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You Matter: Bonus Meditation
Doing Our Part
- Proclaim to All the Nations!
- Blessed Mother Teresa Lights a Lamp
- Keep the Fire Burning
The third Mass of Christmas, the Mass during the day, changes gears a little bit. The first two Masses brought us into the intimacy of the stable-cave at Bethlehem. This third Mass expands the horizon of Christmas to every corner of time and space.
Proclaim to All the Nations!
“All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God,” proclaims the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm.
And then the Second Reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, explains that in times past God spoke partially, in bits and pieces, through the prophets, but from now own, he has spoken fully, by the Incarnation of his Son.
And in the Gospel, the high point of the entire three- Mass liturgy, St. John picks up the theme of Christ as the light, and extends it far beyond the borders of Israel: “The true light,” he writes, “which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
Christmas is for everyone. Because Jesus is for everyone: he is the universal Savior. In the end, there
is only one joy that will last for ever, only one light that will never go out: Christ’s. Only Jesus is the bridge that leads us into the joy of communion with the Blessed Trinity and into the indescribable light of God’s glory in heaven. As Jesus explained during his public ministry: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
But how is the message of Bethlehem going to reach every human heart? How is God’s Word in Christ going to be spread to every corner of time and space? Through Christians, through us. We are not just recipients and beneficiaries of the light of Christ; we are bearers of that light. Our faith transforms us into living lamps.
St. John makes this clear in the Gospel for this Mass: “But to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).
We are children of God; we share in God’s own life; Christ dwells within us.
Unless we extinguish the light of Christ through sin, we are living flames of grace extending God’s love and salvation into the world.
Through our words, our actions, and our example, we bring light, warmth, hope, and life to those around us who are stuck in the cold, dark night of sin and secularism.
This is why Christ, who called himself the light of the world, also called his disciples the light of the world:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
– Matthew 5:14-16
This is the essence of our mission as Christians. It is another proof that we really matter to God — so much that he has made us his partners and co-workers in the salvation of the world!
Blessed Mother Teresa Lights a Lamp
There is a beautiful story about how Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta spread this light of Christ – you may have heard of it.
Once she was staying with her community of sisters who were working with the Aborigines in Australia.
While she was there, she visited an elderly man who lived in total isolation, ignored by everyone. His home was disordered and dirty.
She told him, “Please let me clean your house, wash your clothes and make your bed.” He answered, “I’m OK like this. Let it be.”
She said, “You will be still better if you allow me to do it.”
He finally agreed. So she was able to clean his house and wash his clothes.
While she was cleaning, she discovered a beautiful lamp, covered with dust. It looked like it hadn’t been used in years.
She said to the man, “Don’t you light that lamp? Don’t you ever use it?”
He answered, “No. No one comes to see me. I have no need to light it. Who would I do it for?”
Mother Teresa asked, “Would you light it every night if the sisters came?” He replied, “Of course.”
From that day on, the sisters committed themselves to visiting him every evening.
Mother Teresa left Australia. Two years passed. She had completely forgotten about that man. Then she received a message from him: “Tell my friend that the light she lit in my life still continues to shine.”
– Story adapted from Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi
That’s what it means to be a true Christian: to give, to bless, to reach out, to simply share with others what we have received from our Lord, to light lamps in the dark and dusty corners of this fallen world — just as Christ did on that cold night in Bethlehem.
Keep the Fire Burning
But we can’t be true Christians if Christ’s light isn’t burning strong in our own hearts. And it’s so easy to let the flame burn low, to lose our spiritual energy, to get tired, frazzled, frustrated. It’s easy to become weighed down by the cares of the world. When that happens, we stop responding to God’s action in our lives. We become like those mentioned in the Gospel for this Mass, those who belonged to Christ, but didn’t receive him: “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (John 1:11).
God is always coming into our lives, to strengthen our hope, to inspire us, to guide us – because we matter to him! But we are not always as open and docile to him as we could be. What can we do to keep the fire burning in our own hearts?
This is a beautiful question to ask ourselves during Advent, when we are called to “prepare a way for the Lord” (Mark 1:3). To help reflect on this, you may want to look ahead a little bit to Epiphany and think about the three gifts that the Magi brought to the baby Jesus.
These gifts expressed the wise men’s love and faith. And they can symbolize three doors that we should always try to keep open to God, so that his grace can keep nourishing our hearts.
The first gift. Material things, wealth, possessions, good looks, success. . .
In our world, it is so easy to put too much emphasis on these, to lean too much on them, to idolize them. If we have a lot of them, we can become overly attached to them. If we don’t have enough of them, we can become obsessed with worry or with envy. Either way, how we deal with material things can end up being a closed door that keeps out God’s grace.
The second gift was incense, the sweet-smelling symbol of prayer – the second door. Incense rises towards the sky, just as prayer lifts our minds and hearts to God. Daily prayer keeps us tuned into God’s wavelength. But a healthy prayer life requires commitment.
We have to fight to make and follow-through on that commitment.
We have to fight to make the time.
We have to fight to live in such a way that our prayer time can be a real heart-to-heart meeting with the Lord.
As St. Faustina Kowalksa said, “In order to hear the voice of God, one has to have silence in one’s soul and to keep silence; not a gloomy silence but an interior silence; that is to say, recollection in God.”
The third gift was myrrh, the valuable spice used to embalm the dead, a symbol of death and suffering — a preview of the Cross — the third door.
When we flee our crosses, we flee God.
When we try to carry them on our own, they crush us.
God permits suffering in our lives in order to draw us closer to himself — but we have to let him do so; we have to exercise our faith; we have to unite our crosses to Christ’s cross.
You matter to God; by giving you another Christmas he is reminding you of that — powerfully.
God wants to be your light, and he wants you to have the joy that comes from sharing that light.
Advent is a season to savor that truth, and to allow God’s grace extra room to purify, revitalize, and renew your faith.
Take some time now to do some savoring, and to ask God what he wants you to do to get ready for Christmas.
When your retreat time is over, you may want to finish by offering your heart once more to God through praying the original “Christmas Carol” — The Gloria, reproduced at the end of this meditation.
Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
1 How deeply do I feel the Christian call to spread Christ’s light, to be a messenger of Christ’s light?
2 Who has been a messenger of Christ’s light for me, and how did they do it? Thank God for those influences, and learn from them.
3 How would God like me to give better attention to the “gold, incense, and myrrh” in my life during this Advent?
The Gloria — To Help Your Meditation
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
– The Gloria
Secondly, we are going to talk about the heart
of the liturgical celebration itself. Why do we celebrate three Masses? When did that start? How did that get going?
And then, thirdly, we will finish up by briefly showing where the Season of Advent came from, where it came out of history, and how it entered into the tradition of the Church.