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Gospel Reflection – 2nd Sunday of Christmas

Dear sisters and brothers,

We have entered a new year, and I know that many of us are praying that it is better than the last one, and that we will know universal healing from the dread ‘C’ word.  I presume that for most of us it was a quiet new year celebration.  I had a lovely evening with my father, and then we skyped some friends at midnight with a little glass of something, and then headed for bed.  It made me realise how in many senses New Year’s Day is just another day and caused me to wonder what all the fuss is about.  However, looking at it another way, every day is a cause to celebrate as it is a gift from God to treasure and live to the full.  Of course, that raises the question of what it means to live life to the full, and that’s where we as Christians can find ourselves at odds with the world.

In this Sunday’s readings we are given a lot of imagery that helps us think about that difference.  We are presented with wisdom, the Word, light and glory, and St Paul prays that:

“the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit.”

Jesus is all these attributes of God as the Word made flesh, God made man.  He is born into the world as the ‘wisdom’ of God in bodily form; as ‘the Word’ that spoke the world into being coming as a baby in a manger; as the ‘light’ who’s clear teaching enables us to see the right path to choose day by day; and as the ‘glory’ of God revealed as he ultimately takes as his throne the Cross.  Our faith helps us to grow a little more each day “in full knowledge” of these realities, and to “see what hope his call holds” for us.

I read these words of St Hippolytus during the week:

“The Word spoke first of all through the prophets, but because the message was couched in such obscure language that it could be only dimly apprehended, in the last days the Father sent the Word in person, commanding him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.”

It highlights a helpful contrast.  Because the Word used human intermediaries in the Old Testament the message wasn’t given its full power and clarity due to the limitations of language and understanding.  And so, in the Gospels, God comes himself to make the message crystal clear, and he speaks most of all of the call to love.

Now, the world doesn’t question that call, but Jesus is clear that for him – and remember that he is God made man, not just someone with an opinion – that love is all about what we can give to another, not what we can get out of someone else by loving them.  And he is also clear that loving God, following his ways, means to grow in our ability to look at love from an ever less sinful perspective.

What do I mean?  What does God mean?  Well, I’ve watched a few films with my Dad this week, and the general romantic ideal presented is that to show someone that you love them you have sex with them as soon as possible.  Jesus teaches us that this way of thinking is confusing love with lust.  And it’s true in many different areas: love becomes confused with greed as we want more and more for our loved ones; with gossip, as we feel the need to share information with another person because it might be helpful for them; with anger as we justify our aggression by calling it righteous indignation.

I’ve been reading St John Paul II’s ‘Theology of the Body’ recently and he highlights time and time again that Jesus birth, death and resurrection bring freedom from the this confusion, from this power of sin over us, that we would see ever more clearly the difference between true love, and lust, greed, anger or whatever else false love may masquerade as.  Admittedly, this freedom doesn’t happen all in one go – I know it’s proving a slow process in my own life – but it grows within us as we become aware of our need for it more and more in our lives, and as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit who is constantly trying to enable this freedom within us.  The world sees freedom as being the ability to do what I want when I want; Jesus says that true freedom is to become ever freer from the power of sin that is trying to bind us.

So, let us pray for ourselves today, that we would allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the wisdom, the Word, the light and the glory of the Lord to our hearts, to enable us to choose true love, true freedom.  And let us pray that the Father of glory would bring us to full knowledge of him, enlightening the eyes of our minds so that we can see what hope his call holds for us, what rich glories he has promised we will inherit, enabling us to live each day to the full in the love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

With every blessing,

Simon

PS Don’t forget that while it may feel that we’ve moved on from Christmas, our celebrations continue until the Epiphany this coming Wednesday – when we have Mass at 9.30am – so I say again, Happy Christmas!!!