The Church today celebrates “Gaudete Sunday”, the third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” in Latin means joy. St. Paul tells the Thessalonians,
With all that is happening in the world, with all the sadness and poverty around us, how can we rejoice?
In 2000, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, made the following comment: “The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory… the inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice — all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.”
So, why should we rejoice? What should be hope for?
This past week we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and her role in bringing us the Christ Child reveal the reason for our rejoicing.
Let’s try to understand the world before the coming of the Christ child. Before Jesus’ birth there was little reason to hope. Imagination is a wonderful spiritual tool.
Imagine living in a hopeless world that does not know about salvation. Death ruled the world. All were slaves of Death. There was a great cultural melancholy; a sadness that all one could hope for was this life with its toil, and with no hope of escape from sin and death. Ancient literature, theater and art reflected this deep melancholy. Looking just at this world, it would be really easy to have the opinion that God created sinful man and death. However, then, as now, we often see so much sin in the world of men, and so much death that we also fall into this melancholy, this hopelessness. Before Christ there was a cultural darkness covering the world. But that is not our Christian faith.
It helps to return to our Christian understanding of “Original Sin”. We don’t speak enough about Original Sin. However, we won’t really understand our reason to “Hope” unless we know in our hearts about “Original Sin.” Come with me back to the Biblical book of Genesis, in the first three chapters. There we find the account of creation.
God did not create sin. God did not create sinful man. God created Adam and Eve without sin. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. God did not create death. The first man and woman were created in the image of God, to live eternally with God.
Adam and Eve were our first human parents. We are completely like them. We all have inherited the same things God made in Adam and Eve. We have a body, a head, hands, feet, eyes and ears. We have intelligence and emotions. Nothing, absolutely nothing is different. Everything we have as human characteristics we inherited from our first parents. They were made in the image of God. We are made in the image of God. Our first parents were human and created without sin, because God did not create sin. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God to live forever and not die, because God did not create death.
However our first parents committed original sin by disobedience to God. They were rebels against God. Because they rebelled against God they lost several things. As rebels against God they lost friendship with God. They broke God’s trust. By their rebellion, they could no longer live eternally in his presence. These rebels lost their eternal life by their own free decision.
Adam and Eve died. For this reason, their children could never have eternal life because their parents didn’t have it to give to their children. Death entered the world through sin. We inherited death and original sin. Our first parents freely chose sin and rebellion against God. We inherited everything from Adam and Eve, including sin and death because of their rebellion. They chose exile and death because they chose disobedience. This is original sin. That was not God’s plan when he created Man.
Since that rebellion, God’s plan of salvation for mankind is to restore us to the way we were before the sin of Adam and Eve. God wanted to recreate a new man and a new woman. God needed a new woman who would become the mother of his son. This woman didn’t inherit original sin. Mary is the new Eve, created like Eve, without sin.
This is the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Mary was not a rebel against God. And, Mary wouldn’t die. Mary said “Yes” to God. And Mary gave birth to a son without sin. Through Mary and Jesus, all men could once again have the hope of living without sin and death. Jesus is the “Light of the World” because he conquered death. Our salvation means to become again like Adam and Eve before their rebellion, without Original Sin and Death. This is God’s plan for our salvation.
Jesus gave us the sacraments of the Church so that we can live forever with him and with his Mother Mary and all the saints. Through the Sacrament of Baptism our Original Sin is washed away. Our Baptism makes us again like Adam and Eve before the Fall. If we sin later, we can become again sinless through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through the Eucharist we are fed the food of eternal life. God intended us to live with him forever, if we are obedient to Him.
Rejoice and be glad! This is the reason for our hope. We have been saved from the hopelessness and melancholy of earthly life and death.
We are called to be witnesses to this hope. St. John the Evangelist spoke in today’s Gospel of the contrast between the melancholy and darkness of the world and the light of Christ as the hope of the world. He was speaking of the role of John the Baptist, who came to give testimony to the Christ,
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.
We are also witnesses to that light; to the hope of eternal salvation by the way we celebrate Christmas. We testify to the light as we share our hope. This Christmas be witnesses of hope to a world lacking hope. St. Paul has told us,
Rejoice always…, pray without ceasing…, Refrain from every kind of evil.