At dinner last night, one of our family members in our group commented that she noticed the absence of Christmas decorations and Christmas carols in stores and shopping centers they visited on land. All of us agreed with the observation. One ventured the explanation that the mood was most probably brought about by the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria that visited their islands recently.
Up to a few years ago the atmosphere in shops and malls was very Christmassy and festive.
But whatever the explanation is for the atmosphere in these specific islands, I commented that for a long time now, there has been an aggressive campaign, not only to remove Christ from Christmas, but to eradicate any reference to Him in the public square under the new doctrine of “political correctness.” The effect of this is to stifle the free exercise of one’s religion and faith outside of their own homes and churches, and to hinder the evangelization efforts of the Church. Recently a bus ad of the Archdiocese of Washington showing an image of the Nativity with the caption “Find the Perfect Gift” was turned down by the Washington Metro.
For many decades, there have been sustained assaults on cherished Christian values like the sanctity of human life. Powerful forces advocating a culture of death have tried and succeeded in redefining marriage and family, such that God, the Creator of the Universe, has been removed to a great extent from human affairs. Thus the number of believers has greatly decreased.
In the gospel for today, Christ was speaking about the crowds who were not responsive to the preaching of the Messiah they had waited and longed for for thousands of years. They criticized John the Baptist for not eating or drinking (or barely at all) but also criticized Christ from eating and drinking with sinners.
For two thousand years the Church has produced thousands of saints. She reminds us that in the midst of the culture we live in we are called to holiness.
What is the “call to holiness”?
The prophet Isaiah answers that in the first reading: “God tells us what is good for us and leads us to the way to go. He invites us to hearken to His commandments, but He does not force us. Unfortunately, many people are not listening to this call and therefore do not properly respond to it.
But the Responsorial Psalm stresses this clearly: “Those who follow You, Lord, will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Psalm 1 says: “Blessed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor walks in the way of sinners … but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.”
God promises a reward, that is, “to see His glory”, which means being united with Him forever in heaven.”
But this living a life of holiness may not be easy in the midst of unbelief and hostility of secular society. We also have to contend with our fallen nature, or human weakness, and the wiles of our adversary, the devil, who prowls around the world like a roaring lion seeking the ruin of souls.
However, Christ assures us of his help and His grace: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
As we go through this season of Advent, a time of preparation and longing for Christ’s coming, and for as long as we live, may we follow Christ as our Lord throughout our life. For as St. Augustine said: “We were made for God and our hearts will be restless until they rest in God.”
This cruise of ours will end in a couple of days. Let us ask our Lady, the Mother of Christ, that “when our voyage [of life] is over, O stand on the shore, and show Him at last to me.#
* ( The actual homily at sea on December 15, 2017 on Cruise Ship Holland America)