The Imperative of Christmas

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  12/16/2013
 
Christmas is about God teaching us what love means. As Scripture tells us, 

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son  into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for  our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).

God took on a body at Christmas, and became visible, so that love could become visible. By having his own blood, he could shed it for us. By having his own body, he could offer it on the cross for us. And he shows this visibly so that we can imitate it. Hence Saint John writes, 

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16).

That includes our brothers and sisters still in the womb, the children who are deprived of legal protection of their very lives (and therefore of all their other rights as well).

We are to lay down our lives for them! This is no abstract, make-believe, or half-hearted commitment. This is discipleship, which admits of no cheap grace. A passionate adherence to Christ -- who took on a body at Christmas and has it to this day -- means a passionate imperative to rescue the needy and to save them, not just spiritually but physically.

Basil of Caesarea, for instance, fought intensely against abortion and infanticide in the 4th century Roman Empire.

"So passionate was Basil in his concern for life that apparently, late one evening after Vespers, he and several deacons from the church actually went outside the city to dismantle the old Caesarean infanticide shrine with their bare hands. He knew that such direct action could very well have jeopardized his standing, but he was driven by an irrepressible spiritual imperative…

"Hearing of Basil’s solitary crusade, the Emperor Valentinian took the first step toward the full criminalization of child-killing in 374...'" {Third Time Around: A history of the Pro-life Movement from the First Century to the Present, by George Grant, 1991, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, pp.20-21)

Notice the reference to being "passionate," and to the "irrepressible spiritual imperative." It is that expressed above by Saint John. Because Christ came among us physically and gave his life on the cross, we can give our lives for one another. We can take risks to protect one another. Basil was stirred by a physical evil, inspired by a God who became physical in the Incarnation,  and impelled to physical action.

God becoming visible at Christmas is not only a blessing we receive; it is an obligation we accept. In receiving the one who took on a body precisely to sacrifice it for us, we accept the duty and privilege of sacrificing our own bodies, possessions, and lives in order to love one another, especially the oppressed, first among whom are the unborn.