dimanche, décembre 02, 2007

The substance of things to be hoped for!

Sermon for the first Sunday of Advent

Spe salvi! At the beginning of the new liturgical year, the Holy Father invites us to renew our hope in the Lord.

For the beginning of the new liturgical year, the Holy Father has gratified us with a new Encyclical Letter about hope, Spe Salvi. For we are saved by hope, according to the verse of Saint Paul to the Romans. (Rom. 8:24) Our hope is connected to our faith, as Benedict XVI says, commenting on another verse from the Epistle to the Hebrews which gives us a definition of faith: Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not. (Heb.11:1) We believe in things that we do not see now, but that we hope to see later.

Now the question, for each one of us, is: What do we hope? The Pope says that every man desires happiness. It is certainly in our very nature that we want to be happy. But we still have to know what can make us happy, and the answer is given precisely by faith. And faith is an evidence, even though we do not see it. This might be difficult to understand for the non-believers and the rationalists: how can we be sure of things that we cannot see? How things that appear not, can be evident?

The rationalists are right in a certain way. Reason cannot prove the evidence of what we believe. There is no rational proof of the existence of the Trinity or of the fact of transubstantiation, for example. Nevertheless, we, Catholics, firmly believe that God is Three Divine Persons, equal in everything and yet clearly distinct. We firmly believe that after the words of the consecration there is no more bread and no more wine on the altar, but the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ with His body, His blood, His soul and His divinity. We firmly believe in these mysteries and we hope that we will understand them better in a different manner later, when we will see God face to face. Is our hope just a beautiful dream, or a reality?

We hope that if we receive during our life on earth the body of Christ and if we eat it, we will have eternal life, which is true happiness. After all, we desire nothing else than any other man of whatever religion, or even non religious man. But unlike many other men, we are sure that our hope is not vain. Why?

Reason cannot prove the evidence of what we believe, or at least certain things that we believe. We agree with many rationalists. But they forget one thing. There is another order of knowledge, which does not contradict the order of reason, but surpasses it according to its mode and to its object. This is the order of Divine Revelation.

The Revelation is the manifestation, or the unveiling of things which had been hidden until then. Speaking about the essence and the mode of the Divine Revelation would be too long during a sermon, but I will start an Apologetics class about this subject in January and I already invite you to come in order to learn more about your faith and to strengthen your hope. As the Pope recalls it, the Apostle Saint Peter urges you to be ready always to satisfy every one that asks you a reason of that hope that is in you. (1 Pet. 3:15)
Why do we believe? Why do we hope? Are we wise or insane? I guess we are wise according to the Spirit of God, but for the world, who are we? We are the loving disciples of Jesus-Christ, the God who became a man two millenniums ago. The God who became man! It is precisely in the mystery of the Incarnation that all the answers to our questions lie. By becoming a man, God has shown a part of the things that appear not. Therefore, He brought hope into our world.

We will celebrate the manifestation of God soon in a few weeks. We will rejoice in the Nativity of the Incarnate Word. We will taste the peace of God so well expressed by the Gregorian cantilenas which will introduce us into the mystery of the eternal begetting of the Son: Dominus dixit ad me, Filius meus es tu. Ego hodie genui te. – Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.

We have to immerse ourselves into the incommensurable mystery of love of the Divine Persons to renew our hope and acquire a deep peace. Let the time of Advent be a way out of the agitation of the world toward the tranquility of the crèche. This afternoon, the Antiphons of Vespers will encourage us on our way toward Bethlehem: Ecce Dominus veniet - Behold our Lord shall come, and all his saints with him: and there shall be in that day a great light, Alleluia!
The light of the Incarnation reveals to us the substance of the things to be hoped for. It moves our hope and pushes us to continue our earthly pilgrimage with joy, giving thanks always to God for all His kindness.

May Our Lady lead us toward the mystery of the birth of her Child, so that we will be able to tenderly contemplate the Fruit of her womb and to sing with her the eternal Magnificat of gratitude to God.

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