Sunday, December 22, 2013

St Catherine of Genoa and Advent

In Advent the Church gives us saints and prophets to point the way to Jesus: Isaiah, John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Joseph, and of course Mary, the Mother of God. But for me, this Advent St Catherine of Genoa popped up. I started to wonder, "What does she have to do with Advent?"

It goes back to her profound conversion experience. God let her see her sins for what they really are--and she recoiled in horror. But at the same time he completely overpowered her with the most intense realization of his love for her. She could only keep repeating, "Oh Love! No more sin, no more sin!" She saw sin as the evil it is because it drives us away from God, who is Pure Love.

And really, isn't this experience what Advent is all about? God comes to us--as a baby. Babies normally evoke love. Jesus came to love us, not just with an ordinary love, but with the amazing and infinite love of God. In light of that, standing before the Christmas creche, can't we only throw ourselves into the arms of God, receive his love, and leave sin behind?

St Leo the Great put it like this: "Today our Savior is born; let us rejoice.... No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no one free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness.. . .
"Christian, remember your dignity! Now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition... Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ."
(Sermon 1 for the Nativity of the Lord)

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