By the time you read this many homes and parishes have their last candle of the Advent wreath lite. This last candle is the foundation for all the others even though it is given the fewest days to shine. What does this candle symbolize? Love. Even though it is only given a few days it teaches us that a little love goes a long way. While, I was preparing for the fourth Sunday of Advent I felt the second reading from the Mass whisper to me. The reading was from Hebrews 10: 5-10. These few verses remind us of our Lord’s sacrifice on Good Friday. We must never see the birth of Christ as something separate from His death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb. All these events are acts of God’s love for us. Please note, the entirety of the tenth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews addresses the themes of Christ’s sacrifice and our call to preserve from it. Via this chapter the theme of sacrifice is put before us. Traditionally, there are four questions that revolve around the idea and act of making a sacrifice within the Bible. Those four questions are:
- To whom is the sacrifice offered to?
- Who is offering the sacrifice?
- What is being sacrificed?
- For whom or what is the sacrifice being offer for?
These questions help us to consider and understand what is going on in the sacrificial event within the biblical story. Yet, as Christians we can see beyond these four questions. By the light of the four Gospels we know Christ is offering himself to the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for our salvation. The action of Christ’s embrace of the cross leads us to a fifth question. Why did God do it?
This question has been argued over since the birth of the Church from the side of Christ on Good Friday. One supposes the immediate answer is love. God loved us, so He saved us from our sins. Thus, we can now be with Him in love. That answer is nice and good. But, I see another important perspective for our lives. The passage from the letter to the Hebrews above quotes psalm forty, verses six to eight. We are told by the psalmist, within the Psalm, that God does not want our sacrifice of animals and bullocks. We are told our God prefers a heart that delights in doing His will. Again, why did Jesus choose to die on the cross? The answer to the question begins to take form is we reflect upon our fallen humanity. I think we (humanity) wanted the sacrifice. We hungered for Him to be sacrificed. The reality of this twisted hunger in our hearts begins with our first parents, Adam and Eve. The first sin of humanity was to try and become god. We committed idolatry, by trying to make ourselves into God. Every false idol requires a sacrifice. Idols can’t give life. They can only take it. Again, idols need something to be given over to it, so it can have life. However, the one true God does not need anything from us, for Him to have life. Our God is the source of life. Hence, when Christ allowed Himself to be sacrificed on the cross for us His death and subsequently His resurrection saved us from this twisted idolatrous hunger in our hearts to try and be God.
We see through Christ the true depth of God’s love. We can see it through the Spirit, who was sent, in full, by the Father and the Son, from heaven after the Son’s return to the Father. Thus, in the Spirit, we can now accept the love of God made know to us by the cross and empty tomb, live in that love, and become transformed by that love. Christ made the one and eternal sacrifice to destroy our idolatrous hearts of stone while also giving us His glorified and Sacred Heart (Ez 36:26, 2 Cor. 3:3).
The coming of the Christ Child gives an important insight into this new heart Christ has gained for us and offers to us. God did not come and save us in a way that would assault our senses. He came as a vulnerable child. Our God was willing to place himself into our hands. That is why our old stony heart’s that desired for a sacrifice, become cracked when we see God’s love from the cross. We can now see His child like heart pierced for us on the Cross. In that vision the heart of stone is shattered by that dark moment which has now been touched by Divine love. With our stony hearts laid asunder God’s love pours in to the emptiness, leading us to repent, so His heart can be given to us.
Through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ our new hearts no longer hunger to be God, but to be like Him who embraced the Cross for each of us. May we never forget that from the beginning we were made in the imagine and likeness of God. We are meant to be like God, now by Christ that is our reality. God became like us, to make His life fully known to us! And in His life, we become like Him. The mystery of God’s love that gained for us redemption and salvation can only be permeated by us through the gift of His love which must be accepted in humility. Why? Because our God is a God of humility. God’s humility is seen through His presence to us in human history, and is a call for us to echo His humility.
By God’s humility seen through Christ taking on our humanity He shows us what we are meant to be also as humans. This revelation comes through the paschal mystery by the power the Spirit. As the Spirit rested on the humanity of Christ, so now through the Christ, the Spirit makes it possible for us to be the fullest humans we are meant to be. By Christ we become our full human selves allowing us to become like God. By this revelation we can begin to understand the power of the statement that Saint Irenaeus of Lyon writes about Christ’s glory and humanity “For the glory of God is a human fully alive; and the life of a human consists in beholding God.”
Christ, the incarnation, makes it possible for us to now behold God in a way that Moses could only dream of during his life. God’s love for us is real. We honor and celebrate His love at every Mass. The depth of His love is made known to us by Christ and given to us in and by the Holy Spirit. Each of us are made by and for His love. We were born from it when we were sent by the mind of God into the world and entrusted to our parents.
May we never forget that hope allows us to sense His love. Faith allows us to accept his love. Joy is the sweet taste of the divine life for a soul who rests in His love. Before Christ could dwell in the womb of Mary, He had to first dwell in her heart. The same is true for each of us. Remember, God’s love conquered death, and his love still nourishes our lives here on earth by the gift of a new heart. As we approach Christ in the Eucharist, we must not be afraid, but trust in His love. When we trust in His love for us we say amen to Him. For by that amen, we let Him dwell in our bodies, so His Sacred Heart can become our new heart.
Have a great love for those who contradict and fail to love you, for in this way love is begotten in a heart that has no love. ~ St.