In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)
Together with the shepherds we go to the stable in Bethlehem. There we are able to encounter God himself – God who became a defenceless little baby – a baby in swaddling clothes – in modern terminology, a baby in a nappy. Is this not an incredible miracle? Is this not a wonderful mystery of the creative love of God? The Father sends us his Son, to be born of a Virgin, and they wrapped him in a nappy. The One who is God from God, and light from light eternal, the One who is the focal point of human history – past, present and future – lies before us in a nappy! God in a nappy shows us the true nature of who God is. God is love. His love is full of compassion, full of mercy and wisdom. He loves us so much that the Son of God takes on our human condition and becomes like us. He grows like us, he is in need of love and affection like us, he is vulnerable like us. He will also suffer like us: God in a nappy, and one day God on a cross. God comes as a child to ensure that between him and us there are no barriers, no fears. Who would be afraid of a little child? He wants us to love him with all our hearts and with our own souls. The God of love only wants love. He wants to be hugged and cared for like a little child. God who becomes a child so that we can love him, invites us to come closer. Christmas is a time to allow that deep and personal encounter with the Lord to finally happen in our own lives. We long for intimacy with God. Is there a better moment to take this all-compassionate love seriously? It invites us to a never-ending union with him. Every newborn child awakens love. The Christ Child also awakens the power of love in the human heart. He conquers us completely with his love. This personal encounter with God changes our lives. We are forever changed. If we want to love the Saviour as he wants to be loved, if we want to let him enter our lives with no “buts” or “maybes”, if we want to truly become like him, we will always find him in the arms of his Mother Mary. In the covenant of love with her we may bow our heads in adoration before the miracle of Christmas – God in a nappy! It’s amazing!
Christmas Blessings to all Friends of the Shrine!
“May the God of infinite goodness, who by the Incarnation of his Son has driven darkness from the world and by that glorious birth has illumined this most holy day, drive far from you the darkness of vice and illumine your hearts with the light of virtue.
“May God, who willed that the great joy of his Son’s saving birth be announced to shepherds by the Angel, fill your minds with the gladness he gives and make you heralds of his Gospel.
“And may God, who be the Incarnation brought together the earthly and heavenly realm, fill you with the gift of his peace and favor and make you sharers with the Church in heaven.”
(from the Christmas Mass Solemn Blessing)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)
A old legend tells the story of a hidden bell that is completely silent throughout the year, but when Christmas comes this bell starts to ring out joyfully. Where is this bell hidden? It is hidden in our own hearts. Christmas is the time when many longings and hopes come to the surface again. These yearnings need to be fulfilled. The church bells call us and invite us: Come to Bethlehem and see what has truly happened there! When we set off and make our way to that little place of grace – our parish church, the shrine – what will we find? We will find the Saviour of the world in a manger. Are we free enough to leave everything else behind – our worries, our weaknesses, our troubles and distractions, our dependence on material things – and go to Bethlehem to be a part of this never-ending miracle? What is the miracle of the Holy Night? It is an answer to that continuous, desperate call of the human race since the beginning of time – the yearning for peace. We yearn for peace in our own hearts, because we are all so inwardly divided. We yearn for peace in our families, because there are often conflicts and hurts. We yearn for peace in every nation, in all the world, so that our children can grow up in security and have a future. The bells ring out a call of peace to men and women of good will, because tonight in the town of David, in Bethlehem, a Saviour has been born for us, a Child has been given to us! The Miracle of the Holy Night is the birthday of the Prince of peace in our world. It is also the birthday of the gift of peace itself. The peace that Christmas offers is a unique and lasting kind of peace. As the angels of heaven announced to shepherds in the fields that the Messiah had been born, they sang with one voice: “Glory to God in the Highest and peace to all people of good will!” (Luke 2:14). When will we have true and lasting peace? When we give God the glory, when we place God firmly in the centre of our lives. Whoever places the Lord at the centre, whoever has the freedom to detach himself or herself from everything that holds us back from truly loving God and our neighbour, will receive the gift of peace in their heart. This is the firm promise of Christmas. This is our prayer that we again bring to the Christ-Child in the manger: Give peace to our hearts, peace to our homes, peace to the whole world!
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Take some time to find a moment of inner peace, and pray: Blessed Mother Mary, we have given ourselves to you, and you have given yourself to us. We have made a covenant of love with you and you have made a covenant with us. From the depths of our hearts, we ask you: Care that our longing for the Lord will never decrease, and never be held back by slavery to possessions and material things. Break the chains that bind us here on earth. Help us to sing a hymn of love to the Lord, that echoes and re-echoes everywhere in our lives. Amen. (Joseph Kentenich)
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1,16)
If it’s true that each one of us is the “result” of God’s plan, it must also be true that Mary is the “most perfect result”, in fact the “masterpiece” of God’s love, wisdom, and power. In a unique way she is the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), that St Paul spoke about. She is the Woman who has “the touch of paradise” – redeemed from original sin, full of life. Mary, as the first of the Lord’s disciples, can show us in her life and faith what it means to follow Jesus. What are the experiences in Mary’s life than can give us strength on our journey? What gift could we ask for to help us prepare our hearts for Christmas?
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)
Advent is that special season when we long for Jesus to take on form in us. Mary’s mission is to care that this really happens. She is the “masterpiece” of God’s creation, she is the “mirror of hope”, she is the “Advent dawn” that leads us securely to the true light of the world, Jesus Christ. During the days of Advent we always celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (on 8th December). She shows us, and gives witness to, what grace can do in someone’s life. When we look at her, we can understand what the Lord also wants to achieve in us – the fully redeemed Christian person. She is a sign of the Lord’s light; we can be signs of light as well. She is a sign of the Lord’s peace; we too can spread peace, and dispel unrest and anxiety. Mary is a sign of the Lord’s victory; we too can be “success stories” of grace, and not necessarily some kind of “failure”. Mary, the Dawn, gives witness in her life to the three elements that nourish our Advent hope: Longing for the Lord, trusting in the Lord, and working with the Lord. Let’s look at each in turn. They can be an inspiration and help to us… Continue reading “Fourth Sunday of Advent with Fr Kentenich”
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. (Psalm 118:1,25-27)
Each one of us is an original image of God. We are like “photographs” of God. If we want to appreciate the photograph better, we need to look closely at the “original”. The original image is God himself. The more we see the original clearly, and love and recognize the original, the more we can value and appreciate the photos. What does this mean for daily life? If we want to be able to value each other properly, if we want to be able to understand each other better, and have a deep respect for each other, then we need to have a closer look at God, the original, and learn to see him and understand him better. For example, husband and wife in marriage, parents and children, colleagues at work. The more we look upon the original, the more light falls on the photos. We can see everyone and everything in a new and amazing light.