Some things that seem impossible will come to pass

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 24 December 2017.

Nothing Is Impossible with God

This evening and tomorrow, most Christians will be celebrating the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. When we do, our church buildings are likely to be fuller than any other time of the year. That so many people come to welcome the new-born Jesus is a good thing.

Today, those of us at church today, can intensify our spiritual preparation for Christmas by asking ourselves why so many people who come at Christmas stay away at other times of the year.

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Adoration of the Shepherds by the Dutch painter Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Perhaps it is because they feel torn inside? On the one hand, they feel drawn to the baby Jesus, God so gentle and kind, so eager to befriend them that He makes himself small. But on the other hand, they are afraid. Afraid that if they really make a commitment to Jesus, if they really make an effort to build a friendship with him, then they will have to follow His commandments and teachings.

 

Those teachings are not popular in today’s society. Jesus is pro-life: our culture is not. Jesus lived in humility and simplicity: our culture suffers from consumerism and over-indulgence. Jesus was truthful: our culture encourages deception, lies, and virtual “second lives”. Jesus was faithful: our culture encourages superficiality, hook-ups, quick fixes.

Our neighbours are torn: they feel Jesus tugging at their heart, but the tug of secular culture is just as strong, perhaps stronger. Many fear that if they follow Jesus, it will be impossible to be happy, because they will have to give up things that our culture says are necessary for happiness. But today the Church is reminding us, through the angel’s words to Our Blessed Lady, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” God can do all things, and no matter what we have to give up in order to live in friendship with him, He will give us much, much more.

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His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?…” 

“No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005

Don Bosco’s Multiplication Tables

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St John Bosco

Letting Christ into our lives does not mean that God will always do everything we want – he knows better than we do what is truly good for us. Even so, he sends us plenty of reminders that he is in charge, so we are not discouraged. One eloquent reminder is from the life of the founder of the Salesians, St John Bosco:

 

St John began a ministry for poor boys and orphans that taught them a trade during the day, In the evening, he gave them school and faith instructions. Every day he would spend time with the many boys in his school, and every morning he would hear confessions before breakfast. It was a common occurrence for the saint to point out, in the confessional, sins that the boys had forgotten or were afraid to confess.

One day in 1848 St John was celebrating Mass in honour of the Feast of the Annunciation. The small church was filled with 360 boys and young men. When the time came for Holy Communion, he went to the tabernacle to remove the Hosts. To his great surprise he discovered that only 8 Hosts were reserved there – not nearly enough for the large congregation. Many people present, including Giuseppe Buzzetti, who would later become one of the first Salesian priests and who was the altar server during that Mass, saw St John Bosco’s predicament and wondered what would happen. The saint removed the 8 Hosts from the tabernacle and began distributing Holy Communion. As the young Giuseppe followed the priest with the paten, he was amazed to watch as the ciborium continued to fill up with Hosts, miraculously allowing for everyone present to receive Holy Communion.

God sends miracles like these every once in a while, to boost our confidence, to remind us that nothing is impossible for Him.1

Pray and Act

This is the God in Whom we all believe. We know that He can do all things; we have experienced the power of His forgiveness, His goodness, and His love.

But today, as Christmas is right around the corner, we should think about all those people who haven’t experienced God’s goodness, those who are afraid that following Christ and his teachings will make happiness impossible, those who only come to Church at Christmas.

Is there anything we can do so that this year their Christmas attendance at church will not be the end of their spiritual life, but the beginning of a new friendship with Christ, the start of a new journey of faith with the God for whom nothing is impossible?

Yes. There are at least two things we can do.

First, starting today, starting right now, we can pray for them. If we ask the Lord to open their hearts in a new way this Christmas, maybe He will. And if we know someone in this situation, let’s pray for them by name. God has made us partners in his work of salvation; our prayers, united to Christ, can make a real difference.

Second, we can ask God to help them through us. If we put our lives at God’s disposal during these days, as the Blessed Virgin Mary did in today’s Gospel, he may put us in situations where our faith and experience of God can shine in a darkened heart, like spiritual Christmas lights. We mustn’t be afraid to let our light shine, speaking about the true meaning of Christmas, and backing up our words with our behaviour.

If we pray for those who don’t know Christ, and act as His messengers during all the holiday activities, maybe some things that seemed impossible will come to pass.

Notes

  1. Information for this Illustration was taken from therealpresence.org
  2. Readings are : 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16; Psalm 89: 2-3, 4-5, 27, 29; Romans 16:25-27; and LUke 1:26-3 Read them online.

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