Learn to love like Jesus this Christmas

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | December 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

One of the great struggles of the Christian life is that none of us lives our life as well as we want to. It is a part of our common struggle that we know we are called to live a fully Christian life loving God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves — yet, we always fail. This can be disheartening. In this struggle, the gift of Christ at Christmas is meant to be for us an incredible sign of hope.

What is hope? What is Christmas?

Hope is that virtue that helps us live in the mean between two extremes. One extreme is despair, where we believe that we will never be able to really live the Christian life as we should, so we give up trying. We give up believing that God can actually change us or our world, and we settle for where we are and the way things are: “Things will never change.” “I guess I’ll always struggle with this sin.” “God must not really want more from me.” When we despair, the call that the Lord gives us to holiness becomes only an ideal that we accept to never reach, and we give up trying.

The other extreme of hope is presumption. Once again, this is a reduction of the call to radical love and holiness that the Gospel proposes. We know that we don’t live a fully Christian life, but we think it doesn’t matter to God. Again, we settle for the way things are because we judge it good enough. “I’m a good person; isn’t that enough?” “I go to Mass on Sunday, and I go to confession once or twice a year — isn’t that enough?” With presumption, I know that I should do more to really try to love God and neighbor, but I just don’t really think it matters that much, so I don’t change. In the end, I ignore the true call of the Gospel to deeper love and conversion.

If these are the extremes, what is hope? Hope is the virtue that makes me want more. Hope is the virtue that causes me to long to love like God, to live with God and even to be holy like God. But I know that I’m weak. I often sin. I don’t really live my Christian life the way I should. If I fail so often, how can I still hope to change? The answer is this: I can hope for a life of true love and holiness because God himself took on our human flesh and transformed it.

Christian hope is a fact based on the central truth of the Gospel. If God has become one of us, then “nothing will be impossible to God.”

St. John Paul II said it so clearly in one of my favorite passages of his writing, found in “Veritatis Splendor”: “It would be a very serious error to conclude … that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’ which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a ‘balancing of the goods in question.’ But what are the ‘concrete possibilities of man’? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed, man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act. God’s command is, of course, proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

To live the Christian life is to live a paradox. It is to seek, always imperfectly, to live up to the ideal that Christ himself sets. When we fail, he gives us the grace to begin anew, always with hope that Christ will be triumphant in us.

It is this paradox that Christmas brings home to us. To celebrate Christmas is to be invited to ponder a mystery, the greatest mystery the world has ever known. It is a mystery of darkness and light, a mystery of time and eternity, a mystery of poverty and wealth, humanity and divinity, sin and grace, life and death.

The mystery is seen so profoundly in the scene of the Nativity itself. Here is the God of all the universe, the one who created all the stars in our incredible galaxy, and he is born and takes on our human flesh as a helpless, tiny, cold, hungry baby. The paradox is almost beyond belief, that God would come so close to us as to be held in his mother’s arms.

The meaning is meant to be quite clear — God is not afraid of our poverty or our humanity. God is not afraid of our weakness or even our sin. God enters into our sinful world. He comes to transform this world from the inside out. He comes not only to teach us how to live and love, but also to die and pay the price for our redemption. He comes to share with us his life so that, despite our weakness, we can hope to learn to live a fully human life.

This Christmas, let us renew again our hope. As we kneel before holiness incarnate, let us ask him to be born again in our hearts so that we might begin to hope for a better world through learning to love like him.

Aprende a amar como Jesús esta Navidad

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Category: Only Jesus