Christ in the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection; it "clothes them" in Christ (Galatians 3:27): ‘Let us rejoice and give thanks’, exclaims Saint Augustine speaking to the baptized, ‘for we have become not only Christians, but Christ. Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ!” Having died to sin, those who are baptized receive new life (Romans 6: 3-11): alive for God in Christ Jesus, they are called to walk by the Spirit and to manifest the Spirit's fruits in their lives (Galatians 5: 16-25).” This is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 795.
Our call to holiness is not primarily a call to human effort. It is a call to surrender to God, to open our hearts to his activity within us: “Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.” The “glory of God” is the life of God in humans made visible.1 When our words and actions are so far beyond good human behavior that they cannot be the product just of family upbringing (“blood”) or of culture (“flesh”) or of human intelligence and willpower (the “will of man”), then they must come from attitudes, values and ideals conceived in us “through the Holy Spirit.” Then we can say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). To accept this is to “Let the Lord enter, the king of glory.”
1St. Irenaeus, martyred c. 200 A.D wrote, “Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God” (Against Heresies Bk. 4, ch. 20, no. 7).
What goals, values or attitudes in my life have I learned more from the teaching of Jesus or the example of other Christians than from anything else? How does Jesus inspire us to go beyond ordinary human standards in our attitudes toward the poor, other races and cultures, toward violence and respect for life? In what other ways?
Say the WIT prayer before every action, “Lord, do this with me, do this in me, do this through me.”