18 Dec Fourth Sunday of Advent
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
|The First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, iv. 1-5.|
|Brethren: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man's day; but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justified; but He that judgeth me, is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the time; until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise from God. (4)|
by Bishop Ehrler, 1891
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” (Luke 3: 4).
The whole season of Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of our Redeemer. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” It is divine faith, my dear brethren, which prompts this preparation; and heavenly hope, which encourages us to keep the Commandments, in spite of all obstacles which our evil inclinations oppose thereto; and to walk steadfastly in the way of salvation. But, since this path is, for the most part, rough, difficult, and repulsive to our natural desires, it is the all-powerful love of God alone, which can make all the crooked paths straight, and all the rough ways plain. If men would but love the Lord, their highest Good, with all their hearts, with all their souls, and with all their minds, they would easily overcome all obstacles, here below, and without doubt, would hereafter, “see the salvation of God;” that is, they would enjoy for all eternity, the Beatific Vision of Him Who is the delight of heaven and earth, our first beginning and our last end. My dearest Christians, I implore you, then, to love this Holy One Who is most loving, most lovely, and most perfect in all His attributes. Love the Lord, your God,
II. With your whole souls, that is, with your whole will; and
III. With your whole minds, that is, with all your memory.
I. Human understanding acknowledges that God is most worthy of our love:
2. Because all His works are infinitely great.
1. Knowledge of a good is essential to a love of it. No matter how precious a thing may be, if we do not know its value, we do not love it. God, it is true, is so far above us, my brethren, that we cannot fully comprehend His being or perfections. “What do you imagine God to be?” asks St. Augustine. “Whatever image you form of Him, is not correct; for He would not be God, if you could comprehend Him.” Nevertheless, the knowledge of Himself which God imparts to His creatures, is in proportion to their love for Him. No truer conception can be formed of the Deity, than that which regards and worships Him as the highest, most desirable, and everlasting Good; a good which may be, indeed, admired, but never comprehended by any of His creatures.
2. Man has been favored from the beginning, with the most wonderful revelations of the Deity. “The heavens show forth the glory of God (Ps. 18: 2).” He, it is, of Whom the Apostle says, “Of Him, and by Him, and in Him, are all things (Rom. 11: 36).” When we contemplate this great universe in which we live, we may form some idea of the majesty and grandeur of the Creator. “He manifests His inestimable power,” says St. Bernard, “in the creation of such numerous, great, various, and splendid things.” His marvelous wisdom is displayed in that matchless order which regulates everything above, below, and in the center of the earth. When we reflect upon the aim and exalted destiny of all created things, we can not sufficiently admire the goodness of God nor the wonderful beauties and benefits of creation in which even the most ungrateful have a share. By these, and similar considerations, we must endeavor as much as possible, my brethren, to grow in the knowledge of God. And this knowledge must certainly beget in our souls, a true and lasting love of God.
II. To love God with our whole souls, the will must be ready.
2. To do this in adverse, as well as in agreeable, circumstances.
1. God says to man; “My son give Me thy heart (Prov. 23: 26).” What does this mean, dear Christians? Nothing else but to do God's will, as He Himself explains: “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to my own heart, who shall do all my will (Acts 13: 22).” “Remain in My love,” says our Saviour to His disciples; “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love; as I always have kept my Father's commandments, and do remain in His love (John 15: 9, 10).” The commandment of love, “is the greatest and first commandment of the law (Matth. 22: 38),” yea, it is, as St. Paul declares it to be, “the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13: 10).” He that truly loves God will certainly keep His commandments; but he that does not keep his commandments, shows thereby that he has no love for God. If divine love is present in a soul, it is sufficient; but if every thing else is present, except charity, all else is of no account.
2. It is not enough to perform the will of God or obey His commands in certain circumstances agreeable to the Christian. Man's will must be submissive to that of God in all circumstances. “Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword? In all these things, we overcome, because of Him that hath loved us (Rom. 8: 35, 37).” What did not St. Paul, in common with all the other Apostles, suffer for Christ? Love assuaged all their pains, and sweetened all their tribulations. “Jacob served seven years for Rachel: and they seemed but a few days, because of the greatness of his love (Gen. 29:20)”; although that ancient patriarch acknowledges himself that: “Day and night was I parched with heat, and with frost, and sleep departed from my eyes (Gen. 31: 40).” According to the testimony of St. Bernard, “where true love exists, labor ceases to be a burden, and the lover finds a joy in the severest toil.” St. Chrysostom says, that an ardent lover often dies for his beloved, although, after death, he can expect no return from her. O, what an outrage! Man is willing and eager to do more for the love of a miserable, perishable creature, than for the love of his living God! How often, alas! my brethren, do we voluntarily turn our backs upon Him without even the excuse of a fear of death!
III. We love God with our memory
2. When we occupy our thoughts with those which we yet hope to receive from Him in the future.
1. Love always demands a return of love. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee (Jerem. 31: 3).” Mighty and manifold are the evidences of His love which God has manifested in His works. “Remember, man!” says St. Augustine, “that once thou hadst no being, but that now thou hast begun to live; and for this, thou hast to thank God.” “Thy hands have made me and formed me,” says the Psalmist (Ps. 118: 73). “Yes, thou hast made me,” man might exclaim, “only a little less than the Angels!” “Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor; and hast set him over the works of Thy hands (Ps. 8: 6, 7).” And St. Paul adds his testimony to this universal chorus of divine praise and love: “But God commendeth His charity toward us: because when as yet we were sinners, according to the time, Christ died for us (Rom. 5: 8, 9).” Let us not ask, dear Christians, with the ancient Prophet: “Why then is Thy apparel red, and thy garments like theirs that tread in the wine-press?”–for Christ answers, with a pathos and tenderness that might melt the very hardest heart: “‘I have trodden the wine-press alone (Isai. 63 : 2, 4).' I have suffered for you, I have agonized for you, I have shed the last drop of my blood, all out of pure love for you, my poor unworthy children!” Does not such love deserve–shall it not, this day, elicit an ardent and sincere return of love?
2. What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that He hath rendered to me?” cries the grateful Psalmist (Ps. 115: 12). To me! You see, my dear brethren, that here there is question of personal favors done the royal David. Apart from all those past benefits which are common to the whole human race, let us, (following his example), consider those particular blessings which we daily receive; the grace of Baptism and faith, the grace of vocation, the grace of God's longsuffering patience in our regard, the grace of conversion, of the frequent remission of our sins, all our daily inspirations from heaven, etc. O, Lord! what shall I render to Thee for all these things? “He hath not done in like manner to every nation (Ps. 147: 20).” “He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up on the water of refreshment (Ps. 22: 2).” “Unless the Lord had been my helper; my soul had almost dwelt in hell (Ps. 93: 17).” Ask yourselves, this hour, my brethren,–each one of you in the secret of your soul: What return can I make for all these benefits? And I will reply to you in the name of God: The only acceptable one of love. He requires nothing but what He Himself has commanded: Thou shall love the Lord thy God.”
Peroration.–Knowing clearly this commandment and the most perfect method of fulfilling it, let us, therefore, love the Lord our God with our whole heart, with our whole soul, and with all our mind. The very thought of such a precept should overwhelm us with humility and reverential gratitude. “My God!” exclaims St. Augustine, “who am I in comparison to thee, that thou shouldst command me to love Thee? Thou threatenest, and art angry when I do not love Thee! Thou promisest me a great reward for loving thee. Where, then, is my love for thee? What pleasure or gratification dost thou find in me?” What king says to his subject: “Let us be friends, and, as a reward, I will give you a whole province?” Not to our own merits, but to the ineffable goodness of God, are we indebted for all our blessings. He wishes to be loved, and He, alone, is most worthy of our love. How foolish then, are we, when we do not love Him! O most amiable God! from this time forward, we will love thee with our whole heart, and with our whole soul, and with our whole mind. By this love, shall we overcome all the difficulties of this life; all that is crooked in us shall be made straight, all that is rough in us shall be made plain. And, in the end, we “shall see the salvation of God,” and love and praise thee for all eternity! Amen. (1)
Image: Advent wreath with one rose candle and three purple candles, all lit; photo by Jonathunder. (6)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff