Fourth Sunday of Advent (A)
A few years ago, two big dueling billboards caught the attention of travelers near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel in New York: the first, set up by the group American Atheists, said: You Know it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason; the second, set up by the Catholic League in response to the first, said: You Know it’s Real. This Season, Celebrate Jesus (www.nj.com, Dec 2, 2010).
People, who care only about the prominence of human reason and about convenience, make gods of themselves, of their capacities and of their discoveries. They do not see the supernatural origin of life and of this world; neither do they believe in life after death. Thus, they cannot have part in the celebrations of the Church, for they cannot celebrate Jesus. Their world offers them situations to claim they are gods over others. So, they can use people and things for their own advantage and whims.
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, in his Advent Reflection addressed to the Pontifical Household on December 4, 2010, reflects on “The Christian Answer to Atheist Scientism. In one part of the reflection, he said: There are nocturnal birds, such as the owl and the little owl, whose eye is made to see in the dark of night, not in the day. The light of the sun would blind them. These birds know everything and move at ease in the nocturnal world, but know nothing of the daytime world. Let us adopt for the moment the genre of the fable, where the animals speak among themselves. Let’s suppose that an eagle makes friends with a family of little owls and speaks to them of the sun: of how it illuminates everything, of how, without it, everything would fall into darkness and cold, of how their nocturnal world itself would not exist without the sun. What would the little owl answer other than: “What you say is nonsense! I’ve never seen your sun. We move very well and get our food without it; your sun is a useless theory and therefore it doesn’t exist.”
It is exactly what the atheist scientist does when he says: “God doesn’t exist.” He judges a world he does not know, applies his laws to an object that is beyond their scope. To see God one must open a different eye, one must venture outside the night. In this connection, still valid is the ancient affirmation of the Psalmist “The fool says: there is no God” (zenit.org).
St. Paul’s letter to the Romans today gives us very rich and strong figures:
1. He calls himself a slave of Jesus Christ. A slave has no rights and privileges: no right to a family, no right to a home, no right to friends, no right to worship. His only right is to serve his master; and his only privilege is to be alive and physically strong to serve his master. St. Paul feels that he owes his life to the Lord Jesus, who called him from the way to perdition. Without Jesus, he would be lost.
2. Paul is chosen and set apart to be an apostle and to preach the Good News to the gentiles. From his work of persecuting the Christians, he had to fall to the ground in order to rise with Jesus and be saved, and to bring the Gospel to those he was persecuting. He no longer is a persecutor, but a preacher of the Word of God; no longer a slave of evil, but a slave of God.
God invites to reflect and recall that we are chosen and called by God to be saved, and set apart to preach the Good News. We are called in Baptism to renounce sin and proclaim our faith in God. We are confirmed to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit and to live our faith in the midst of the odds of life. We are called to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, so that we can regain the mercy and love of God, and be filled again with His love. Those who receive the Sacrament of Marriage are called to experience God’s love in the intimacy of their relationship as husband and wife, and to mirror God’s holiness and love for His Church. Those who are called to the Sacrament of Orders are to experience God’s mercy in the ministry of the priesthood to bring God’s presence to all. The sick receive the Anointing with Holy Oil so that they can be strengthened in their condition.
God came to his creation in a family to bring the light of hope to all our families. He looks at us with His eyes of love and mercy, so that He can lift us up from a world that deceives us to turn away from God, like Ahaz who refused to listen to God because he preferred his own way. He brings us His vision of love, so that we can also look at this hope-hungry world with eyes that can light up its darkness. He sets us apart to be a holy people, to live the Gospel and the Sacraments, and to make God present to all. Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily on November 28, 2010, said: One could say that man is alive so long as he waits, so long as hope is alive in his heart. And man is able to recognize that what he waits for and what he hopes for discloses something about his moral and spiritual “stature” (www.zenit.org). Let us live in continual advent, make this season a life of hope and light, and celebrate Jesus, the reason for living and of this season. With Mary and Joseph, let us proclaim the reality of our time and the reason of our life: God is with us.