Gaudete in Domino Semper! Rejoice in the Lord always! This is what our introit, our rose vestments and candle and all our readings impel us to choose.
What reasons have we for joy, though? A darkness palls over the West. Having already chucked Faith, Western societies are now casting aside that other wing of the contemplation of truth (cf Fides et Ratio), Reason, building their projects more frequently on a new, third foundation: Feelings. We see this movement in ideas like the main criterion for every decision is how I am feeling at the time; that life has value when I feel good, and less value when I don’t; that people are right or wrong depending on how hurt I feel by them; and, worst of all – that I am what I feel.
This is a destructive turn for us for many obvious reasons. If my sense of reality is built on how I feel, then I lose touch with reality – above all of my unchanging human dignity. It makes it more difficult to love – to give of myself to the other for their good, regardless of my feelings. We also lose our freedom: governed increasingly by my passions, instead of my reason, my well-being becomes dependent on wherever they want to take me. Daily life understandably becomes miserable and intolerable. So it’s no surprise that our educated, wealthy, and healthy society experiences skyrocketing incidents of mental illness and suicide.
It also means innocent people get hurt. Caught up in my emotions, I am less able to stop myself saying or doing hurtful things to others. Addiction becomes more common. And if right and wrong is whatever I feel it is, instead of universal truths, then it is ok if others are injured or oppressed if what I am doing ‘feels’ right. Telling lies to get a good outcome is ok, abortion is ok, euthanasing my parents is ok, stopping the freedom of movement or speech or religion of others is ok.
So – where is this joy to be found? All the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ John answers our question today: Someone is coming. Someone who is more powerful than I am…he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ This is the best news we could ever hear: the Creator is coming himself, this Christmas, and at the end of the world, to help us personally, and to sort everything out. We see very clearly there is no question of whether there is much to celebrate at Christmas: rather these times help us see how exciting the grace of Christmas is, and so impel us to live the feast of Christmas, and each of its 12 days, with all of our heart.
How will you do this? There are so many ways. Here I will just list three:
- Go to confession. Go with confidence to have your heart purified of evil.
- Pray every day before the empty manger, an image of our heart, begging the Lord to fill it with himself.
- Plan as a family how you will celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. It can be by each day visiting a new church to see their crib, or praying a decade of the Rosary, or visiting a poor or lonely or sick person, or receiving the Baby Jesus at mass. Plan it so you don’t waste this coming of the Saviour. Amen.