Christ, the Light of the World
Fr. Shannon M. Collins, CPM
3rd Sunday of Advent — Year A
"Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them" (Matthew 11).
i. In the 18th century, there was a major philosophical movement that has been referred to as the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment. The term Enlightenment was used by those who felt that man had finally come of age — that modern man was no longer an infant, a baby dependant upon authority. An enlightened man had truly outgrown all that hindered him, especially religious faith. No, the enlightened man dismissed divine Revelation for he needed only the light of human reason. He was to be a true man of science who only accepted evidence that could be seen, heard, and touched. Orthodox Roman Catholics, on the other hand, were seen as unenlightened — even ignorant and stupid — for they foolishly accepted Revelation — truths that were beyond nature — truths that could not be seen or touched. It was up to the enlightened man, therefore, to bring sight to those blinded by ignorance — the modern man would help those crippled by the authoritative teachings of the Church by offering them a freedom of conscience that would allow no binding. The enlightened man — the rationalist — would cure whatever ailed society by using human reason alone, and human power.
ii. The movement known as the Enlightenment — with its disdain of the Catholic Religion — is still dominant in the western world. But its stated goal of freeing man from all that hindered him, has actually backfired. Modern man has been devalued. He is not seen as a child of God destined for heaven, a supernatural end, but rather a man of this world with only a natural end. His dignity has been greatly lessened. The modern, enlightened man has belittled himself, for he has refused to accept a higher realm of knowledge, namely the Catholic Faith. The enlightenment mentality where Revelation has been rejected has led to blindness. Refusal to hear the voice of the prophets has brought about deafness. The enlightenment mentality where the individual conscience rejects moral norms, dismissing the direction and guidance of Christ and His Church, has crippled and enslaved modern man. A spiritual leprosy plagues the enlightened man with sores that rot away his true worth in the eyes of Almighty God.
iii. In today's Holy Gospel, St. John the Baptist instructs his disciples to seek out Him Who brings true enlightenment — the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. I must decrease and He must increase... Go to Christ...whose sandals I am unworthy to even untie...and receive the fullness of knowledge both natural and supernatural. Go to Him and be perfected, completed — go to Him, the God-Man to find the truth about man and the truth about God — go to Him to be humanized and yes even divinized — made like unto God by sanctifying grace — made godly by a participation in the divine nature. Be given sight to go beyond that which we can see with our human eyes — be given hearing to take in the very Word of God and the voices of angels — learn to walk the narrow way that leads to eternal life — be cleansed of that spiritual leprosy of rationalism which limits man to the things of this world. Be perfected — be completed.
iv. Our Heavenly Father offers us perfection — fullness of life and knowledge ... Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect — that's the sort of perfection He offers us. Having been made His adopted children in Christ, we are to resemble our Father in our daily lives. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree ... like Father, like Son ... we are to imitate the perfections of the Most High. But how can we attain such true enlightenment, for the Bible tells us that the Father dwells in "light inaccessible?" How can we imitate God when no one has seen Him? The Holy Bible gives us the answer — God has shined in the face of Christ Jesus—when you see Me, Philip, you have seen the Father. By becoming man, by becoming incarnate, the Eternal Son of God, the Word made flesh, has brought God within our reach. Christ Jesus has revealed to us divine perfections in human flesh. In Christ, God's holiness has become visible, audible, tangible, sensible — Neither doth anyone know the Father, but the Son, and anyone to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him.
v. But such perfection demands the acceptance of the revelation of God in Christ. Reaching such supernatural heights demands that we are subject to Christ and His Holy Catholic Church. In other words, to be given sight, we must accept the Light of the World. To end our deafness to divine things, we must open our ears to authoritative teachings. To be loosed of the crippling effects of amorality that accepts no moral norms, one must allow their consciences to be bound by the Teacher. To end the plague, the disease of rationalism, one must accept a knowledge that is above reason and more certain than any natural truth, namely the Catholic Faith.
vi. In less than two weeks, we will be celebrating the Birth of the Light of the World — the One Who Enlightens. Modern man, still corrupted by the errors of rationalism, wishes to cast a shadow over this feast. The false teaching of the Enlightenment seeks to darken the joyful mystery of the Nativity. Those who seek to remove Christ from Christmas desire to eclipse the coming of the Son of God in the flesh — God shining in the face of the divine Infant. But in doing so, the enlightened man devalues the human race. By stating Season's Greetings instead of Merry Christmas — by focusing in more on toys than the Gift of the Christ Child, man's infinite worth and dignity is lowered to the level of a commercial and materialistic beast. Modern man will remain truly unenlightened and incomplete unless he willingly bends low to enter the cave at Bethlehem. December 25th is Christmas, the Feast of Light. Anyone seeking enlightenment from someone else can choose another date on the calendar.