Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

Third Sunday of Advent (B)

December 15, 2002
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

The Love That Is Christmas

Teddy was wealthy, handsome and unhappy. He could afford to buy whatever he wanted - including women to sleep with. He could put on his act and charm the gals, he drank everything from tuba to whiskey and smoked everything from cigarettes to pot. But deep inside he was empty. Then he met Heriot. That was five years ago. "Before I met her," he said, "it seems that I did not know what the words beauty and reverence meant. But when I met her and encountered her loveliness I seemed to see beauty in all of the world. I felt reverence towards her and all the world besides. I suddenly felt horrified at using another person just for my own pleasure and was terrified that what I had done may have made me dirty for her. I never touched another girl since. I stopped smoking and only drank lightly in company from the day I met her. Our two years of marriage have been probably as near to perfect as a marriage could be. I just marvel and thank God for such a love as that of Heriot. She gives meaning and value to all that I do."

There is terrific power in true love. In fact, St. John tells us that God is love. Love has the transforming power of God himself. In today's Gospel we read the story, written many years after the death and Resurrection of Jesus, which tells of the angel Gabriel coming to visit Mary in the town of Nazareth. It is the story of the definitive and explosive love entrance of God into human history. It is an arrival that declares Mary highly favored of God, takes away her fear and makes her declare herself to be the Lord's willing handmaid. Further, it renders her pregnant without sexual intercourse. This was not something that happened just for Mary but something that was for the whole world. God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son that we may have life through him.

One day a farmer and his son were walking across a field when the son accidentally knocked the head off an anthill. He bent down compassionately to see the ants darting about in consternation and was going to put the head back on the anthill to help the ants. His father said; "Son, leave them alone. The only way in which you could help the ants is to become an ant yourself." In a sense this is what God has done. He has become one of us to share our joys and sorrows. He did not lift us out of our humanity but by joining us in it made us God-touched and gave us a dignity that is beyond belief. He is no longer a remote God out there but a God who dwells among us. He is no longer an impersonal distant God but a God who is personally interested in each of us and to whom we can be personally and intimately related. This is the great meaning of Christmas. It is celebrating a God who so loved us that he came to be with us and in us.

Christmas is realizing that we are loved. It can start with a human love, such as that of Teddy and Heriot, which gives one a pointer to or a tiny taste of what Divine love is. Or, it can start with an experience of Divine love which can suddenly transform all other relationships. The central dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola is the coming to awareness of being loved by God. The greatest block in our relationships with others is often our deep down feeling that we are not loved and lovable. This deep down insecurity makes us grasping and self centered in our relationships with others. But once we know that we are loved we can let go of all of that and be free to love ourselves and others.

Every time we try to center in prayer we are letting go of the effort to grasp or control God. We let go of all thoughts, images or words. We just center ourselves by repeating the prayer word. Doing this is trusting in his limitless love and concern for each of us. It is saying "I am absolutely sure that you are doing what is best for me no matter what seems to be happening. I am sure that you love me." This assurance sets us free to love in return. Christ is born in such a love. This Love is Christmas.

Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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