Monday, December 03, 2007

Preparing our Hearts for the Birth of Christ

Today's Gospel reading is from the cure of the Centurion's servant. After asking Jesus to cure his servant, the Centurion replies to Jesus' request to cure the man in person.

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed."
~Matthew 8:6

We are indeed unworthy of Christ's love. We are not, in and of ourselves, worthy to have Christ enter into our hearts. But He does. And not by anything we do.

Jesus will never force us to accept His love, though. We must accept it with our own God-given free will. We must prepare our hearts to receive Him, for He said,
"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."

~Matthew 12:43-45
In order to welcome Christ in our hearts, we must not only be "swept clean", we must "earnestly desire the greater gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31). We must never be complacent about loving Christ and must strive after the higher virtues, for that is what we are called to do as Christians.

In some households, there is an Advent tradition symbolizing the spiritual preparation we must do to grow as Christians. The family puts out an empty manger, symbolizing the waiting for the Christ Child to come into our hearts. The manger must be made comfortable for Our Lord, so, for each time a family member practices a Christian virtue such as patience or kindness, they may place a piece of straw (or sometimes yarn) into the manger to prepare it for the Baby Jesus on Christmas.
"And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh."
~ Ezekiel 11:19
This is what me must do in our own hearts daily. Pray to receive Christ in your own heart this Christmas.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'"

~Mark 1:2-3

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"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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