Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 Christmas Eve Reflection

The Second Reading of the Feast of the Nativity--Mass During the Night:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good. 
Titus 2:11-14 
Many of you will hear this proclaimed as you observe your obligation to assist at a Mass this day. Written well after the birth of the Christ Child and with an eye towards His Second Coming, St. Paul packs a lot in this short section of his letter to Titus. As an act of "lectio divina", allow me to share some thoughts about this passage.

"The grace of God has appeared." What had been foreshadowed by the Law and foretold by the Prophets has now become a reality we can see and hear. Emmanuel--God is with us. The Word made Flesh. How audacious is our God. And yet he is not condescending to us when He descends to us. He has promised fulfillment and He has delivered, through the delivery of His Son via the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"Saving all." Yes, humanity has been redeemed. It is still up to us as individuals to accept the invitation to the Wedding Feast to come and to be a worthy guest, however. It is a message especially important to those who are not fully incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ and to those who have fallen away. There will be many of these Prodigals in the pews tonight. Sometimes, it takes an infant to tug on the heartstrings.

"Training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires." Why does it seem like the Devil is even more of a roaring lion today? Evil's ugly head has reared higher, it seems. Yet the victory is won; He has overcome the world and defeated Satan. As the Teacher, so His disciples. His example in the wilderness is ours. We cannot serve two masters. We, like Him, are in the world but not of it.

"To live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age."  Does this not hearken to the prophet Micah, "You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you:  Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God"? (6:8) The admonition to stay sober and vigilant, for it was thought the Second Coming would be soon, still carries weight. We live in "this age" as much as those for whom the letter was addressed.

"We await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ." Be aware, for you will hear this right after the Lord's Prayer. As we waited for His birth and await his Second Coming, these words ring true during this part of the Mass. It is especially true since the consecration has just taken place, the real "appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ". From the "House of Bread" to your house of worship, the "blessed hope" is here.

"Who gave himself for us." His whole life, as a gift to and from the Father, was gift to and for us. He poured out Himself time and time again on Earth so it would be as in Heaven. The Crucifixion and Resurrection, seen also in the Eucharist, were His ultimate present here and for eternity. The Words of Institution are an invitation.

"To deliver us from all lawlessness." Substituting either the word "sin" or "evil"  for "lawlessness" would work as well here. It is why He came into the world. He fulfills the seventh petition of the Lord's Prayer.

"To cleanse for himself a people as his own." Later in this same epistle, these words, proclaimed as the Second Reading of the Feast of the Nativity--Mass At Dawn, show us how much He loves us:
When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. 
Titus 3:4-7
 This can also be claimed for the phrase above as well.

 "Eager to do what is good." As Catholics, our Faith inspires and informs our good works (c.f.--James 2:14-26). This is our joy in Christ. This is how we cooperate with Him in the redemption of the world. This is working with the "grace of God".

On this holy night, as we come to celebrate such a great mystery, as we marvel at how and why such an event occurred, as we keep watch with the shepherds, as we rejoice with the angels, let us be in awe and wonder. As we cannot fathom how or why God would do such a thing, we can only accept it in faith, hope, and love. As the Christ Child reaches out to us, let us reciprocate.

Hodie Christus natus est.

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