First of all, if I have not already done so, let me wish you a holy and a happy Christmas. And let me thank those who work so hard and give so generously of their time and resources to make it possible for us to worship together and to preserve our Catholic Faith -- it is really appreciated, both during this holy season and throughout the year. And, let me ask you to pray for those of our people who are unable to be with us today for whatever reason -- but particularly for those who are ill.
Sunday I spoke a bit about the importance of the Incarnation -- the fact that God assumed human nature and was born one of us this day in Bethlehem. This has been the theme of the Epistles and Gospels this past week, and will be for another week or two. As Saint Paul told us in the Epistle for the Vigil: "God's Son was born to Him according to the flesh of the offspring of David ... to bring about obedience to faith among all the nations...."1
The readings of this season are replete with place names. The Angel appears to Mary in Nazareth of Galilee; an edict is sent out from Rome; Jesus is born in Bethlehem; Magi come from the Orient; Our Lord is presented in the Temple at Jerusalem; and takes refuge in Egypt. He spreads sanctification wherever He goes -- even in the womb: Elizabeth is filled with grace, and John jumps in her womb, just because Mary visits them in her early days.
When He grows up, Our Lord's public life will touch many places in and around Israel. His disciples will take the good news of his Incarnation and Resurrection even further, within the first century evangelizing the known world between Spain and far away India. And as more time passes, Christendom will cross both oceans, and God will be gloried in the worship and the good deeds of His adopted sons and daughters on all of the continents of the world.
Where the Faith of Christ is strong we will see the spread of peace, a modicum of prosperity, and the advancement of civilization. The Faith, of course, is primary; Our Lord became one of us to redeem us with His grace, and to instruct us in the worship desired by God. But He also came to tell us how we are to behave toward one another. Christian man is not a pacifist, but he is peaceful. Christianity will spread not through the sword, but based on its merits. Christendom will be persecuted -- by the Jews at first, followed by the Romans, and then the Vikings and the Moslems -- but, for the most part, she will assimilate her enemies. And when she is united in holiness she will be able to repel the rest.
The Faith will bring a measure of prosperity as well. People are more productive when they are not cheating, stealing, and beating one another -- something Christianity will see to with good success. And there will be a measure of mutual protection against the enemies "outside the gate" who would otherwise despoil her productive capacity. The rule of law will spread, a law tempered by Christ-like compassion and by the urgency to save souls. Learning will be at least preserved, in spite of the ravages of the barbarians. And music and art will flourish in unexpected degrees, often nourished by the desire to glorify God and His Blessed Virgin Mother in those art forms.
Yet, perhaps many of us today have become pessimistic. In spite of great technological advance, we see the peace, and the gentle prosperity, and the civilization of Christendom withering away in so many areas -- and he very leaders of Christendom unnwilling or unable to even recognize the decline. If we are honest we may also recognize some deficiencies in our own faith and the way we put it to practice in the world.
Perhaps that is why the Christian celebration of Christmas is so important. If we reflect that at one time -- not all that long ago by historical standards -- Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were the only Christians, we can be encouraged by the possibility of rebuilding Christian society. Somehow the recollection of the Babe in the manger, and the spirit of Christmas has the power to make us feel young again. Not surprisingly, the key to a renewed Christendom is Christianity -- just as it is the secret to a renewed spirituality in our own life. Christmas is a time for new beginnings -- in our world and in ourselves, for really, the latter cannot happen without the former.
Today marks not only the birth of Christ, but also the
birth of Christianity and Christendom. Today is a day for feeling good. Mary and
Joseph invite us to worship their Son; to renew Faith and peace and prosperity
and civilization -- both in ourselves and in our world. Jesus Christ is born
today! May He live in us, and through us rebuild His kingdom on earth. Long live
Christ the King!
1 Romans i: 1-5.
1 Romans i: 1-5.