The third in a series of Advent reflections
By Fr. Louis Madey
Special to The Catholic Times
There are four encounters with God built into our very being. First we met Him as our Creator. In the mystery of the original sin and in our own individual sins we have messed up the beauty of His creation. We have deviated from the way of development into an ontological impossibility of sustained growth on our own. Sin is a decision and action against God and therefore with infinite consequences, we finite and limited beings cannot undo on our own.
Within the economy of God’s mercy, salvation — rescue from sin and its ultimate consequence, the eternal death — became a necessity. That deed of salvation, the miraculous divine intervention into the historical process of our warped existence, is the moment of our second encounter with Him in the mystery of His only Son’s incarnation into our flesh. That intervention has a cosmic dimension as well, relatedness — in other words — to the whole of creation, but especially to the redemption/renewal of the human family. Jesus comes not in any other way but by the way of human family, the Holy Family that is.
The third, and an ongoing encounter, is in the Eucharistic Communion with Him in the celebration of the Holy Mass in which He is our nourishment on the way to our fourth and final encounter in the Eschaton of all ages, through the gate of the last judgment, in Heaven.
Yet here the most dreadful consequence of sin — Hell — cannot be bypassed since freedom, our human, personal freedom, with which we are divinely endowed and without which love is inconceivable, can be abused against one’s personal communion with God in Christ and kill the life-giving love, plunging that person into the abyss of eternal death.
In the personal individual history, we meet with God on all four levels of our existence. Each one of us is called to being by Him. Each one of us participates in the encounter of the flesh-incarnation. Each one of us is called to the faith-response in the ecclesial-communion to His real-presence in the Holy Eucharist. And each one of us stands already in front of the last judgment, with every choice, decision and action.
In the context of this large picture of the mystery of our existence and our ultimate destiny — the nature and the meaning of religion — the Third, “Gaudete” Sunday of Advent invites us to rejoice: “… say to those hearts that are frightened: Be strong. Fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense, He comes to save you.”
What ought to be the source of our lasting, invincible joy?
Yes, our individual, social and family existence has been warped by the darkness and hopelessness of sin. Yet, it is God who enters, in Christ, that existence and by the power of His saving grace in Him, in His incarnation, death and resurrection, transforms its course from deadly decline to the graced-growth into the fullness of life He is.
There is no greater source of joy available to us human beings than to be in communion with Him in faith, hope and love. The saints, the holy martyrs of the Church, have shown that there is no power on earth and in this whole world that could take that joy away from us.
Fr. Louis Madey is a priest of the Diocese of Lansing, teaching theology at SS Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake.