Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the fourth and therefore the last Sunday of Advent in our liturgical year. Christmas is coming soon and this week is the time traditionally prescribed by the Church as the time for the final preparation for Christmas. This Sunday we continue to observe and reflect on the major aspects of Christmas, that is Love. We have previously reflected on Hope, on Peace, and finally on Joy at the Gaudete Sunday last week.
Love is the central nature of Christmas and all that we celebrate. Indeed, love is the centre of everything, of why we still live and breathe comfortably now in this world. God loves us all, for we were created special, with the very image of our God imprinted on us, and we have been given the greatest gift of all. And what is this gift? It is the Gift of all gifts, surpassing all other gifts, that is Christ our Lord Himself, the Gift of God to all mankind.
As we have often talked about and discussed throughout this Advent season, this season is a time for ardent prayer and genuine preparation, a time for us to prepare for the ‘Adventus’ or the coming of the Lord. And after going through four Sundays in which we discern the true meaning of Christmas, we should all be ready and prepared to celebrate this Christmas meaningfully.
Otherwise, if we fail to understand the true meaning of Christmas, then we will not benefit from the richness of God’s grace which He had given to us, which will benefit us most if we can appreciate what Christmas truly is. Christmas is not just about the glorious and bountiful food, not just about the festivities and the parties, and not just about the decorations and shopping that we often do to prepare for Christmas.
Christmas is truly about love, the love of God for mankind. Surely we know that the Gospel has clearly spoken about God who loves us all so much, that He gave us His only Son, so that all those who believe in Him, the Son, will not perish but gain eternal life (John 3:16). This is the essence of Christmas, the coming of the Son into the world, so that a new Hope arises for the nations and for all the peoples.
So the aspect of love that we reflect on this Sunday, reflects this Love that God had shown us, the true meaning of Christmas that I have often emphasized. Without the love of God, there can be no Christmas, and there can be no hope for us. There can no true peace in us, if we do not embrace the peace brought to us by God’s Love in Christ. There can also be no joy in us that lasts, if we do not share in the joy of God’s Love.
What is love, brothers and sisters in Christ? Is love shown by expensive gifts or romantic activities, and all the things taught and shown to us by the world? Is it like what are being advertised to us in many things, about love? No, it is not that kind of love, for that kind of love is often selfish, love that is bound to possessions and material goods, love that is conditional and once spent, then no love is left. Sadly, this is also the reason why there are so much sorrow in the world, of broken families, of abuses in the family, of infighting and jealousy, and many others.
Love, and indeed real love, is not about all these, but is the kind of love which Love Himself, Christ, had shown us. For God is Love, and He had shown us what love really is. His love is true love, genuine and pure, unconditional and gentle. His love does not have any prerequisite, nor does He demand us to give Him something for the love He had shown us. Indeed, He loved us even when we are still sinners, and even laid down His life for us.
St. Paul mentioned in his letter to the Romans, that someone may want to give their life for the just and righteous ones, but very unlikely to do so, for those who are wicked and evil. But Jesus suffered for us, bearing all of our sins, and died for us, laying down His life, even when we are still sinners and wicked (Romans 5:8). And as Jesus had said that the greatest kind of love is for someone to lay down his life for a friend (John 15:13), then we can see indeed how much greater the love God had for us when He chose to lay down His life for us, sinners and evildoers.
God does detest our sins greatly. Sin has no place in His presence, as sin is a taint and corruption, and for He who is perfectly good and pure, sin is completely disgusting. And yet, His love is even greater than His hatred for our sins. He loves us so much that He was willing to endure all those sufferings in order to rescue us from our predicament of sin.
This is the kind of love we should really have with us, and the love we should cherish. For it is through the love of God that we can enjoy a new hope, true peace and real joy which the world and others cannot provide. His love for us is unconditional, and by His coming into the world, that we celebrate in Christmas, He offered Himself, His love and mercy for all of us, so that we may be saved.
But at the same time, we have to be vigilant and be careful, for this world certainly has done much to prevent the love of God from reaching us, as Satan is the Lord of this world, and he has all in his possessions and within his means to tempt us and lead us away from the salvation and love which God freely offers us all. And today, we celebrate the feast of a great and faithful servant of God, who is a devout and courageous defender of the Faith in God.
St. Peter Canisius was a Dutch Jesuit, who lived during the time of the Protestant ‘reformation’, when many of the faithful and the members of the Church were misguided and misled by those who have been corrupted by the lies and the confusion of the evil one. They left the Church and the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ as faithfully kept by the Church and chose to follow their own human desires, greed, selfishness, and other evils in them.
St. Peter Canisius joined the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuit order, which is the spearhead of the Church’s effort at Counter-Reformation, which main goal is to counter the heresy of Protestantism and bring as many souls as possible back to salvation that exists only in the Church of God. He led the effort of Counter-Reformation in what is now Germany, where the effects of the Protestant heresy is at its worst. He preached the true faith, and it was told that his preaching was so effective that hundreds and more returned to the true Faith.
He preached and taught in many places, and he persuaded many to return to the Faith not by coercion or force, but by clear reason and clear understanding of the Faith, and through that clarity in the teaching of the Faith, his words of truth, the truth of God rang deep into the depths of the hearts of many, who were convinced to abandon their heresy and return to the Holy Mother Church.
St. Peter Canisius was very particular in the matter of the education of the Faith to the people, and his most well-known legacy is the three books of Catechism he had written, which are the clear source of the teachings of the Faith, used in many generations and saved countless souls from sins and heresies. That is why his name today is also identical with Catholic education and several Jesuit education institutes adopted his name after he was made saint of the Holy Church.
He was also credited for his great devotion to Mary, and he taught that the best way to the Lord is through His mother Mary, and he was the one who added the response in the Ave Maria or Hail Mary prayer, “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners.” This clearly showed the importance of Mary in the lives of the faithful, for through her intercessions and prayers for us, God our Lord His Son, is most likely to hear our pleas and petitions, and mercy shall be shown us.
Why did St. Peter Canisius do all of these, brothers and sisters in Christ? Why did he go forth and preach to the heretics and those who have been lost to the darkness of the world? That is because of none other than God’s love for us, and His desire that we be found and be gathered again, that we will be lost sheep no more but belonging once more to the one flock of Christ, that is the Church.
The love of God is such, that He, although despising our sins and repelled by our wickedness, endure all of them, and even endure all forms of humiliation and rejection, none less by His own people, the ones whom He was sent to save! And yet, He persevered, out of that eternal and infinite love which He has in Him, for He is Love, and just as He wanted to share that love with us when He created us, thus, He wanted us to be loved by Him even when we have fallen into sin.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, even as we prepare for the Christmas celebrations which will be here in less than a week’s time, and even as we prepare to rejoice together with the whole world and the whole Universal Church at the celebration of the Birth of our Lord Jesus, let us never forget that this event is there in the first place, because of God and His Love for us, that is made real and concrete through His Son Jesus, who performed the act of ultimate love for us, to die for us for our sins on the cross at Calvary.
This Christmas, shall we then ponder at the love God has for us, that He was willing to enter into our world, and indeed into our lives and dwell within us? Let us never forget that Christ is at the heart of Christmas, and at the very heart of that celebration and joy is the Love of God, the eternal and undying love Christ had shown us through the cross, the very purpose of His coming into this world, and thus to liberate us from the chains of sin.
Sin no more, repent, change our ways and be wholeheartedly devoted to God from now on, that this Christmas and the next ones will be decidedly different from the past ones, that this time, we truly understand and fully embrace the love of Christ, the true meaning of Christmas. God bless us all and may St. Peter Canisius intercede for us always with the Blessed Mother of our Lord, Mary our mother. Amen.
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