"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Sunday, 16 December 2012


We were probably all shocked by what happened on Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut, where a young man called Adam Lanza, after murdering his own mother, went into a primary school with two hand guns and an assault rifle and killed twenty children along with the head teacher and five other teachers as they tried to defend the children.    We can imagine the fear, the panic, and we may well ask, what does God have to do with this?  

In the 2nd World War, in a Nazi concentration camp, a fourteen year old Jewish boy was condemned to death by hanging, and all the prisoners were lined up to witness the execution.   As the boy was almost nothing but skin and bones, he was too light to die except by very slow strangulation, and the whole process took over two hours.   As the boy moved in agony with no one to help, one of the prisoners called out bitterly, "Where is God in all this?"   Another prisoner, also, in all probability a Jew, but one moved by the Holy Spirit, pointed to the struggling boy and said, "God is there!"

There is a massacre of children in the Christmas story, one we celebrate with a feast on December 28th, the Holy Innocents.   Somehow they are part of the Good News too.   Perhaps this is also true of the horrible events in Newtown and the agonising death of a Jewish boy in a Nazi concentration camp, and the horrible phenomenon of child soldiers in parts of Africa and South America, where all human feeling and moral restraint has been destroyed in them by the time they are twelve..   Perhaps they too are all part of the Christmas story.

The theology of the Middle Ages could not cope with the death of children unless they had been baptised, so they invented Limbo; although they still kept the feast of Holy Innocents which calls the whole Limbo thing into question.   They read the Gospel with the eyes and mind-set of lawyers and turned the death of Christ into a legal transaction between God and man.   Limbo came into existence because their theology was not sufficiently based on the Incarnation.   

The incarnation is the joining of two natures, the divine and the human, the uncreated and the created, the eternal and the time-bound, in one, single divine Person.   When the Word was made flesh, he became united to the whole human race, not just the race of Catholics or Christians, the whole human race across time and space, men and women, good and bad alike, without exception.   He did not just become a human individual who later united himself to those who are baptised.   His very existence as God Incarnate was unthinkable apart from its union with the human race.   For this reason, he was able to bear our sufferings, the sufferings of the whole world across time and space, and he became sin for us, bearing our sins, for every single human being who has ever existed or who will ever come to exist.   

He lived a human life, and human life has never been the same.   He died a human death, and changed death for ever.   The Holy Spirit crossed time and space and united Christ's dying with that of every human being: he shared their suffering and loneliness and fear.   His descent into hell means that everyone, without exception, meets Christ at the other side of death.   Since the Passion of Our Lord, that is what death is all about.   Death is the place where all who have slipped through the net meet up with Christ who is seeking the the sheep that was lost.   The idea that Christ descended into hell only to save those who were already just is a Pelagian idea.   No, he came to save all who need salvation, even when they were still in their sins: he descended into hell to save all those who 
 responded to his presence, whatever their state of soul when they died.   If that is not true, then the descent into hell has no place in the Christian Mystery.

 Of course, people can reject Christ and the resurrected life that he offers; but small children are not capable of resistence any more than they are capable of acts of great virtue; and they want Christ's gift of life by their very nature because we are made for God, even though it is a nature that has been distorted by sin.   [Those Orthodox who say that Catholics believe that the descendants of Adam inherit the guilt of Adam are talking utter rubbish; but they repeat it, no matter how much we deny it.]
 32 minutes of Advent plainchant

This is why Christ's Incarnation is Good News for the Holy Innocents.   This is why Christ is Good News for the residents of Newtown.   God does not change what it is our task to change.   To prevent events like the Newtown massacre  is a human responsibility.     Hand guns and assault rifles are manufactured with the express purpose of killing people.   Apart from some primitive tribes, as far as I know, the USA is the only country to make possessing and carrying them a human right. God's part is to change the very meaning and effects of death, not with a philosophical idea, but with the Incarnation, a process that reached its climax with Christ's death, resurrection and ascension.

For this reason, and in spite of all the tragedies of the world, even spurred on by them, we sing today, "Gaudete", "Rejoice! because the Lord is near!"   Rejoice, He is near, and those children who died in Newtown are now safe with him as are all other children and innocent people whose lives are prematurely cut short.   Rejoice!  He is near, and no one ever needs to be alone again because Christ is nearer to him or her than anyone else.   Rejoice!  The Lord is near, and everyone of us can discover in him our true vocation.   Rejoice!  He is near, and all of us are or can be truly sons of God.

However, we are reminded in the Gospel that the message that Christ is near means that we have to change, to respond to the challenge.  "What must we do?" ask the people to St John the Baptist.   He gives them instructions, each according to his particular circumstances.   We too must accept this challenge.   The Lord is near; so what are we going to do, so that we may rejoice with a clear conscience?   One thing is certain.   Like the Holy Innocents, the children of Newtown were too young to respond in this way.   The unity of the Word with human nature has formed the human race anew into an organism; and we can do on other peoples' behalf what they cannot do for themselves.   In responding responsibly to the reality of Christ's nearness, we are not only being Christians for our own benefit: we are responding for all those who, for one reason or another, cannot respond for themselves.   Thanks to Jesus, we are not just passive observers of the News: we are participants through our prayers.


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