Homilies for December 2022

For the Second Sunday, Third Sunday, and Fourth Sunday in Advent, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and the Nativity of the Lord

Second Sunday of Advent – December 4, 2022

Readings: Is 11:1–10Ps 72:1–2, 7–8, 12–13, 17Rom 15:4–9Mt 3:1–12    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120422.cfm

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”1

These words of John the Baptist recounted in the Gospel passage today speak about repentance, the renouncing of one’s sins that one be united more closely to God and all His ways. And, within the New American Bible, this statement is accompanied by a corresponding footnote. Repentance is “a change of heart and conduct, a turning of one’s life from rebellion to obedience toward God.”2

John’s mission as precursor, obedient to the God who created him, is to make straight the way of the Lord. The central way in which John lived out this calling was to preach repentance to all he encountered, urge that they recognize their sinfulness and realize, with all of their heart, that they must renounce their sins and follow after the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.

And, within the Gospel of Luke, this is what the multitudes are seeking as they search for the Baptist in the desert that they might inquire, “What then should we do?” to which John replies: “‘Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He answered them, ‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’”3 Here John states nothing less than that we have a responsibility to be merciful to those less fortunate than ourselves. We should avoid sin, we should repent, renouncing our sins and imploring God to turn our lives from rebellion to obedience, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The word Heaven here literally means the Heavens, since this word was used as a substitute for the name of God. Using the Hebrew name for God was strictly avoided by devout Jews, out of reverence for God.

In stating that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, the Baptist is making the point that the Kingdom of God is upon them, because Jesus, the Son of God, has taken on flesh and is walking in their midst. And, if the people are about to see Jesus, they are about to see God, and if they are about to see God, the proper state for entering into His presence is freedom from sin.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons describes the power of seeing God in this manner: “For as those who see the light are within the light, and partake of its brilliancy; even so, those who see God are in God, and receive of His splendor. But [His] splendor vivifies them; those, therefore, who see God, do receive life. And for this reason, He, [although] beyond comprehension, and boundless and invisible, rendered Himself visible, and comprehensible, and within the capacity of those who believe, that He might vivify those who receive and behold Him through faith.”4

The Father rendered Himself comprehensible and visible in the Son, so that we might see Him and believe in Him through the eyes of faith. In seeing Him and believing in Him through the eyes of faith, we will receive life, He will vivify us.

It is for this reason that the Baptist warns the Sadducees and the Pharisees that, if they are unwilling to change their hearts and bear the fruit which can only come from a repentant soul, they will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The Pharisees were known for their clear adherence to the letter of the law, both written and oral; and the scribes, who were experts in the law, typically belonged to this group. The Sadducees, however, were born into the wealthy class and were priests. They only accepted the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). They rejected the oral legal tradition, and were against any teaching outside of what is found in the Pentateuch. One of the more notable teachings the Sadducees rejected was the resurrection of the dead. Both sects appeared outwardly pious, adherent to the Law, but in their hearts they remained unrepentant.

This is the reason Christ goes on to explain that what defiles a man is sin: “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one. . . . Do you not realize that everything that enters the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’”5

John takes great care to warn the Sadducees and the Pharisees that it is not enough to hold to the letter of the Law through an outward show of piety. Instead, they must rend their hearts and repent of what originates from the interior; then they will begin to bear the fruit that befits repentance.

The fruits of repentance are forgiveness, love, and true charity. It is the humbled heart, through genuine repentance, that receives God’s transformative grace, the facility to be forgiving, loving, and charitable to others. John is attempting to impress upon the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, and Israelites that they cannot hide behind the idea that they will be saved simply because they are descendants of Abraham. John reminds them that God can raise up descendants of Abraham from the nearby stones. Rather, it is a repentant heart, God’s grace, and deep faith that will save them, as St. Irenaeus asserts:

“All who have known God from the beginning, and have foretold the advent of Christ, have received the revelation from the Son Himself; who also in the last times was made visible and passible, and spoke with the human race, that He might from the stones raise up children unto Abraham, and fulfill the promise which God had given him, and that He might make his seed as the stars of heaven (cf. Gen. 15:5), as John the Baptist says: ‘For God is able from these stones to raise up children unto Abraham’ (cf. Mt. 3:9). Now, this Jesus did by drawing us off from the religion of stones, and bringing us over from hard and fruitless cogitations, and establishing in us a faith like to Abraham. As Paul does also testify, saying that we are children of Abraham because of the similarity of our faith, and the promise of inheritance” (cf. Rom. 4:12; Gal. 4:28).6

Those who have faith in Christ are children of Abraham, a faith not of fruitless cogitations, but one born of the heart like Abraham’s. And we cannot possess true faith along with the barrier of our sin; this is the Baptism John wishes to bestow on the people — a Baptism of repentance.

Thus, we must realize, John’s Baptism of repentance differs greatly from the Sacrament of Baptism. As John states: “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.”7 The Sacrament of Baptism “seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation” (cf. Rom 8:29; Council of Trent (1547): DS 1609-1619).8 “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature’ (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:4; Gal 4:5–7), member of Christ and co-heir with him (cf. 1 Cor 6:15; 12:27; Rom 8:17), and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (cf. 1 Cor 6:19).9

In other words, we are changed forever once we receive the Sacrament of Baptism, and through the Sacrament of Baptism, we become adopted sons and daughters, co-heirs, partakers of the Divine nature.

Jesus gave His life that we be saved through the grace of the sacrament; yet we must will to be saved. As we hear in the third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “‘His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’”10

St. Irenaeus speaks more in depth concerning the chaff and the wheat: “For He who makes the chaff and He who makes the wheat are not different persons, but one and the same, who judges them, that is, separates them. But the wheat and the chaff, being inanimate and irrational, have been made such by nature. But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect like to God, having been made free in his will, and with power over himself, is himself the cause to himself, that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff. Wherefore also he shall be justly condemned, because, having been created a rational being, he lost the true rationality, and living irrationally, opposed the righteousness of God, giving himself over to every earthly spirit, and serving all lusts; as says the prophet, ‘Man, being in [honor], did not understand: he was assimilated to senseless beasts, and made like to them.’”11

In other words, inanimate things have been made so by God, but mankind is made in the image and likeness of God and has been given the gift of free will. If we choose with our free will to transgress God’s Law, we are irrational, and the choice we make in choosing sin over the greatest good will blind us, allowing us to fall further into sin. But through the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation, we are released from our sins, and we are given the grace to avoid these near occasions of sin.

These Sacraments, along with the other five, impart God’s grace to us, and we must have gratitude for the fact that they are realized only through the great sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Thus, we must be among the faithful, those who conform our free will to God’s will for us. Then Jesus, He who makes both the chaff and the wheat, Who clears the threshing floor and gathers the wheat, will raise us up: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”12

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – December 8, 2022

Readings: Gn 3:9–15, 20Ps 98:1, 2–3ab, 3cd–4Eph 1:3–6, 11–12Lk 1:26–38    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120822.cfm

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”

On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we hear the exalted greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, she who is conceived free from the stain of any and all sin is called “full of grace.” And this truth proclaimed by the Archangel emphasizes that God gave Mary an unparalleled grace which prepared her for this moment, that she freely and perfectly conform her will to what God wills for her.

A Syrian Father of the Church, Jacob of Serug, speaks of the Blessed Virgin’s purity within his homilies on the Nativity: “The very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.”13

It is this pure soul who offered her fiat, her yes to God, to conceive and bear the Word, the Son of the Eternal Father, Jesus Christ. And, it is through this most important yes, that the Second Person of the Trinity, by means of the power of the Holy Spirit, took on flesh in her womb.

Therefore, is it not fitting that the Divine Word, Jesus Christ, take on flesh within the womb of a woman untainted by the stain of any sin? That the Father send His Son, through an act of God, an act accomplished by the very One Who is to be conceived and take on flesh in her womb? Not only does Christ have the power to offer His Life in Sacrifice and take it up again, but also the power to preserve the Blessed Virgin from the stain of all sin — at conception, in advance of His Sacrifice within the order of time. His Sacrifice was undertaken that this unique and singular preservation be accomplished, as well as the remission of the sins of mankind.

Thus, we should not be astonished that the Church has selected this Gospel account to be proclaimed during this Solemn Liturgy, proclaimed within the season of Advent, because we anticipate with great expectation the celebration of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Also, most especially, this Gospel is fitting because we are aware that the Birth of Christ marked a particular beginning in time, the point at which the Eternal Son physically entered time, that He complete His salvific mission, offering His life in sacrifice for our sins, that we might have life and have it abundantly.

But, when the Blessed Virgin hears the proclamation of the Archangel, we know that the Gospel passage states: “She was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”14 Surely, the Blessed Virgin must have known that she was different, that, due to the fact that she was preserved at conception from the stain of any and all sin she must have stood out to others. So, why would Our Lady be unsettled at hearing the Archangel pronounce these words? Why would she, who possessed such faith in God, be concerned?

Her will was so united with God’s will as a result of being full of grace, that Mary would not have doubted the will of God for her. And although, she, like us, had the ability to reject the will of God, it would seem almost impossible that she not always choose the greatest good.

It seems, then, that the Blessed Mother, in the depths of her humility, could have simply been astounded to hear these words addressed to her, and been uncomfortable with them due to her profound sense of humility. The Blessed Virgin did not search for honors or to be exalted, rather, she sought to live out a holy life with St. Joseph to whom she was betrothed, praising God daily for His many blessings.

When Mary listened to the Archangel Gabriel speak the will of God for her, that she, a virgin, would conceive and bear a Son, whom she will name Jesus and Who will be called Son of the Most High, she must have known within her heart that this is what God was asking of her, that this is what she was created for.

This being true, what can one say about the Blessed Virgin’s question, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”15 This short phrase is understood more fully only when we consider the Greek text of this passage, the question of Our Lady is not phrased: How can this be [as it has been translated into English]. Rather, it is phrased: How shall this be, in other words, in what manner shall this take place.

In response to this question, St. Ambrose wrote: “She does not appear to have doubted the event but asked how it would take place. Clearly, if she asked how it would happen, she must have believed in its fulfillment. Thus, she merited to hear the words, ‘Blessed are you, because you have believed’” (Lk. 1:45).16 The Archangel immediately answers Mary’s question: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” And, a few verses later, we hear of Mary’s consent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”17 This is the manner in which the mother of Jesus will conceive and bear the Word, and from the moment of His conception she will not cease being there for Him.

Like light which passes through a clear pane of glass, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, she took care of Him, raised Him, and prayed for Him. She was there when He made His way to Calvary suffering with His every step. And, it was Jesus, her Beloved Son, who gave her to us from the Altar of the Cross that she might watch over us, and guide us, as she guided her Son. These are the events that Our Lady pondered in her heart, the mysteries that we contemplate when we pray the rosary. And, just as pondering these events brought Our Lady ever closer to her Son, so also with us.

Thus, let all who live in the hope of eternal life contemplate and imitate the life of the Immaculate Conception, of whom St. John Eudes writes so eloquently:

“The most holy Heart of Mary is indeed an excellent image of divine purity and holiness. Not only was her most pure and holy Heart always far removed from every kind of sin, but it was entirely free from attachment to created things, and intimately united to God by its pure and holy love for Him together with the eminent practice of all the other virtues which Mary’s Heart possessed in so high a degree. The Queen of Virtues is called by St. John Damascene ‘the abode and the sanctuary of all virtues’ (cf. Virtutum omnium domicilium. De fide orthodoxa, lib. 4 Cap. 15).

“. . . The most holy Heart of the Queen of all Saints remained forever immaculate, preserved in eminent purity and holiness, and entirely filled with the purity and sanctity of God Himself. Her being was transformed and submerged in divine purity and holiness, to the surpassing extent that her Heart merited to obtain the world’s salvation. As St. Anselm expresses it: ‘The pure sanctity and holy purity of Mary’s devout Heart, surpassing by far the purity and sanctity of all other creatures, merited for her the sublime dignity of becoming the Restorer of the world wrapped in perdition’ (cf. Pura enim sanctitas et sanctissima puritas piissimi Pectoris ejus, omnem omnis creaturae puritatem sive sanctitatem transcendens, incomparabili sublimitate hoc promeruit, ut Reparatrix perditi orbis benignissimi fieret. De excell. B. Virg. Cap. 9).

“If you would find a place in the sanctuary of Mary’s admirable Heart, which so perfectly mirrors the purity and sanctity of the Most High, you must purify your heart and realize the meaning of the words: ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Th. 4:3). These words are not meant just for souls specially consecrated and set apart. You must apply them to yourself, you who bear the name and imprint of Christ and membership in His mystical Body. The sanctification of your spirit, heart and body is more than a commandment; it is a privilege, a participation, granted to you through the purity and sanctity of the heart of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and your own Mother.”18

Third Sunday of Advent – December 11, 2022

Readings: Is 35:1–6a, 10Ps 146:6–7, 8–9, 9–10Jas 5:7–10Mt 11:2–11    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121122.cfm

“What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”19

Christ poses these questions to the crowds, in an attempt to get them to think about what motivated them to go out to the desert. We know it was not to see royalty in the earthly sense, or to enter into the presence of an earthly king or prince. Rather, they went out to the desert because they felt drawn to the Baptist. Because they felt drawn to John, some believed him to be the Messiah.

Yet, as we see in the Gospel of John, the Baptist himself attests that he is not the Messiah: “When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites [to him] to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ So they asked him, ‘What are you then? Are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?’ He said: “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as Isaiah the prophet said.”20

This should make it clear to us that John understands who he is and what he has been called to accomplish. He is completely unambiguous about his mission. John is fully aware that he is not the Messiah; rather, he is content and fulfilled to be the voice of one crying out in the desert — the precursor, called to prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

This humility, the humility that John exhibits, is the main reason Jesus refers to the Baptist as great: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”21

St. Cyril of Alexandria speaks of St. John the Baptist within his commentaries on the Gospel of Luke:

“In order, then, that . . . He might prove that those who believe in Him are better and superior to them, and that the glories of the followers of the law are evidently but small in comparison with the evangelic mode of life, He takes him who was the best of their whole class, but nevertheless was born of woman, I mean the blessed Baptist: and having affirmed that he is a prophet, or rather above the measure of the prophets, and that among those born of women no one had arisen greater than he in righteousness, that namely, which is by the law, He declares, that he who is small, who falls short, that is, of his measure, and is inferior to him in the righteousness that is by the law, is greater than he: — not greater, in legal righteousness, but in the kingdom of God, even in faith, and the excellencies which result from faith. For faith crowns those that receive it with glories that surpass the law.

“And this [you earn], and [will yourself] affirm to be the case, when [you meet] with the words of the blessed Paul: for having declared himself to be free from blame in the righteousness that is by the law, he added forthwith, ‘But those things that were gain unto me, those I have counted loss for Christ’s sake: and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ: not having my own righteousness which is by the law, but the righteousness that is of the faith of Jesus Christ.’ And the Israelites he even considers deserving of great blame, thus saying: ‘For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, that namely which is by Christ, and seeking to establish their own; even that which is by the law; they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the completion of the law for righteousness unto every one that [believes].’ And again, when speaking of these things: ‘We, he says, who by nature are Jews, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, we also have believed in Jesus Christ, that we may be justified in Him.’

“The being justified, therefore, by Christ, that is to say, by faith in Him, surpasses the glories of the righteousness that is by the law. For this reason, the blessed Baptist is brought forward, as one who had attained the foremost place in legal righteousness, and to a praise so far incomparable. And yet even thus he is ranked as less than one who is least: ‘for the least, He says, is greater than he in the kingdom of God.’ But the kingdom of God signifies, as we affirm, the grace that is by faith, by means of which we are accounted worthy of every blessing, and of the possession of the rich gifts which come from above from God. For it frees us from all blame; and makes us . . . the sons of God, partakers of the Holy Ghost, and heirs of a heavenly inheritance.”22

Here we must understand, a righteousness based upon adherence to the letter of the law alone is not enough to be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about justification and righteousness in paragraph 1992:

“Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life (cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529): ‘But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus’” (cf. Rom 3:21–26).23

Through the power of God’s grace, the Baptist is righteous, humble, and just — among those born of women, no one is greater than John. Thus, it is being justified through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ and the power of His grace, which allows us to surpass a righteousness attained through the strict adherence of the law.

This is the New Covenant, the New and Everlasting Covenant between God and us, within which Jesus offers His life in Sacrifice on the Cross, that we understand in the depths of our hearts and souls that God’s Law is not to be kept out of the fear of punishment. Rather, it should be understood and internalized as a help and guide which leads us toward greater union with God. Through this union, we understand His loving care for us, and recognize that He always has our ultimate salvation in mind. This is what the Lord has undertaken out of love for us, this is what He freely accepted, and has freely given from His heart, that we might know the measure of His love: “This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord: ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds . . .’”24

Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 18, 2022

Readings: Is 7:10–14Ps 24:1–2, 3–4, 5–6Rom 1:1–7Mt 1:18–24    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121822.cfm

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”25

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we contemplate these words of the angel of the Lord, who appeared to St. Joseph in a dream, bearing the message that it is through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. That “[s]he will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”26 This knowledge granted that St. Joseph’s heart be at peace with the idea of taking Mary, his wife, into his home.

Mary was found with child, during the period of time that she and St. Joseph were betrothed to each other, but had not — as yet — lived together. According to ancient Jewish marriage custom, to be betrothed was to enter into a marriage covenant. This established that the man betrothed was legally married to the woman. The betrothal reserved this young woman to this particular man, though the woman would remain living with her father for a year or more before the day of the actual marriage ceremony. This covenant was considered so binding that one had to contract a divorce to be released from the betrothal.

At the beginning of the passage, it states that St. Joseph was a righteous man. He was a man of great faith, a man who loved God and followed in all His ways. Then why does the Gospel passage go on to state that “since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly”?27 We receive an answer to this question, when we consider the Greek text of this passage. Specifically, that the Greek word apolusai has also been translated into English: separate from or dismiss, instead of the word divorce, the word selected for the English translation of the New American Bible.

St. Joseph, a devout Jew, obedient to the will of God, was awaiting the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah, as were the rest of the Jews. He had known Mary to be an extraordinary woman of faith, a woman who radiated holiness, a unique holiness that was not found elsewhere in those around him. Thus, we must realize, it is highly unlikely that St. Joseph doubted the fidelity of Mary. He knew in the depths of his heart and soul that she was with child through an act of God. His response to this fact was not one of doubt; rather, St. Joseph was in awe of the mystery of God. He simply feared that he was lacking in holiness — to be in the presence of Mary and the Messiah, the One who would bring salvation to all people.

Therefore, St. Joseph was seeking to separate, or dismiss himself, from the presence of Mary and Jesus, as St. Peter, when he recognized the holiness of Christ, and his own unworthiness: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”28

In confirmation of this concept, this account can be juxtaposed with a passage from the Gospel of Luke, where an angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah, a Levite and priest, righteous in the eyes of God. “[T]he angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense.” But “Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.” Even so, “the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord . . .’”

After hearing the proclamation of the angel, Zechariah, unlike St. Joseph, expresses doubt: “‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’ And the angel said to him in reply, ‘I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.’”29 The result of this doubt is that Zechariah is rendered unable to speak until the day his son, John the Baptist, is circumcised.

Can you imagine the overwhelming nature of the holy mission entrusted to St. Joseph? That he was to be the husband of Mary, and, not only her husband, but also the foster father of the Messiah, the Christ of God! And yet, through the power of God’s grace, St. Joseph accepts this mission as the Gospel of Luke confirms: “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”30 He accepts his mission, because of his faith, his unwavering trust, that God will watch over all of them and protect them.

Another important point to be considered is present within the last verse of chapter 1 of the Gospel of Matthew: “He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.”31 Here, the Greek word heos has been translated as the English word until, and this occurs many places within the New American Bible. However, just because the Greek word heos is translated until, this does not necessitate that a change in status has occurred. In other words, before, and after, Mary gave birth to Jesus, she remained perpetually a virgin. The word until does not denote that after Mary gave birth to Jesus, she subsequently had relations with St. Joseph. One can see elsewhere in the Bible that the word heos or until has been used in a similar manner. An example of this is found within the last verse of the Gospel of Matthew: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”32 Using the word until here does not indicate that Jesus ceases to be with His people at the end of the age. Instead, we must recognize that Jesus promised to remain with us always, for all Eternity.

May God grant us an unwavering faith, the same faith that St. Joseph possessed. And as we await with joyful expectation the celebration of the birth of Christ, may He grant us the grace to trust with even greater zeal, in the Father who loves us more than we could ever imagine.

The Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas) – December 25, 2022

Readings for the Vigil: Is 62:1–5Ps 89:4–5, 16–17, 27, 29Acts 13:16–17, 22–25Mt 1:1–25

Readings for the Day: Is 52:7–10Ps 98:1, 2–3, 3–4, 5–6Heb 1:1–6Jn 1:1–18

All Christmas Readings: bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122522.cfm

“Jesus, Redeemer of all, Who is before the origin of light, equal to the glory of the Father, the Supreme Father sends forth. You are the light and splendor of the Father, You are the perennial hope of all; attend the entreaties which Your servants pour out through the earth.

“Remember, O Author of things, because once from our flesh holy things came from the womb of the virgin; by being born, You have assumed human form. The day now at hand declares this, the day hastening through the course of time, [declares] that alone from the bosom of the Father, You came for the salvation of the world. The stars, the earth, the sea; everything which is under the heavens, greet this Author of a new salvation with a new song. And we, to whom He conducted a blessed wave of sacred blood, release a tribute of praise for the day of Your birth. Jesus, born of the virgin, to You be glory, with the Father and the kind Spirit unto everlasting ages.”33

On this Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, we ponder these words of the Latin hymn Jesu Redemptor Omnium. Specifically, that Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is One with the Father before the origin of all created light and that He is sent by the Supreme Father that He take on flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This reality is reflected today within the Prologue of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”34

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of creation and God’s providence in paragraph 280:

“Creation is the foundation of ‘all God’s saving plans,’ the ‘beginning of the history of salvation’ (cf. GCD 51) that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth:’ from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ” (cf. Gen 1:1; Rom 8:18–23).35

In this regard, we know that the Book of the Prophet Isaiah offers us a beautiful image as Isaiah prophesies concerning a people who dwell in the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali. Although this people walked in a land of darkness and gloom, they have witnessed a great light.

Isaiah uses the analogy of light to speak about God Who is all light and all truth Himself. And, if there be any doubt about whom Isaiah is speaking, this is completely dispelled from our minds and hearts, as we read a few verses later: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’”36 Isaiah is inspired by the Holy Spirit to write about the Only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, approximately seven hundred years before Christ took on flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Thus, we should not be surprised that St. John the Apostle and Evangelist also makes a connection between this light, and what he has seen as a follower of Christ. With his own eyes he has seen the light of the world, Jesus Christ, the One Who enables the blind to receive their sight, the lame to walk, lepers to be cleansed, and the deaf to hear.

But do we really possess a clear concept of what it is to encounter someone who is completely without sin, someone who is purity itself? We have met many people over the course of our lives, and no doubt a few have exhibited true holiness; yet not one of them was perfectly sinless. And, if we look to creation and the analogy of light Isaiah invokes, we have a magnificent concept to begin speaking about God. However, we must acknowledge the ways in which this analogy fails to grasp the reality of God, how created light is not seen by our eyes perfectly, how it can be refracted and diminished through particles in the air, or through certain materials such as plastic or glass, so that our eyes fail to receive the fullness of light the source emits.

Unlike the material world, Jesus is fully God and fully Man; He is One with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He exists outside of time; He is Divine and cannot be corrupted or diminished by this world. Christ is completely without corruption, and it is He Who willingly takes on flesh, not for His Own sake, but rather, for our sake. Christ, Who owed no debt for sin, out of love and mercy submitted His body to pain, suffering, and death, for us.

This is the very core of love and mercy. He, Who is God Himself, took on flesh in the womb of a humble Virgin and is born in a simple stable. God’s providence allows for these humble beginnings. Jesus was not born into a rich and powerful family. The Son of God was not born of this Virgin that He serve Himself. He was not seeking riches, nor looking to secure for Himself any earthly power over others. Instead, Jesus desires always to humble Himself, to serve and heal others. To have mercy on those most in need.

Thus, let us ponder with great joy these words of St. Gregory Nazianzen:

“Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth; be exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him Who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope. Christ of a Virgin; O you Matrons live as Virgins, that you may be Mothers of Christ. Who does not worship Him That is from the beginning? Who does not glorify Him That is the Last?

“II. Again the darkness is past; again, Light is made; again, Egypt is punished with darkness; again, Israel is enlightened by a pillar (cf. Ex. 14:20). The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, let it see the Great Light of full knowledge (cf. Is. 9:6). Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new (cf. 1 Cor. 5:17). The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front. The shadows flee away, the Truth comes in upon them. Melchizedek is concluded. He that was without Mother becomes without Father (without Mother of His former state, without Father of His second). The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled. Christ commands it, let us not set ourselves against Him. O clap your hands together all you people, because unto us a Child is born, and a Son given unto us, Whose Government is upon His shoulder (for with the Cross it is raised up), and His Name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father (cf. Is 9:6). Let John cry, Prepare the way of the Lord (cf. Mat. 3:3): I too will cry the power of this Day. He Who is not carnal is Incarnate; the Son of God becomes the Son of Man, Jesus Christ the Same yesterday, and today, and forever (cf. Heb. 13:8). Let the Jews be offended, let the Greeks deride (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23); let heretics talk till their tongues ache. Then shall they believe, when they see Him ascending up into heaven; and if not then, yet when they see Him coming out of heaven and sitting as Judge.

“III. Of these on a future occasion; for the present the Festival is the Theophany or Birth-day, for it is called both, two titles being given to the one thing. For God was manifested to man by birth. On the one hand Being, and eternally Being, of the Eternal Being, above cause and word, for there was no word before The Word; and on the other hand for our sakes also Becoming, that He Who gives us our being might also give us our Well-being, or rather might restore us by His Incarnation, when we had by wickedness fallen from wellbeing. The name Theophany is given to it in reference to the Manifestation, and that of Birthday in respect of His Birth.

“IV. This is our present Festival; it is this which we are celebrating today, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God — that putting off the old man, we might put on the New; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:22), being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him (cf. Col. 2:11). For I must undergo the beautiful conversion, and as the painful succeeded the more blissful, so must the more blissful come out of the painful. For where sin abounded Grace did much more abound (cf. Rom. 5:20); and if a taste condemned us, how much more does the Passion of Christ justify us? Therefore, let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own but as belonging to Him Who is ours, or rather as our Master’s; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation.”37

  1. Catholic Biblical Association of America. 1986. Saint Joseph edition of the new American Bible., Mt. 3:2. (Hereafter cited as NAB).
  2. NAB, Mt. 3:2., (footnote, pg. 13).
  3. Lk. 3:10–13.
  4. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies: Book 4. Chapter 20. www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103420.htm. (Hereafter cited as Irenaeus).
  5. NAB, Mt. 15:11–20.
  6. Irenaeus, Against Heresies: Book 4. Chapter 7. www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103407.htm.
  7. NAB, Mt. 3:11.
  8. Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in Accordance with the Official Latin Text Promulgated by Pope John Paul II. 2nd ed. Vatican City; Washington, DC: Libreria Editrice Vaticana; United States Catholic Conference, 1997., 1272. Hereafter CCC.
  9. CCC, 1265.
  10. NAB, Mt. 3:12.
  11. Irenaeus, Against Heresies: Book 4. Chapter 4. www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103404.htm.
  12. NAB, 1 Jn. 3:1.
  13. Jacob of Serug. Homilies on the Nativity. www.newadvent.org/cathen/07674d.htm.
  14. NAB, Lk. 1:29.
  15. Lk.1:34.
  16. Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999)., 196, as quoting Expositio in Lucam 2, 17; PL 15, 1640.
  17. NAB, Lk. 1:35–38.
  18. St. John Eudes. Heart of Mary, Mirror of God’s Strength and Purity. https://www.piercedhearts.org/hearts_jesus_mary/heart_mary/heart_mary_mirror_strength_purity_eudes.htm.
  19. NAB, Mt. 11:7–9.
  20. NAB, Jn. 1:19–23.
  21. NAB, Mt. 11:11.
  22. St. Cyril of Alexandria. Commentary on Luke (1859). Sermon 38. https://www.tertullian.org/fathers/cyril_on_luke_03_sermons_26_38.htm#SERMON%20XXVII.
  23. CCC, 1992.
  24. NAB, Heb. 10:16.
  25. NAB, Mt. 1:20.
  26. NAB, Mt. 1:21.
  27. NAB, Mt. 1:19.
  28. NAB, Lk. 5:8.
  29. NAB, Lk 1:5–20.
  30. NAB, Mt. 1:24.
  31. NAB, Mt. 1:25.
  32. NAB, Mt. 28:20.
  33. Jesu Redemptor Omnium. Arranged by Oreste Ravanello. English Literal Translation. Christopher Perrin. 2008. http://classicalsubjects.com/resources/Veni-Emmanuel-Booklet-Web.pdf.
  34. NAB, Jn. 1:1–9.
  35. CCC, 280.
  36. Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Translated from the Original Tongues, Being the Version Set Forth A.D. 1611, Old and New Testaments Revised A.D. 1881–1885 and A.D. 1901 (Apocrypha Revised A.D. 1894), Compared with the Most Ancient Authorities and Revised A.D. 1952 (Apocrypha Revised A.D. 1957). Catholic ed. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994., Is. 9:6.
  37. St. Gregory Nazianzen. Oration 38. On the Theophany or Nativity of Christ. www.newadvent.org/fathers/310238.htm.
Rev. Kenneth M. Dos Santos, MIC About Rev. Kenneth M. Dos Santos, MIC

Rev. Kenneth M. Dos Santos, MIC, is a member of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province, located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and was ordained a priest in 2010. He is currently serving as a Provincial Councilor and is the Superior of a Marian house in Thompson, Connecticut. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and an MDiv from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. He is the author of Hagia Sophia: the Wisdom of God as Offered to the Modern World (Marian Heritage, 2021).


  1. Avatar Sam Archuleta says:

    The second coming is truly at hand,may we all repent and return immediately to a full Confession and the Holy Mass where Jesus is truly present in the Bread of Life.Most of the World is blinded by Satan of the truth that is taking place ,so we remain in Prayer for all our brothers and sisters,May God bless us all.Do not forget daily Rosary or Rosaries.