The Means to Live with Christ in the World, December 30, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Southmont Conference Center, South Orange, NJ
Mass for December 30, Sixth Day of the Octave of Christmas
Memorial of St. Roger
December 30, 2015
1 Jn 2:12-17, Ps 96, Lk 2:22-40


Today’s homily was not recorded.

The following points were pondered in the homily: 

  • The “Reason for the Season” of Christmas, we pondered on Christmas Day, is not really “Jesus” but what Jesus seeks to do in us. As we prayed in the opening prayer for Mass during Christmas Day, Jesus, in humbling himself to share in our humanity, did so in order that we might become sharers in his divinity. Christ wants to raise us up, to make us holy like him, to bring us to share in his own divine life in this world and in the next. Today’s readings help us to see several ways in which Jesus wants to unite us with his own life. These are all manifestations of his “mercy mild” that the Church wants us to appreciate, assimilate, live and announce more during this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
  • In today’s epistle from the First Letter of St. John, we see six different things described in St. John’s words to the older and younger generation. Life in Christ involves, St. John tells us: (1) knowing the Father whom Christ came to reveal; (2) conquering the Evil One as Christ came to accomplish not just for himself but for us; (3) having our sins forgiven, which he has Lamb of God made possible; (4) having the Word of God remain in us; (5) doing the will of God as Jesus taught and did; and (6) not loving the world or the things of the world.
  • I’d like to spend most of our time on the last point, which St. John develops. He tells us that if we love the world we don’t have the love of the Father in us. What he means is not that we don’t love our human life, or our family, or the beauties of what God’s created. That “world” we’re called to love passionately. What he is describing, rather, is making the world that is influenced by the Evil One, who seeks to have us absolutize our love of the things of the world so that we will no longer love God, just as he sought to tempt Christ by making him love bread, power, and presumption more than he loved God the Father.
  • St. John stresses the three-fold concupiscence that is at the heart of the false love of the world: “sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life,” what traditional Catholic piety have called lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. The first form of sinful desire is a the lust of the flesh, in which we seek first and foremost to gratify our pleasures, through sexual sins, through gluttony, etc. The second form of sinful desire is lust of the eyes, which is a form of materialism that seeks to accumulate things as if our happiness lies in the abundance of possessions. The third is a pride of life, a desire to be in control, to lord over others, to dominate, to have our will be done. Against this three-fold concupiscence Jesus came to teach the way of chastity, poverty and obedience, three realities we’re called to ponder as we prepare for the last month of the 14-month Year of Consecrated Life. The evangelical counsel of chastity is meant to help us unite ourselves to the chaste Christ so that we might love others rather than use them for our own pleasure. The counsel of poverty seeks to help us become poor in spirit like Christ and place our real treasure in him and his kingdom. The counsel of obedience assists us to conform us to Christ in his obedience until death so that we might say in everything “Thy will, not mine be done.” During this Christmas season, we remember that Christ took on our humanity so that through uniting us to his poverty, chastity and obedience we might become sharers in his divinity. But if we’re attached to the world, that admirabile commercium, that wondrous exchange, won’t take place.
  • How this transformation is meant to occur in us is pointed to by the Gospel reading today, but in order to see how it’s helpful to mention a crucial distinction from St. Paul. St. Paul uses different terminology in his letters from St. John, but he seeks to make the same point. In Romans 8 and Galatians 5, he distinguishes the life of the three-fold concupiscence from the life of Christ. The first he calls “life according to the flesh” and the second “life according to the Holy Spirit.” He makes many profound points that we won’t ponder today, but the opposite of the love of the world that St. John condemns is life according to the Holy Spirit.
  • We see that life according to the Holy Spirit in the figure of Anna in today’s Gospel. Yesterday, St. Luke told us that Simeon “moved by the Spirit” had come into the Temple, that the “Holy Spirit was upon him” and that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Messiah. “Moved by the Spirit” is meant to summarize the Christian life that Christ had come to inaugurate. Anna, likewise, was living by the Spirit not of the flesh. It would have been easy for her after she was widowed as a young woman to just turn within in self-pity, as if God had abandoned her. Instead she spent the next several decades of her life docile to the Holy Spirit, worshipping God day in night in the temple, fasting, and praying, thanking God and, after she met Jesus, speaking about him to everyone who was awaiting redemption. It wasn’t about her, which is what a worldly life leads to; it was about God, which is what life according to the Spirit leads to. They are both great examples for us as to how we need to be celebrating this sixth day of Christmas and the reality of God-with-us-to-save-us.
  • Another person who lived moved by the Holy Spirit is the saint we celebrate today, my name saint, St. Roger. He was bishop of Canne, Italy, who died on this day in 1129. He was filled with a zeal for the salvation of souls and won people over by his incredible charity, opening up his bishop’s residence as a place to accommodate pilgrims and the poor, and after the destruction of his city by the Normand King Robert Guiscard, he labored indefatigably for the moral and material reconstruction of the city. Today during this Year of Consecrated Life within the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we ask him to inspire us to similar poverty, chastity and obedience according to our state of life, to help us open up the residence of our hearts to Christ in all the ways he seeks to come to us, and help to make us salt and light for the moral and material rebuilding of our culture!

The following were the readings for this morning: 

Reading 1
1 JN 2:12-17

I am writing to you, children,
because your sins have been forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have conquered the Evil One.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.I write to you, young men,
because you are strong and the word of God remains in you,
and you have conquered the Evil One.Do not love the world or the things of the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life,
is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.
But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 96:7-8A, 8B-9, 10

R. (11a) Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Bring gifts, and enter his courts;
worship the LORD in holy attire.
Tremble before him, all the earth.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

LK 2:36-40

There was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

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