I've heard it said 'Easy times make men soft,,,, soft men bring about tough times,,,, tough times make strong-virtuous men,,,, virtuous men create easy times.' …..It sounds true to me, 'easy times create soft-selfish-impious men' - and I'll bet you think it rings true too.... we reap what we sow. If we are honest, and we look back at human history, we know we have been living in the easiest time - --- EVER, Maybe not in our own individual lives, but as the whole of human society – we've had it easy - we are spoiled. Never before has there been less starvation, less serious disease, and an abundance of leisure time that is afforded to so many. Again, individual circumstances may vary, but overall we've had it really cushy, for a really – long - time... Maybe that is why we've become so soft, so fearful, so willing to give up freedom for perceived peace and safety. We're ushering in tough times though our lack of virtue. We have become soft. We are bearing the fruit we have sown.
The Roman world that Christ came into was not easy but it was at peace – but a worldly peace - A kind of peace like some of you remember of the USSR – all the nations of the Soviet Union were at peace – but very few people in those nations felt at peace. Soviet people were afraid to speak their minds, were afraid of their neighbors, and were afraid of their own children. They were afraid that those around them may not like what they had to say, and cancel them – send them to the gulags – Siberia – or cancel them permanently. That's similar to the world the Jews had at the time of Christ. People were afraid to speak out, especially those with much to lose – the scribes, the Sadducee's, the whole Sanhedrin... why, because they would lose their position, their power, their livelihood, maybe their life. But through Christ's strength, courage, and sacrifice – many became virtuous and strong, courageous and unafraid, and the fruit they bore was Christ's Church.
The question is what fruit are we sowing by how we live our like? Are we soft or virtuous? We heard in Hebrews today that Christ said “Sacrifice and offerings you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me... to DO YOUR WILL” – Three times the reading mentions doing God's will. Is it merely referring to Christ's flesh and blood or His body of believers? The answer is both. We are members of the Body of Christ, and as a member of His body, we are called to do the will of God. Growing ever closer in conformance with Him, growing ever closer in relationship with Him and with each other. We are His body, we are called to a divine occupation – to do His will, so that we will bear good fruit.
Is His will in the law? By following the law will we be saved? No, the law cannot save us, only the one true sacrifice of Jesus that is re-presented on this altar can do that. But should the law be ignored? By no means can God's true moral law be ignored. The 10 commandments give us a good basis to examine ourselves, and if we measure ourselves against them we will approach our salvation with fear and trembling, the fear and trembling that allows us to have recourse to God's forgiveness and grace. Our adherence to the law will not save us... but will help us understand how far our wills are from God's will. And without our wills being conformed to Christ, our behavior, - our softness – our immoral compass, will lead us further from God's will. If we are do not follow God's will, we will not be the virtuous-strong people that our divine occupation Calls us to be and the fruit we bear will be rotten. We will not have peace.
The good news is that God understands our lowliness and softness. Through the Incarnation – God became man – He came to strengthen us through His word, through His example, and simply being in His presence. He came to the lowest city in Israel – Bethlehem, too small to be among the clans of Judah, smaller than Lakeview, but Bethlehem is now known by every Christian for the last 2000 years – lowly Bethlehem, is now world renowned by simply being the place where Christ was born – Christ, raised the lowly. In Mary's visitation to Elizabeth, Jesus, nothing more than 'a zygote' or a 'mere clump of cells' according to some people, strengthens John, who is in Elizabeth's womb for less than 6-months. One unborn soul touching another unborn soul - although no words were spoken between them, the connection was made through the words of Mary to Elizabeth and the child in her womb responded. Jesus, through the conduit of His mother Mary, and Elizabeth, strengthened John.
As members of Christ's body through Baptism, we are called to strengthen one another for the battles that lay ahead, our battles against sin and worldly desires. And how are we strengthened? We are strengthen by Christ in the Eucharist, and through the conduit of Mary and each other.... I cannot say it any better than did St. Ambrose...
“Mary did not doubt, but believed and therefore obtained the fruit of faith. “Blessed... are you who believed.” … But YOU ALSO are blessed, you who have heard and believed. For a soul that has believed has both conceived AND bears the WORD of God - and declares His works. Let the soul of Mary be in each of you, so that it magnifies the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each of you, so that it rejoices in God. She is the one mother of Christ according to the flesh, yet Christ is the fruit of all according to the faith. Every soul receives the Word of God, provided that, undefiled and unstained by vices, it guards its purity with inviolate modesty.”
As we prepare for the celebration of Christ's first Advent – His first coming into the world, let us straighten each other through the practice of virtue as we become conduits for Christ and the world, to bear good fruit – the fruit of His Peace.