Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Birth of the Word that Made the World

When God created the world, according to Genesis 1, he did so by speaking a word. "Let there be light," He says, and again, "Let there be a firmament," and so on. The world that He made "very good," (Gn 1:31) quickly fell away from Him. It might be more accurately stated that Man, His finest creation, was seduced into a rebellion against Him by an evil spirit. Man, in his turn, brought the greater part of the material world with him.

God promised through the prophets to create a new creation, a new heavens and a new earth (Isa 65:17; 66:22), where justice and peace would "kiss," (Ps 85:10). Genesis recounts what we might consider a "false start" of sorts in this new creation: God floods the earth as if to wash away sin. The same account, of Noah and the flood, tells how the flood killed most human beings, but failed to kill sin living in each human being. A mere bathing of the world would not suffice - in this new creation, in which we would have not stony hearts, but soft hearts of living flesh (Ez 36:26), we would need a bathing of conscience (Heb 9:13-14).

The new creation would start with a new Man (Eph 2:14-16). And just as the first creation began with a word, so would the new creation. The new creation began when the Word became a man. So it is fitting that the first mass on Christmas day, at midnight, starts with an antiphon the first words of which are, "The Lord said..." The eternal Godhead, the divine origin of reality, the transcendent unmoved Mover became a little baby in the womb of a little woman in a little corner of a little province. And that virginal conception was the hidden beginning of the new creation. When He emerged from her womb, leaving intact her virginity unruptured by His miraculous conception therein, the new heavens truly made their first appearance on an earth being recreated by Him as His mother swaddled Him in her arms. The event was so momentous that heaven could not contain itself. Angels burst forth from heaven to celebrate and announce the fact.

St. Peter, after our Lord's death, resurrection, and ascension made more clear what sort of thing this new creation would be, continued speaking about it (2 Pet 3:13), echoing the very words of the prophet Isaiah before him. From the time of our Lord's ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, we have in the Church the means to share in our Lord's new way of existing, in the new creation. Baptism, firstly, is the sacrament by which we are scrubbed more deeply clean than the flood could manage. It washes us in the sacrificial blood of Jesus that wins the forgiveness of sins. Confirmation seals us and ratifies this new life in us. Penance restores that purification when we squander it, and the holy Eucharist sustains and strengthens it, and most perfectly unites us to Him. Marriage draws the otherwise-natural union of a man and woman into this supernatural way of living. Holy Orders configures men to represent Christ more perfectly to the rest of the Church. Anointing prepares us for the final transition from the last stages of this life, to the fullness of the life that Baptism begins in us.

This new creation in Christ, that every baptised person carries about in his soul, necessarily overturns the existing world order of sin, or else is overturned by it. The two cannot coexist forever. We must be standing with God and waging war, even if slow and faltering, against sin in our hearts and around us; or else we are standing in sin, and sinking, even if slow and faltering, into deeper and deeper sin until we can stand no more.

Christmas presents to us more than a new baby boy. It presents us with a challenge to choose between that Baby and all that He came to undo: sin, suffering, and death. We do ourselves a great disservice if, as we pay homage to the King, we neglect to mind His Kingdom.

That said, it's only a heavy thing if we do not want to choose Jesus. If we love goodness and are even willing to suffer a bit rather than sin, having God in our corner is very, very good news indeed. Merry Christmas.

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