A stirring in the womb

Once again we find ourselves approaching that lowly manger. It is time, but not yet. It is a time of great anticipation, a time of dreams and visions, of sleepless nights and longer days. It is a time of waiting, of knowing and not knowing what is yet to come. And no, not of sugarplums and flying reindeer or pretty presents under the tree. Those things would one day come but not this time.

When Christ was born

This time of which we speak is like no other and yet, our eyes see ordinary people going about doing ordinary things, our ears hear what they always hear, and yet our senses are on high alert. For what? We do not know, but something is about to happen, something extraordinary!

It is a time when questions will be asked but seldom answered and dilemmas, both on earth and in heaven, will, in some ways, be resolved. Of the questions they will be asked, but it is of the dilemmas which we must first consider.

Let us place ourselves in the middle of the dilemma thrust unexpectedly upon a fourteen-year-old girl, living with her parents, doing what all teenagers do—eat, sleep, complain, laugh, cry, whatever … and then in an instant the ordinary becomes the extraordinary. The dilemma she now faces is literally life or death. So, why her? What should she do? How should she respond? If it were you, how would you respond?

Nothing is ever simple, is it? Think of her parents and the dilemma they now face. Of course, the times were much different then than now, but the situation no less serious and perhaps, in some ways, far more deadly. And what of the man, betrothed, yet, not married to this girl. What is he to think of this? Should he quietly break their engagement so as to cause her no further shame? If you were he, what would you do?

This was serious, deadly serious and no doubt the question asked but never answered is why? Why then? Why them? Why there? Why, dear God, why?

There is certainly much here that begs for answers, answers which we may never find this side of heaven. But then, that is how it is with this life, and we can worry more or ponder less, it makes no difference either way.

Not long ago, my wife suggested I might enjoy a small book, a mere sixty pages, written in the fourth century by Saint Athanasius, the twentieth bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Athanasius played a major role in the First Council of Nicaea. Convened in the year 325 by the Emperor Constantine, it was tasked with addressing the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth was the son of God and distinct from his Father.

His treatise “On the Incarnation” expands with clarity on the conclusion reached by the First Council of Nicaea, that is, that God became man through His son, Jesus of Nazareth, and through Jesus, we too may become one with God. In just a few pages Athanasius explains why God became flesh through Jesus and why this transformation was necessary to save the corrupted human soul and prepare it for a perfect and immortal union with God.

It is considered an essential read for all students of the Christian faith. It is an easy read, but profound and I would encourage everyone to take the time to read it.

What I found most compelling is found early in the second chapter, which Athanasius, in perhaps a moment of divine inspiration, titled “The Divine Dilemma and its Solution in the Incarnation.” Since man had become so corrupted, he asks “what then was God, being Good, to do?”

Athanasius was uncompromisingly blunt in his harsh commentary, arguing man’s wickedness and corruption placed God in divine dilemma. He described what happened after the fall this way:

When this happened, men began to die, and corruption ran riot among them and held sway over them to an even more than natural degree, because it was the penalty of which God had forewarned them for transgressing the commandment. Indeed, they had in their sinning surpassed all limits; for, having invented wickedness in the beginning and so involved themselves in death and corruption, they had gone on gradually from bad to worse, not stopping at any one kind of evil, but continually, as with insatiable appetite, devising new kinds of sins. Adulteries and thefts were everywhere, murder and raping filled the earth, law was disregarded in corruption and injustice, all kinds of iniquities were perpetrated by all, both individually and in common. Cities were warring with cities, nations were rising against nations, and the whole earth was rent with factions and battles, while each strove to outdo the other in wickedness. Even crimes contrary to nature were not unknown, but as the martyr-apostle of Christ says:

Their women exchanged the natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error (Rom. 1:26–27).

Here then, Athanasius examines the Divine Dilemma and why God did what he did:

Was He to let corruption and death have their way with them? In that case, what was the use of having made them in the beginning? Surely it would have been better never to have been created at all than, having been created, to be neglected and perish; and, besides that, such indifference to the ruin of His own work before His very eyes would argue not goodness in God but limitation, and that far more than if He had never created men at all. It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself.

He took our body, and not only so, but He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father—a pure body, untainted by intercourse with man. He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men.

It is time, but not yet. Now you know the answer to the question; when he comes you know the reason, you know the why.

Come, O Lord, set us free. Come, Lord, bring us peace.

Amen.

Homily #186
Fourth Sunday of Advent (C)
Micah 5:1-4A
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45

 

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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