A few thoughts from the Pastor

4th Sunday of Advent Homily

 As a young man, St. Augustine lived a

 hedonistic life, one in which sensuality and self-indulgence  reigned supreme. Along the way, prior to his becoming a  Christian he had a son by a woman to whom he was not  married. Augustine was brilliant and renowned. By worldly  standards he lived a spectacularly successful life. His  mother Monica had prayed for his conversion for over thirty  years and eventually her prayers were answered.

 

 All the while Augustine’s heart was

 hungering for something. He was aware that his inner self  was empty. Even though his life was filled with sensuality  and pleasure, fame and popularity, he knew there was  something more. He also knew that nature of the human heart  was destined for a higher and greater realty than what could  be found in this world. In his classic work setting forth  his odyssey to Christianity, known now as The Confessions of  St. Augustine, he wrote: “Our hearts were made for Thee, O  Lord, and they will not rest until they rest in Thee.”

 With that realization Augustine eventually became a  Christian.

 

 This hunger for “something more than

 what this life offers” is a hunger found in all of human  history and in all of its many cultures. In those moments  when we shut off all of the noise of this world and set  aside all of its busyness all of us long to escape the  prison of the now; all of us are in search for lives of  meaning and purpose beyond with is merely immediate; all of  us are attracted to handing our lives over in the service of  some great and noble cause.

 

 In our Christian view of things, aided

 by God’s revelations in Jesus Christ, we see that God made  us so that He could love us, and that in giving our love to  Him in return we experience more and more of His love. Love  is at the core of our Christian faith; love is at the core  of our being human; love is our drive and our destiny. We  were made to love and be loved in return.

 

 If all that is true (and I am convinced  that it is) it is hard to imagine that a God of love would  remain distant, aloof, and unattainable. Love craves union.

 God would, it seems to me, be compelled to come to us and be  present to us. Human history is therefore replete with  instances wherein we built temples, shrines to the Deity, as  well as our designation of certain places and spaces as  sacred. What anthropologist has not studied these sacred  buildings and places? What human culture is devoid of myths  and epic stories of our human attempts to place ourselves in  God’s presence? But the truth is that God has come to us.

 We have yet to come to God.

 

 What is unique for us as Christians is

 the notion that God has sought us out first. The enterprise  of religion, in the Christian view, is that religion is not  something we have fashioned; it is something rather that God  has fashioned. God first loves us and it is then that we  respond.

 

 The fact that God first loves us and

 then looks for our response cuts to the core of all that  causes us such pain and suffering, namely it cuts away human  arrogance, human egoism, and human pride. That’s what the  biblical story of the Tower of Babel teaches us. For  Babel’s tower was built according to human specifications,  human standards, human expectations, and our own human  agenda. In its collapse we learn that the real impulse is  the other way around. Religion is not something we fashion,  it is rather something that God fashions.

 

 To return to my main point, I want to

 assert that Christmas is the fulfillment of what is in  God’s heart. Christmas is all about God’s coming to us  in love so that He and we can live in each other’s  presence. But that is not all. There is more – a whole lot  more.

 

 Christmas is but a starting point. It

 is the starting point of our human saga, both collective and  personal, in which our hearts finally find rest in the  Presence of God. The fantastically wonderful thing, however,  is that this happiness is found in the truth that God comes  to us not just to become present to us, but to live in us!

 

 What a wonder that is! God joins

 himself into us so that he can live in our very own lives It  is God’s intention to dwell and abide (make His home) in  us. No more need now for our efforts in building temples in  which we can search out and find Him. No more need now for  endless and satisfying searching for God. He Himself has  done the searching out; He Himself has first come to us so  that we can respond, and in our response, have the wonder of  God Himself dwelling not only near us but abiding within  us.

 

 Our human response to God is initiated

 in the fiat of a little virgin girl named Mary, living in a  remote little Hebrew village named Nazareth.

 

 Imagine for a moment, if you will, an

 hourglass. The top half begins with wideness and is  fashioned so that the impulse of each grain of sand it  directed to a tiny, central point. All of the grains of sand  must pass through that one point, and when they do the glass  expands out once again into the wide area that comprises the  bottom half of the hourglass. The critical thing, however,  is that tiny, central opening, a sort of birth canal, if you  will.

 

 The Blessed Virgin Mary is that point

 for us. It was because of her openness, her virginal  openness, that all of our religious prehistory comes to us.

 And it is likewise that through her, all of God’s love is  poured out and made available to us throughout history ever  since.

 

 The great wonder of it all is that in

 Jesus Christ, who is at once both God and Mary’s son, each  one of us can be another Mary. Each one of us is now a  temple not only of God’s love but God’s very life living  within us. Each one of you here is a sacred space. In each  one of you others can sense the presence of the Living God.

 Like Mary, the living presence of God the Son abides within  us, not just for our own sakes, but so that we, like Mary,  can give Him to the world around us.

 

 Each one of you, and I along with you,

 can make an infinitely significant response to God’s offer  of love. When we are told that we are loved, and we respond  with a “yes”, our lives are changed. Something is placed  within our hearts that never goes away.

 

 This Christmas give God a most precious  gift – some of your time. Give Him your undivided  attention, a period of time in which you do nothing but open  yourself up to His presence. Even if you think that nothing  happens, something will happen. We are all so concerned  about what we must do, particularly at a time when we’re  so caught up in doing things. The best thing we can do is to  do nothing – do nothing but simply be in God’s  presence.

 

 Think of three good things about you,

 three really good things. Then thank God individually and  specifically those three good things. They are God’s gifts  of love to you. Wouldn’t it be a nice gift to give Him  your gratitude? Wouldn’t that be a nice gift to give Him  for this Christmas? There’s a hidden benefit for you in  doing that. If you have an attitude of gratitude you cannot  at the same time have a sour or negative disposition.

 

 Also you could ask God what He wants

 for you. Ask God to reveal what He wants to say to you, what  He wants to show you or give you. That’s another  wonderful, precious gift to give God. He isn’t interested  in a lot of memorized prayers, or a list of things you want  Him to do for you. He’s more interested in having you  simply give Him your inner self, your undivided and  uncluttered attention, your loving presence to Him.

 

 When you’re with a friend, what do

 you want? Isn’t it simply to be with your friend? We all  know that being is more important than doing; that it’s  who we are that’s more important to those who care for us  than what we accomplish. Well, that’s true with God,  also.

 

 God has gone to great lengths,

 unreasonable lengths, to be your Friend. This Christmas, why  not let Him?

 Fr. Charles Irvin

 Senior Priest

 Diocese of Lansing