Wednesday December 24, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Advent
Reading (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a-16) Gospel (St. Luke 1:67-79)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear the Canticle of Zechariah, the father of Saint John the Baptist. We recall that Zechariah was unable to speak for the nine months that John the Baptist was in his mother’s womb because Zechariah refused to believe what the angel had spoken. It was not a question like Our Lady had – “How can this be since I do not know man?” – but rather it was a denial that this could possibly happen. It was not simply seeking to understand, but it was a refusal to believe on Zechariah’s part. Nonetheless, God in His mercy had chosen this couple to bring John the Baptist into the world and when there was a sign that was given, the sign that the angel Gabriel told Zechariah was simply that he would be unable to speak until the day that the baby was born. And so the first thing out of Zechariah’s mouth when his tongue is loosed is this song that we heard today beginning with those wonderful words: Blessed the be the Lord, the God of Israel, He has come to His people and set them free. He goes on to talk about his son and what his son is to do, that he is going to be the prophet of the Most High, that he is going to bring to the people the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. It is all, again, to prepare the way of the Lord. As he says, In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Now when we put that into a different context, today on the Universal Calendar, interestingly, is the feast of Adam and Eve. They are saints and today is their feast day. The Church places them the day before Christmas because, in essence, what we have is a new birth, a new beginning. When we look at Adam and Eve as they began the human race, today we also keep in mind that there is a newness to humanity in Christ, that what God started with and the beauty of the human creature and the perfection of the human creature in the garden was completely spoiled by Adam and Eve, but it has been restored, and even more, by Jesus. He is the dawn from on high. He is the Sun of Justice with His healing rays. So as Our Lady comes first, then John the Baptist preparing the way for the sunrise, and then suddenly we have the new life, the Sun, Who is bringing to us those healing rays out of the darkness and the shadow of death and into the very light of God Himself.
When we put Adam and Eve next to Jesus, as the Church has done for us, it is first to look at what God has done in creation, and then now to look at the new creation because of what humanity has done to God’s creation. We have made it dark. We have cooperated with Satan in bringing darkness and nighttime, if you will, into the world. But, with Jesus, we have a new dawn; we have a new beginning; we have a re-created human race in Christ. For us, it is to be able to look at our fallen humanity in Adam and Eve; it is also to look at our redeemed humanity in Jesus Christ. As we do that, we must recognize that we have the capacity to live according to the way that God created us to live. It is not an easy way because He has not restored us to original justice, that is, the integrity that Adam and Eve had without sin, with their mind and their will being completely in control of everything in their lives and without the weakness that is there from sin. Obviously, we do not have that. However, we do have the grace of God which Adam and Eve had, and we have something which they did not, that is, a share in the divine nature. We have been raised to a divine level of acting and being in Jesus Christ; therefore, we have the capacity in Christ to do what we were created to do. We do not have to sit down with our arms folded and have a bad attitude and say, “Well, I just can’t do this.” By ourselves, no, we cannot; with God, all things are possible – even for each one of us to become saints, even for each one of us to overcome sin in our lives, even for each one of us to live in this world without sin. That is the way God created us to be. It will not happen without a lot of effort on our part, without a prayer life, without the desire for virtue, without having to stand up against the ways of the world and reject all of the sinful influences and all of the bad habits that we have developed over the years. But it can happen if we choose it, if we will it.
And so we have two different versions placed before us in juxtaposition. We have the human will, which is Adam and Eve and what they chose in opposition to God; and we have the Will of Jesus Christ, Who chose to be obedient. We have obedience and disobedience; we have life and death. That is what is placed before us. In Christ, there is new life, there is new hope. There is every reason to trust and believe as we look at the new beginning, the dawn from on high breaking upon us, as we look at that new Sunrise with His healing rays to take away our sins and to put us on the right track so that we will be able to have new life in Christ.
As we contemplate the incredible events that will be celebrated in this next day – the birth of God of a virgin into our world as a human being – think about what that really means for us. As beautiful as it is just in and of itself, Jesus did not come here for Himself; He came for us. He came to die so that we could have life. Then we need to ask, “How am I responding? How am I living out what He has come to do for me?” If we are not living the way that Christ wants us to, we need to look at Him because that is our only hope. If we have not proven to ourselves by now that we cannot do it by ourselves, one has to ask how long it is going to take before we figure it out. Quit looking at the self and look at Him. Look at what He has done for us and remember the words of Saint Paul: If God did not spare His only Son, do we think that He is going to withhold anything else from us? The answer is “no”. He has given us everything and He wants for us the greatest things. He gives us His Son and He wants us to be holy. That is the Will of God for each one of us if we will only embrace it and choose the new life in Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.