just over the border [Shrewsbury Diocese] at
St Clare of Assisi, Downsfield Road, CHESTER, CH4 8HH at 12.30pm
Mary Magdalene was a known sinful woman, but Our Lord tells us that much has been forgiven her, because she has loved much. Likewise, God is ready to pardon us our offences to the extent that we are motivated to repentance by true charity.
St. John the Baptist was the Voice of one crying in the desert, to make straight the way of the Lord. These remaining days of Advent, we must become ever more vigilant in doing our best to align and straighten out our souls, hearts, and minds so that we can receive Him. In our unworthy state, we can, in a sense, compel Jesus by our good works to bestow His mercy on us, as He has Himself declared in the Holy Gospel: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away." (Mt. xi. 12) The Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus Christ, Himself, and as St. Maximus says: "we do violence against It, as the Gospel lesson says: and the violent bear it away." St. Maximus continues: "We do violence, I say, against the Lord, not by compelling, but by weeping, not provoking Him by insults, but by pleading with tears of repentance; not by blaspheming in pride, but by grieving in humility. O Blessed violence! Which is not repelled with indignation, but forgiven in mercy. Blessed violence, I repeat, which stirs up goodness in the one who suffers this violence, and brings reward to the one who inflicts it. An assault is made, and no one complains of injury; violence is suffered, and respect for order is increased. He that used most violence against Christ, is by Christ esteemed the most devoted.
"Let us attack the Lord on the way, because He is the Way, (Jn. xiv, 6) and after the manner of robbers let us despoil Him of His goods; let us take from Him His kingdom, His treasures and His life. But He is so rich and so generous that He will not resist us, and when He has given us all that is His, He still possesses all things. Let us assault Him, I say, not with sword, or staff, or stone, but with mildness, with good works, with chastity."
In all our efforts to do good, let us keep before our mind these words of St. Gregory: "When you do any good, ever recall to memory the sins you may have committed, so that while you are discreetly mindful of the evil you may have done, your mind will never indiscreetly rejoice over the good you do. Let each esteem his neighbor as better than himself, especially those who are strange to you, even those whom you see do that which is wrong, because you know no the good that may be hidden in them. Let each one seek to be worthy of esteem, yet let him be as if he knew not that he was, lest haughtily claiming esteem, he lose it. Hence was it also said by the prophet: woe to you that are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own conceits. (Is, v. 21) Hence likewise Paul says: be not wise in your own conceits." (Rom. xii, 16)
Our desire is to ever strive to do better, while never becoming content with any progress that we might achieve. We have an infinite capacity to love, because we are commanded to love God who is infinite. We must never think that we have done enough, because there is always so much more that we can do. Jesus told us that after we have done all things well we should claim ourselves to be unprofitable servants, because we have only done that which we ought to have done. Let us never become satisfied with what we have done, but always strive to do more. We must not fall into despair thinking that we are never good enough and then stop trying. Rather, we must be filled with hope in all our endeavors, trusting that God will keep His promise and fill the void that is left within us, as long as we continue to struggle in all charity and humility. In this manner, despite all our faults and failings, Jesus will lovingly enter our souls on Christmas Day as he entered the humble, rough and unsuitable stable in Bethlehem; and transform us as He did the stable, into His beautiful abode.