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SIGNS

Father Francis's picture
Fourth Week of Advent

Mt. 1: 18-25

The obvious theme of today’s Mass could be summed up in one word, ‘Signs’. The prophet Isaiah told Ahaz that the Lord would give him a sign that “the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’”. St. Paul wrote about the Good News from God that came to us through Jesus. He is the sign of our salvation, of our call to be saints. In the Gospel, Joseph receives a sign through his dream that Mary’s Son is the “One to save His people from their sins.”

The Old Testament seems to be full of signs – the burning bush, floods and plagues. The New Testament has its share, too, with the voice from the cloud at the Baptism of Jesus, and the miracles themselves. If we give it some thought we can enumerate signs throughout the centuries. If a sign is something that points the way, there are many ways that we might be pointed towards our eternal life. The greatest sign we have is the sign of Jesus in Holy Communion. The Holy Eucharist is a sign of eternal glory. If we can possess Him now on this earth, it is a sign that we shall possess Him in the life to come.

There have been many real signs calling us to follow Christ. Our Blessed Lady used Bernadette in Lourdes as a sign-post for the faithful to draw people to repent and pray for themselves and the conversion of sinners. The prayerful faces of the millions of pilgrims who pray at the Lourdes grotto are a sign that the Kingdom of God is here.

The miracle of the sun at Fatima is a modern sign. In 1917 the three children, Lucy, Jacinta and Francesco had been meeting Our Lady just outside their village on the 13th. of each month from May to September. Many people were following them to their visions. They asked for some sign that it was true. So, on October 13th. some 70,000 people witnessed the “Miracle of the Sun”, when it spun like a catherine wheel, danced about the sky, and appeared to be heading straight towards the earth, before settling back to its normal position.

There is a story told of an old Jew, who was confined to his bed. He longed for the coming of the Messiah, and hoped to be living at His arrival. Each morning, when his servant woke him and drew the curtains, he would ask, “Has the Messiah come yet?” The answer he got was always the same, “No, Sir.” One day the old man asked, “How do you know that the Messiah has not yet come to us?” “Well, Sir, as I look out of your window I can see all those Catholics coming out of morning Mass. I only have to look at their miserable faces to know that the Messiah has not yet come.”

I hope that fictional story is not true of this congregation. But is there some truth in it? How do we leave church? If you were to stand outside and just watch as the congregation left any Catholic church, would you be convinced that they have just come face to face with Jesus?

So, there is a message here for us all today. The greatest sign of all, Jesus Christ, did come to us as the angel predicted to Joseph. He was born, lived, and died. He then came back from the dead and lives on. We have access to Him in many ways. We may receive His Holy Spirit. We may have Him as our constant Companion. We may take Him to ourselves in Holy Communion. In a few days’ time we will once again celebrate His birth.

Perhaps the best sign of all that Jesus really does enter into our hearts is the way we live in harmony at all times with our neighbours. The joy that comes to our world on Christmas Day is more than just presents, food, drink, and a holiday. For a short time, goodness and peace rules the earth. Fighting ceases and peace reigns. Our special task as Christians is to try and ensure that the peace which rules us this week lives on next week, and well into the New Year. Then, it will be an obvious sign to the world that our Saviour Christ has indeed come into our world.

Heavenly Father, the best sign we have of Your love is the gift of Your Son Jesus who will once again come into our hearts this Christmas. We thank you for this and may we give Him the warm welcome that His mother Mary and Joseph gave Him.

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