A Fresh Incarnation

Merry Christmas!  Again, I would like to welcome our visitors this evening, all those who traveled from near and far to be with us, to celebrate Christmas, the coming of our Savior who took on flesh to be like us.  May this Christmas, be a season of great joy and God’s peace for all of you.

Emmanuel… God with us.  Jesus was incarnate by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is here.

Why is the incarnation of Christ so important?

Well, as I was looking for this answer I came across a particular passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  This passage literally asks the question:  Why did the Word become flesh? The answer was so beautiful that its what I want to share with you tonight. 

The first reason given is the most obvious.  The catechism says that Jesus was made flesh, 1) in order to save us by reconciling us with God. Christmas is directly connected to Easter.  In order for Jesus to save us, in order for him to die on the cross and rise again, he must first become one of us.  God, speaking through his prophet, says For Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet until her vindication shines forth like the dawn! 

2) The Word became flesh so that we might know God’s love.  The whole story of salvation begins with God searching for humanity to be in a relationship with us.  Christ’s incarnation shows us how far God will go to reveal his love to us. 

3) The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness.  Christ came to show us how to love God fully and how to love our neighbor.  He came to heal divisions, heal the brokenhearted, and to show us how to love as God loves.

Finally, 4) The Word became flesh to make us partakers of the divine nature. This is the point that I want to focus on this evening.  For Jewish culture, God has never wholly come down to earth, and humanity has never quite climbed up to him: the distance between God and man always remains. Humanity was starving for a closer relationship with God.  Christ’s incarnation closes the distance between God and us.  Through Jesus, the Divine and humanity meet.

One of my favorite prayers at Mass is probably one most of us never hear.  The reason is its one of those silent prayers that the priest or deacon prays at the offertory.  That prayer is: By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.  The gift of Jesus’ incarnation, is that it allows us to be closer to God than we can ever imagine.  And further, God has come close to us.  God has walked our walk, talked our talk, and experienced what we have experienced.  Christ’s life, everything about it, shows us that there is nothing we can experience where we cannot find him.  Christ is always with us.

Friends, when I was ordained a priest last June, Bishop Walkowiak in his homily encouraged my brothers and me to live our lives in such a way that it is “a fresh incarnation”.  He said, your hands, “the hands of the priest, become Christ’s hands in order to heal.”  Then he finished by saying, brothers, “lay down your lives for the Lord who loves you.”  I have never forgotten this.  I use it sort of as an examination of conscience, a gut check if you will, for how well I am responding to God’s call to bring Christ’s healing love into the world. 

But this is a beautiful message for each of us here.  We can each reflect on this question: “Is my life a fresh incarnation”?  Or, are our lives living examples of Jesus Christ in the world.  In other words, when people see us, do they see the Christ?

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the only reason that it is possible for us to be “a fresh incarnation” is because Christ became one of us.

Friends, this past year, I met Jesus in the Flesh. Jesus was this young man, who was suffering from cancer.  And he was about 30. This young man was experiencing intense suffering, but he had unwavering trust that Jesus was with him in his sufferings.  This young man knew and believed in the incarnation.  Because he knew that Christ was with him in his sufferings.  And yet, even though he was in great pain, the only concern in his life was the wellness of others.  He loved he wife and kids to the end. His faith was a powerful witness for me.  He not only changed my life, but he changed the lives of those closest to him: his family.  I believe this young man, brought his family closer to Jesus by the way he lived his life, trusting in God’s love until he passed. I do believe I saw Jesus in him.  This young man was indeed a fresh incarnation.

Brothers and sisters, who has been “a fresh incarnation” in our lives? Who has brought Christ into our lives this year?  Finally, how are each of us becoming “a fresh incarnation” for others?  This world desperately needs reminders of God’s love for all of humanity.  Here’s the thing, Christ expects us to be a sacramental sign of his presence in the world.  Christ expects us to make Him present by our very lives.  So, today, as we celebrate Christ’s incarnation, may we too become Christ incarnate in the world. May we remember that “In Christ Jesus God has visited his people”.


In Christ’s Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

Rejoice! You have been Freed!

O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!

I want to focus on that word ransom.  Many theologians have spent a lot of time studying the word, Ransom, and its implications in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The common meaning of this word for us today is a sum of money or some sort of payment, demanded for the release of a prisoner.  Is this what Jesus has done for us?  Yes, Jesus has indeed ransomed us! This means two things, Jesus has bought us back, by his very death on the cross and resurrection, Jesus has purchased for us our salvation.  But Jesus has also freed us; he has freed us from the powers of evil, from sin and death, and from any kind of brokenheartedness we might endure in this life.

Friends,  this is why we rejoice today.  Our first reading reminds us of this hope we have been given in Christ.  Jesus is indeed the one who has been sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.  This is something we all are invited to reflect on this week… In what way is Christ offering me new freedom in my life?  Maybe it is the experience of poverty, either materially or spiritually and Christ is offering you hope.  Maybe its the experience of a broken heart and Christ is offering to heal our heart.  Or maybe its an addiction or attachment to some sin and Christ is offering us a new sense of freedom.  This is the time for us to bring those areas of our life to Christ and to seek the Freedom he longs to give us.

But here’s the thing… The experience of being freed means that we desire to bring others into freedom.  A great and heroic example of this is one who has been freed from an addiction.  Think about a person who has struggled with alcoholism, they often will volunteer much of their time in helping others attain freedom.  Brothers and sisters, when we experience the freedom of Christ in our lives Jesus is there to ask us this question:  I have broken your chains, and I have given you freedom, will you now help me in breaking the chains in the lives of others?  Will you help me free my people? 

As Saint Paul encourages us in our second reading, our answer to this question should be a resounding Yes! A Yes that is grounded in both Joy and Gratitude.  I invite all of us for the remaining week of Advent to pray over the spiritual/corporeal works of mercy.  Is Christ calling me to participate in his mission by performing one of these acts of mercy. 

Friends, we rejoice this weekend because Christ has purchased us and Freed us!  May the freedom of Christ bring us great joy and move us to bring the freedom of Christ into the lives of those around us.

O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!

In Christ’s Friendship,

Fr. Stephen