Feria of the Fourth Sunday in Advent 2021

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My Brethren in Christ Jesus, blessings, and peace, as we celebrate together a Feria Mass for the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The purple color for this Mass should remind us to remain penitent in consideration of our many sins. The Incarnation is very near, and yet for those mired in sins and regrets the night can seem as endlessly dark now as at any other hour. Sin blinds us even to the possibility that the daybreak may be imminent. Sin does this by acclimating our souls over time to a fallen world for which our souls had never been intended. We become so accustomed to all the wretchedness that we lose sight of the idea that the night can ever really be anything other than what it is. And yet our souls are meant for God. They long to bathe in His Light, and so our souls are vexed by the tension between the darkness that is considerably more familiar and the Light that is hidden and yet desired. Until we finally give ourselves over to Christ Jesus, and just allow Him without obstruction to remake us into the likeness of His Father, our souls shall stay so conflicted – tempted by the devil to worship this fallen world, and all her showmanship, her glitz, her false ideologies, and perverse prophets, as a prelude to worshipping the devil directly in Hell, and yet also longing for the One God who alone is the wellspring of eternal life. All of us at some point will want to bring this conflict to an end, one way or another, for frankly it is way too taxing for our souls to remain indefinitely in this Tug-O-War between Heaven and Hell. We either embrace Christ Jesus, or we embrace the world. If we embrace the world, then in a most fundamental way we have given up on ourselves and on God. It is said that Hell is the abode of those who choose to spend eternity alone with their own obsessions rather than to relinquish those obsessions in favor of God. That is true; but I suspect that if we were to update Dante’s Inferno by accompanying Virgil on another trek through Hell, we would discover that most of the souls languishing in that everlasting darkness are there for no other reason than that they had given up. God never gives up on us, but like the Prodigal Son we do need to make the firm decision to put aside our waywardness and to turn back toward Him. If we never bother even to try, if indeed we reject even the idea of forgiveness and redemption, then all we are doing is extending the darkness of this fallen world into the next. This is always a tragedy, but in the end this is inevitable for those of us who steadfastly refuse to open our eyes to the Incarnation.

And so, in these last few days before the Nativity of Our Lord, we are urged to be penitent. The purpose here is not so much to call to mind our sins, let alone to glory in them. Unless we have learned how to be particularly adept in repressing our own memories, deep down we generally recall what we have done or have failed to do which was truly wrong. We know when we have ventured off the righteous path and into the thickets. Moreover, though we may rationalize to others why we did or did not do this or that, we can only convince ourselves so much, and only for so long, of the veracity of our own prevarications. Like Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, inevitably we see ourselves in the mirror. So calling to mind our sins, frankly, is something that we do whether or not we are penitent for them. The real purpose of penitence, especially when the Incarnation is so imminent, is to come to terms with the fact that we can and must open up our eyes. God is near. He is coming to us. He will let us keep our eyes shut, and our hearts cold and hardened, if we insist. He will let us give up on ourselves if we are dead set on Hell. God will not deny us our free will. What He will do is to try to warn us to be otherwise. He will send to us His Judges and His Prophets; and when they do not shake us out of ourselves, He will send to us in the end His only begotten Son to die for us and to be our example of how we should live. It is only with penitence in our minds and in our hearts that we can start to set aside the lure of this world and to take heed to the firm warning God is giving us. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” says John the Baptist; and, indeed, he must cry loudly, for most of us are much too lost in the wilderness of our own sins to open our eyes and to take a look at what he is offering. If at the very least our penitence over time convinces us that, indeed, like John the Baptist, we are unworthy to unloosen Our Lord’s shoes. If only we can truly see that we are not the kings of our own lives, not the measure of our own wisdom, and certainly not the barometer of our own morality, then by grace we shall start to see as God wants us to see. Freed from the wilderness, even a little, and we shall start to see the daybreak and to know that God is coming to save us.

And what shall we see? Like the Wise Men, we shall see the first hints of God signaling for us to travel back into Himself. The Wise Men saw a Star. They followed that Star, notwithstanding the many obstacles before them. Another illustration is the man afflicted by demons. Like we are all torn between Heaven and Hell, his soul longs for Christ Jesus to expel those demons from him, as much as those demons urge him to withdraw. Mark 5:6 says that the man sees Christ Jesus from a distance – perhaps, initially, Our Lord is as distant to this tortured man as is the Star of Bethlehem to the Wise Men. What matters is that the man’s eyes are opened. He sees who his only salvation is, and he runs to him, and bows before him. As the Prophet Isaiah writes, “Your eyes will see the King in His beauty. They will behold a far distant land.” This is what is in store, if only we shall open our eyes to Him. Penitence is our first step in this, for only a penitent soul can put away the lure of the fallen world, and cease worshipping her false idols. The penitent is not going to glory in his riches, his beauty, his status, nor his sophistication. The penitent does not crave power. Nor does he imagine that the authority he may wield is naturally and properly his. He knows that his authority over anything or anyone is on loan from God. Like we heard in today’s Epistle to the Philippians, the penitent will let his moderation alone be known unto all men. From that disposition, he will start to see as he has never seen, and he will find that Baby in a manger along with the few other souls who have even tried. Let us pray, my Brethren, for the grace to approach the Christmas Miracle with due penitence. God is nearer than we think, and so let us learn how to go to Him on our knees as a sacrifice unto Him, before it is too late.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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