From Father Steven - December 25, 2022
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
I remember the first time that I heard the song “Last Christmas” by Mariah Carey. I didn’t pay attention to the rest of the song, but the refrain got stuck in my head. “Last Christmas I gave you my heart / But the very next day you gave it away.” We hear it every year and each year I still don’t get it, why would anyone give their heart to someone who will give it away? I believe that this year I have understood it. Actually, this story is very similar to what God has done for us.
Our heart, which often represents our love, is the representation of something beyond that, namely, our whole self or our being. Since love is an action of the will, we choose the people who we love, with a few exceptions when we fall in love. However, whether accidental or intentional, every time we fall in love, it is always a conscious willful action. Today we use the word “love” for many things, which are not even a resemblance of true love. Before we continue on the reflection of God’s love, it is important to understand what kind of love we are talking about. Aristotle defines that there are 4 types of love. The first is “eros,” which is the (carnal) love among lovers. It is often temporary and superficial, like the one from the song. The second is “philia”. It is the love among friends (brotherly love), that is among equals. The third is “storge.” It is the love of parents for their children. It carries a sense of empathy, dependency, and it has some sense of self-giving. The fourth and the deepest of love is “agape,” which is true L-O-V-E.” This love is the purest form of love, which is the one that God has for us. It is poorly described as selfless, self-giving, altruistic. I say “poorly,” because it is much more than that. Maybe the best way to describe it is the way St. Paul writes on 1Co 13 (love is kind, patient, forgives all things, bears all things…). Indeed, in Scriptures the Greek word “Agape” is used to describe God, as in “God is love.” Therefore, when we say that “God loves us,” it means that He has willfully chosen to give himself to us, out of his kindness and compassion.
In the song, the subject made a mistake to give her heart to her partner, who she assumed was the right person. Maybe we can even say that she made a mistake entrusting her feelings for the wrong guy. I always wondered why she was not more careful, or even tested the waters before jumping right into it. Well, now that we celebrate Christmas, we can say that God has done something similar to it. Indeed, He went further than that. After Adam and Eve, who were created in the image and likeness of God, who had a great life sinned, God decides willfully to forgive. He creates a plan of salvation that includes not merely giving his heart, but his whole being. He gives us himself in His Son. Looking into our lives, there are times that we also have given Him the cold shoulder, and have put other priorities before Him. Instead of “giving it away,” we refused His love or we chose creation/creatures instead of the Creator. But here comes the boom, what does God do in front of that? He willfully chooses to give us his love once again. By choosing to love us, He does not make a mistake or assume we were the wrong person, he absolutely knows that we are the right ones.
Today’s celebration of the birth of Christ is the confirmation of the continuous L-O-V-E that God has for each one of us. Regardless of what we did “last Christmas” or in our past, He chooses once again to give more than his heart, he gives himself. It is not that we have to earn His love by being good or coming to church or saying our prayers, but rather the opposite. God’s gratuitous LOVE is so awesome that we would want more of it. We come to Church to receive the graces that He has in store for us through the different sacraments. If you have not received some of the sacraments or it has been a while, let’s start again. Jesus comes on earth as a baby because it’s the most approachable form that God has to be close to us. As Jesus came more than 2,000 years ago, He also comes again on this Holy Night. As He was born in a manger, this year He wants to be born in our hearts and our lives. As Oscar Wilde once said, “the only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." By the realization of how much God has loved and loves us, then we can also love the others, and give our hearts back to Him and our neighbor. If there is something that we as a parish can do for you, please do not hesitate to contact us. May the Joy and Peace that Christ has brought into the world be yours at Christmas and throughout the coming year. Christmas Blessings from all the Staff of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Fr. Kevin and Fr. Steven.
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Father Steven Clemence