Dominica Infra Octavam Nativitatis Domini


LESSON: God uses evil to bring about good

On this last Sunday of the Year of Our Lord two thousand and twenty, I think we can truly declare this to be an “annus horribilis”.
People have lost their jobs, or their businesses, individuals have been separated from their family members, some unable to be present for the last moments of their loved ones’ lives. Many have lived in lockdown for months at a time, and most tragically, the faithful have been separated from their God, forced to view Holy Mass through a television screen.
Our Gospel passage for today seems to echo some of those sentiments. It seems as though the turkey isn’t even cold yet, and Christmas joy has been replaced with prophecies of pain, suffering, and sorrow, but if we look more closely, we see that the true source of Christmas joy, is not just that God brings evil out of good, but that he uses the evil deeds of men to accomplish His plan of salvation, turning evil on its head.
Just think of that most iconic of Christmas symbols that adorns our homes and our churches each year, the Christmas crèche or Nativity scene. How did that come about? It was through the greed of Caesar Augustus. If it wasn’t for the census imposed by Caesar, Our Lord would have been born at home in Nazareth surrounded by family and friends, but those are not the circumstances he desired for his birth.
From all eternity, knowing that this great upheaval would take place because of the greed of one man, he used it to bring the Holy Family to Bethlehem, to the city of David, a city whose name means “house of bread”, so that he could be born not in the comforts of home, but in a manger. A place that not only symbolized the poverty of His incarnation but foreshadowed the Holy Eucharist. Here He was surrounded not by family and friends, but by poor shepherds, showing His great concern for the poor, and foreshadowing His abandonment on the cross.
All of the beauty and perfection of God’s divine plan of salvation was brought about by God using one man’s greed. That is the joy of Christmas, that God will take men’s evil, and make it work for His divine plan.

ILLUSTRATION: Satan in the Passion

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ may not be on anyone’s list for their favourite Christmas movies, but it illustrates this point perfectly.
The character of Satan appears at key points throughout the movie, after failing to tempt Our Lord in the garden, he then sets to work trying to bring about Christ’s death in the most gruesome way. He tempts Judas to betray Christ and then torments him so that he commits suicide. He is there in the midst of the crowd, taunting Our Lord as He’s scourged, and encouraging the crowd to demand Christ’s crucifixion.
Of course, the evil deeds of men are also on full display throughout the movie, the jealousy of the Chief Priests and Pharisees, the cowardice of Pontius Pilate, and the cruelty of the soldiers, but behind it all Satan lurks as an ever-present menace.
What happens then, when Our Lord finally dies and gives up His spirit, the movie cuts back to Satan in Hell, shrieking in anger and torment, as Christ’s definitive victory over sin and death takes place, not in spite of Satan’s efforts, but because of them.
Even though we may not associate this movie with Christmastime, it nevertheless, displays the message of Christmas perfectly. Christmas joy is found in God turning evil on its head to bring about His plan of salvation.

APPLICATION: Finding Christmas joy

It may be somewhat more challenging to find our usual Christmas joy this year, particularly if this year has brought about extra suffering for us or for our family members. Nevertheless, we can still find that Christmas joy if we look hard enough.
First, an excellent practice that every Catholic should follow regardless of whether they are struggling or not, is to pray the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity as part of our morning prayers. Faith in God, and Hope in His plan of salvation, are supernatural gifts, and if we want them to increase in our hearts and souls, then we need to pray for them.
Additionally, we should make small acts of Faith and Hope throughout the day to increase these supernatural virtues. If we have a strong Faith and a robust Hope, then finding Joy becomes much easier as we begin to see the hand of God at work in even the most miserable of circumstances.
Second, make the Christmas Crib the focal point of your prayer during this Christmas season, particularly if you cannot have access to a church.
While praying before the Crib, reflect on just how this perfect symbol of God’s plan of salvation came out of the evil on one man, Caesar Augustus, and while making this reflection, know that no matter what evil deeds men may perpetrate on this earth, God will use them to turn evil on its head, to advance His plan of salvation, and bring about ever greater glory.
As we continue with this Holy Mass, and as Christ once again becomes present for us on the Holy Altar, let us pray, no matter where we may be, that we may experience the true joy of Christmas, and know with all our hearts that even now, God is turning men’s wickedness into His plan fo salvation.
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