Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Porta Fidei, the apostolic letter that announced the Year of Faith, “Belief in Jesus Christ is the way to arrive definitively at salvation”.  Our present age has grown cold to this message.  We see an increase of people who identify Jesus as simply a wise teacher who teaches people how to be kind to one another.   His teachings are viewed as simply pathways of life that may be accepted in one’s life with no real consequences should one choose to follow them or not.   For many people belief in Jesus Christ is not necessary should one desire to gain eternal life.  They feel that simply showing kindness to others is all that is needed to be to gain eternal life.

For those who hold this position how might they view the world’s focus on the birth of the child in the manger?  Do they not see that the sole purpose of the child born in Bethlehem is to “go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised”? (Matthew 16:21)  Is it not clear that he must exchange the wood of the cradle for the wood of the cross?  Is it not clear that His suffering, death and resurrection, the Paschal Mystery, is what brings about forgiveness of sins and the way to eternal life?  Unfortunately, many people have grown cold to these truths.  People who had once embraced the faith and who knew of the necessity of a personal encounter with the living Christ no longer hold this belief.  The world is in need of a renewal, and this renewal is found in the New Evangelization, in which we are called to participate.

Each Sunday when the Church gathers for the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, we make a solemn profession of our Christian faith as we either sing or say the Creed.  The words of the Creed speak of this reality, when we profess as a community “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.”  It is an individual profession each person makes as four times “I believe” is said, as well as a communal profession as our voices are joined together as one.  The individual makes this profound statement in response to his or her own baptism.  The communal proclamation is an outward expression of one of the four marks of the Catholic Church, the Church being “one”, so the individual voices blend together to form one worshiping community with Christ as its Head.

This reality in which the members of the Church have come to believe, must be one that is expressed in the daily lives of the faithful.  If it is not, then it sends a false message to the world.  If we believe and profess that Jesus is Lord, then we must live our lives according to this profession.  Therefore we are faithful to all that has been divinely revealed.  This means we are faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  To say “I believe” or “we believe” means to believe all “that which is contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed”. (CCC 182)

Pope Benedict XVI wrote “The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers” .(PF 6) We are most aware of this in the lives of the saints.  Their fidelity to God was an outward expression of their faithful obedience, in which they completely submitted their intellect and will to God.  They were “salt of the earth”, selflessly giving their lives for the proclamation of the Gospel.  They are examples to us as to what it means to evangelize, to announce Jesus Christ and His victory over sin and death.   We too must participate in the New Evangelization by living lives as faithful believers.  As our Lord reminds us in the Gospel “You are the light of the world”. Faithful lives illuminate a world that is growing dark.

At the Mass during the Night of the Nativity of the Lord, the Church prays “O God, who have made this most sacred night radiant with the splendor of the true light, grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth, may also delight in his gladness in heaven”.   Let us imitate Jesus Christ, the Light of the world,  by following Him according to the state of life to which we have been called.  In doing so, we give witness to Jesus and the necessity of a personal encounter with Him, which leads to eternal life.

May your celebration of the Lord’s birth be filled with peace and joy, and may you experience God’s perfect love for humanity and as you contemplate the Child born in the manger.

Categories: Advent Reflections

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