The theme for Mass on Nov. 25, the feast of Christ the King, may seem more suited to the weeks leading to Easter than the weeks leading to Christmas. To me, it is entirely consistent with the reason behind Advent.
As I have said previously, the road from Bethlehem leads to Calvary. The Gospel reading for the Mass is John 18.33-37. Jesus is being questioned by Pilate. At one point Christ says, "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth."
Pilate poses his cynical and dismissive question "What is truth?" The same question has been asked again and again throughout the centuries since that fateful time of Christ's crucifixion and shouted most crassly in this secular age.
Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14.6). This is God's gift to humanity. Christ has given purpose and meaning to my life and to millions of others too.
At my sickest times with chronic, degenerative disease, when I was virtually bedridden and at my lowest point, I fleetingly wondered why I was born. What was the purpose of my life?
After all, I have been sick for nearly half of my life a life that started with such promise only to have that promise snatched away in early adulthood, or so it sometimes seemed.
Then I think of Christ's words, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
The truth behind Advent is love. Had Christ not been born, he could not have died to settle the problem of sin and humanity's alienation from God. Through his resurrection, a new dimension of human existence opened to all who believe in him.
Illness and disability spanning most of my adult life awakened my dull heart that was unresponsive except to the most basic and obvious spiritual principles.
My life has become a strange paradox: my body is increasingly deadened by disease while my heart has been stirred awake by it. Poverty of spirit is a blessed thing.
Christ's lowly birth in a manger set an example for humanity of detachment from earthly things. They can, and do, distract us from what should be the first and highest object of our love: Jesus Christ, his Church and the kingdom of heaven.
A cynical atheist used to needle me with the old, tired quip that Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. It sounds clever but it is not true and never has been true - as history clearly attests.
One only need think of Christian charity workers to the poor and destitute throughout the centuries, or the establishment of early hospitals, universities or schools.
In my experience, as people draw nearer to Christ and the kingdom of God, they become more, not less, concerned with the spiritual and physical welfare of their fellow man.
We must be about our Father's business, bringing people to Christ and seeking to invite those who left the Church back to the Catholic faith. We must throw open wide the doors of our parishes in welcome to all in the name of Christ.
Christmas is a wonderful time to do that: The inviting warmth of churches bright with seasonal celebrations, traditional carols and nativity scenes to catch the imaginations of children, parents and grandparents alike and bid welcome to all.
The spiritual richness of Advent can strike a chord of longing deep within human hearts for something more than this world offers. "Come into our church family and encounter Jesus" is the invitation.
Church bells call through the crisp winter air, "Come! Adore the baby Jesus and worship the risen Christ who has conquered death on our behalf!"
The First Reading on Nov. 25 says the Ancient of Days (God) has given Christ dominion and glory over "all peoples, nations and languages" and that his dominion "shall not pass away and his kingship shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 7.13-14). Christ is worthy of praise.
The Second Reading from the first Chapter of Revelation says, "Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead" and that he "loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood." Christ will "make us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father."
This could not be without the Son of God coming into the world. Christmas is rooted in divine love beyond our understanding.