Wednesday, 21 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding all of us to focus on the coming of the Lord Who has come to dwell among His people and how we, as those who are so fortunate to have been given such a great grace from God, should be ever grateful and appreciative of everything that He had done for our sake, from the very beginning until now. And as we continue to come ever closer to the season and celebrations of Christmas, we are constantly being reminded of why we rejoice this upcoming Christmas and what it is that we are all celebrating about. It is not about ourselves and our desires for merrymaking and festivities, all the joy and parties that we are celebrating Christmas for, but rather we rejoice because God’s love and mercy have been shown to us in the most concrete ways possible in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Song of Songs, we heard the words of the joy that a lover had found in discovering the true love, which was in fact a reference to mankind and their love for God. It was in fact the Lord speaking directly to all of us, His beloved people, the ones whom He loves dearly, of the joyous and happy days that will come our way, when our Lord will come to us and we will walk in His Presence once again, with the fullness of joy, and with the shame and the veil of sin have been lifted up from us, and death and destruction no longer hold their power and dominion over us. God has always reached out to us and sought for us, seeking to reconcile us with Himself, and in doing so, He sent us His own begotten and beloved Son, to be our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, her cousin, which happened because Mary heard from the Archangel Gabriel that Elizabeth, even in her old age and way past childbearing age, was bearing a child, who would be St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah. Meanwhile, Mary herself was in fact also bearing within her, her own Son, the Son of God just as the Archangel Gabriel had announced to her earlier on at the same occasion in Nazareth. It was the moment when God finally fulfilled the promises which He had promised mankind since the very beginning, that He would send unto them a Saviour, to deliver all of them from the hands of Satan, the dominion and bondage under sin, evil and death. Through the Son that Mary had borne within her, God will save all of His people.

Elizabeth herself, filled with the Holy Spirit and great joy, recognised Mary and the One she bore within her the very moment that she encountered her. She was thankful for the opportunity to be in the very presence of the Mother of God, to bring forth the Saviour Himself so close to her. Her own baby, St. John the Baptist, who was also still in her womb, also recognised his Lord and Master in the womb of Mary. Then, we heard as in our Psalm today, the glorious and most joyful words of Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat, praising God for all that He had done for His people, and the grace He has bestowed on all of us mankind, and also for herself, to be the Mother of God and Saviour, bringing for His salvation to all the people, fulfilling the many promises and the Covenant that He had made with all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these words of the Scriptures, we can clearly see that there is that sense of great joy that should also be present in each one of us, as we await the imminent coming of our Lord and Saviour, just as He has come into this world and entered our human history two millennia ago. As we draw now already so close to Christmas and the end of the current preparatory season of Advent, we really ought to be asking ourselves, if God is truly at the centre of our lives and existence? Is God truly our Lover, the One Whom we truly we love with all of our hearts and might, the One to Whom we give our fealty and heartiest obedience, with the greatest devotion and commitment? Is God the One Whom we truly celebrate this Christmas and all of its joyful festivities, as we should?

Or have we instead allowed the many temptations of this world to distract us and to prevent us from finding our path towards God? Have we allowed the many excesses of worldly and secular Christmas festivities and celebrations to distract us and make us forget of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place? That is why today’s Scripture readings serve to remind us all that Christmas is truly all about Christ, of God’s Love made manifest and tangible to us through His Son, that we may truly come to Him, approach Him and be cared by Him, our loving God and Shepherd, Who embraced each one of us and is willing to forgive us all our many sins and faults. He has always loved us all, without exception, and we truly should do our best to do the same, beginning first of all by remembering this Love at our Christmas celebrations this year.

Not only that, but we should also be ever more exemplary Christians in our way of life and deeds, following the good examples of the saints, our holy predecessors. And today we have a great example in St. Peter Canisius, holy Priest and one of the venerable Doctors of the Church, through whom many people had great inspiration and strength, hope and perseverance because of his many hard works and efforts, his patient teaching and ministry among the people who have gone wayward in their faith and lives. St. Peter Canisius was one of the founders of the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus, who was close friend of the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Peter Canisius hence became an integral part and member of the Jesuits, and was tasked with the conversion of all those who had lapsed and broken away from the Church during the height of the Protestant reformation.

St. Peter Canisius carried out his mission patiently, and went through many places in what is today Switzerland and Germany, preaching the word of God and establishing Jesuit institutions and also put a lot of emphasis on Catholic education and teaching, as according to him, it was poor understanding of the faith that led to many Christians falling away from the Church and its teachings and embracing false ideas and heresies that were aplenty at that time, as various dissidents proclaimed their own versions of the Christian faith and led many to the wrong paths. St. Peter Canisius calmly and patiently reached out to all those who have left the Church while caring for those who still remained in the Church, and expressly warned against actions that can be considered hostile or violent against those who have separated themselves from the Church could backfire and make things worse. In his own words, he said that ‘with words like these, we don’t cure patients, we make them incurable.’

St. Peter Canisius emphasised on proper teaching, catechism and better understanding and appreciation of the faith as the way to lead the people of God back to Him, and he was also credited with his famous Catechism, through which countless multitudes of people have believed in the Lord and knew more about Him, returning back from their rebellious path and being reconciled with God. These were just some of the many other great deeds that St. Peter Canisius had done, and which all of us should also therefore be inspired to follow in our own lives as well. We are all called and reminded to be focused on God and to dedicate our lives and works to Him just as St. Peter Canisius himself had done. Are we able to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing and able to commit our time and effort to serve the Lord and to honour Him at all times?

Let us all therefore do our best to do what we can to be ever more faithful and committed to God, in everything we say and do, in our every actions and interactions with one another. Let us also make our upcoming Christmas celebrations one that is truly centred on Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, that each and every one of us may become inspirations and source of strength for one another to be the beacons of God’s hope and light in the midst of our communities, walking in the same path that our holy predecessors had walked, especially that of St. Peter Canisius. May the Lord be with us always and may He bless our every good works and endeavours, all for His greater glory. Amen.

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