3rd Sunday of Advent – Year B – December 17, 2017

God the Judge… To Save

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles
commenting on today’s Gospel reading:
https://youtu.be/_7reyaj6QmA

 

Introduction

 

The Hebrew language is quite poor in synonyms. To express joy twenty-seven words are used in the Bible. In the Holy Scriptures there are the desperate cries of those who do not find an answer to the mystery of pain, but more often they echo the “shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the feasting throng” (Ps 42:5) and hymns of thanksgiving to God: “My heart will rejoice on seeing your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for he has been good to me” (Ps 13:6).

 

In the Gospels we encounter people with sad faces: the rich young man who has not the courage to detach his heart from his possessions (Mt 19:22), the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:17). At times Jesus’ face also darkens (Mk 3:5; Mt 26:38). But an atmosphere of joy pervades in all the pages of the Gospel, from the promise of a son to Zechariah “he will bring joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth” (Lk 1:14), to the “great joy” announced to the shepherds (Lk 2:10-11), to the joy of Zacchaeus who receives the Lord in his house (Lk 19:6), until the disciples’ sheer joy on the day of Passover (Jn 20:20).

 

But there is a character that we can scarcely imagine with a beaming face: John, the son of Zechariah, the preacher in charge of preparing the coming of the Lord. He lived in the desert and when he went out, it seems he did it only to frighten, to threaten fire from heaven, to root out trees, tremendous punishments (Mt 3:7-12). But he too was once happy. When he recognized the voice of the bridegroom who was to come he exclaimed: “The friend of the bridegroom rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice. My joy is now full” (Jn 3:29).

 

The coming of Jesus is always accompanied by joy and no face—not even that of John the Baptist—can be sad.

 

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:
Let us rejoice and be glad for the marriage of the Lamb has come.”

 

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4th Sunday of Advent – Year B – December 24, 2017

From which Messiah

will Salvation come?

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles
commenting on today’s Gospel reading:
https://youtu.be/-qnVBvpMnaE

 

Introduction

 

Messianism is ingrained in us more than we realize. It is powered by the loss and anguish we feel in the face of a world marked by contradictions, tragedies and death. It is kept alive by the eagerly awaiting of someone’s intervention who can radically change it.

 

Every age has had its messianism.

 

People of the Renaissance were convinced that they had terminated the medieval slumber. It was a millennium marked by ignorance and barbarism. They thought of having initiated the Golden Age, with the recovery of classical values. Then came the messianism of science, creator of progress and development. It was thought of capable of solving any problem, except that of death. In the 18th century the Illuminists were convinced of having kindled the light of reason, after centuries of darkness in which people had left themselves uncritically guided by the revealed truth from heaven and translated into dogmas. Then the ideological messianism of liberty and democracy sprang up. They are all bearers of humanizing instances until they could not claim a divine worship, and having become idols, they backfired against people.

 

All ideologies faded away and the world continues to wait for a savior. The need for change causes impatience in some. This easily leads to fanaticism and the use of violence. In others it generates resignation and withdrawal on the narrow private interests.

 

The messiah resurfaces every time the wise men, the winners, the rulers of this world are forced to declare their failure. He proposes a kingdom of peace and justice that, according to the wisdom of this world, will never be realized. But a heavenly messenger guaranteed him. He is the Messiah of God and the new world will be brought to completion, because “nothing is impossible with God.”

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:
The Son of the Virgin Mary is the only messiah who has never disappointed me.

 

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The Birth of the Lord (midnight mass) – December 25

Light for those who live in darkness

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles
commenting on today’s Gospel reading:
https://youtu.be/XRSWTjFy86Q

 

Introduction

 

The darkness covered the abyss, when “God said, Let there be light” (Gen 1:2-3).

 

“Light” is the first word that God speaks in the Bible. That word marks the beginning of creation (Gen 1:3). And since “God saw that the light was good” (Gen 1:4), man has never stopped loving her, to search for her, while he was afraid and shies away from the darkness. Darkness recalls death and from it one wants to get out.

 

He who is born “comes to the light;” he who dies goes toward the “land of deepest night” (Job 10:21). “God—Job says—uncovers the deepest recesses and brings the deep darkness into light” (Job 12:22). In the biblical conception darkness are only a temporary condition of light, they are “destined to become light.”

 

God is light and permeates his every creature with light: in the poetic image of Isaiah the dew becomes “dew of light” (Is 26:19); even the clouds, yet so dark and menacing, are laden with light that shines forth, suddenly, when the lightning flashes (Job 37:15).

 

We celebrate the Christmas liturgy during the night to reproduce, perhaps meaningfully, the darkness won by the word of the Creator, the darkness of the human condition illumined by the coming of the Savior.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:
On those who live in darkness, the light of a Child shines.”

 

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The Birth of the Lord (Mass of the day) – December 25

God has revealed his justice

 

Introduction

 

From the beginning mankind’s history—the Bible tells us—is a series of sins. In Genesis, chapter 6, the sacred author, with a bold anthropomorphism, says: “The Lord saw how great was the wickedness of man on earth and that evil was always the only thought of his heart. The Lord regretted having created man on the earth and his heart grieved” (Gen 6:5-6).

 

In the fullness of time, God has intervened to bring about justice. The responsorial psalm proposed to us by the liturgy says “to reveal his justice to the eyes of the people.”

 

We know of only one justice, the forensic one, the remunerative justice administered by judges in courts where punishments proportionate to the crime committed are applied. This is not God’s justice. “He is God and not man” (Hos 11:9). God does not respond to sin with retaliation and revenge but by giving the greatest proof of his love, giving to the world his Son.

 

Some theology of the past recklessly applied to God our justice and presented him as an executioner. It resulted into a Christianity dispenser of fear, not announcer of the Kingdom which is “justice, peace and joy” (Rom 14:17).

 

At Christmas, God reveals the immensity of His unconditional love. This is his justice. All people are invited to contemplate with wonder and let themselves be free from fear because “there is no fear in love. Perfect love drives away fear, for fear has to do with punishment: those who fear do not know perfect love” (1 Jn 4:18).

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:
Oh Lord, how different from mine is your righteousness.”

 

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St. Stephen, the first martyr – December 26

The same fate for Master and disciple

 

Introduction

 

Entering the church today we perceive a different climate from that of Christmas Day. The white vestments—white as the angel’s who announced to the shepherds a great joy: “Today a Savior has been born to you in David’s town” (Lk 2:11)—have been replaced by red ones.

 

The announcement of the birth of the Savior gladdened us and the sweet pastoral melodies lulled us, then the liturgy presents us with the bloodshed of the first martyr. It looks like a tacky combination. Yet, to understand Christmas, we must go beyond the pagan folklore that marked this festival around the world.

 

The Christmas of the liturgy has little to do with the sapling poetry, the lights and the music box and, even less, with the holidays on exotic beaches. It is God’s wager who, after speaking to people through the wonders of creation and the prophets, now really bets everything. In a gesture of supreme love, he offers his Son to the world.

 

From the first centuries, Christmas was linked to Easter. In the newborn child, the community of believers is immediately invited to contemplate the one who will offer himself on the cross and rise again in glory.

 

Andrei Rublev understood it very well. While in Moscow, around 1420, he painted the famous icon of the Nativity. He portrayed the Child of the manger with the proportions of an adult, wrapped in bandages of death and lying in a manger, which is actually a stone tomb. In the background, he depicted a gaping, dark cave: the tomb from which Jesus would one day come to defeat death and radiate upon the world the light of the resurrection.

 

The Church introduced the Feast of St Stephen to make us understand the link between Christmas and Easter. In the passion and death of the first martyr, we can already see the events of Easter. Taking the child in his arms, Simeon announced: “Know this, your son is a sign, a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35). Aware of the conflict that his message would have caused in the world, Jesus said one day: “I have come not to bring peace, but rather division” (Lk 12:51).

 

In front of him, there will always be some who will line up for love and peace and others will opt for hatred and violence. Some who will advocate truth and justice while still others will choose the falsity and abuse. Some will prefer to behave like wolves and others will accept the destiny that unites them to the Lamb. Only these will leave a bright trace in history.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:
He is born to offer his own life as a gift: It is the message of the Child of Bethlehem.”

 

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