November 2022 Allocutio
The Word Became Flesh To Save Souls
Fr. Paul Churchill
We are approaching that time of year when our mind turns to joyous and hope-filled events. We are reminded of the prophecies of old that a Saviour would come who would take away our sins and save us. Eventually a maiden is approached and asked to receive this Saviour. Her husband-to-be is told to name him Jesus as he will save his people from their sins.
What does saving people from their sins mean? The Word of God is clear that God does not wish the death of the evil man but rather than he should turn away from evil. Getting people to make this change is what saving souls is about.
The world that Jesus came into was a world where people were concerned about evil. The problem was that they were handling it the wrong way and making things worse. The romans were cruel in their punishment. The Jews held to the old principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Those methods solved little and exacerbated the problems. People ostracised those who were perceived as evil and only made the world of alienation worse.
And here we come to the first major statement that Jesus was making by coming among us. To quote St. Paul, “While we were yet sinners ….” (Rm 5:8). Let us never forget, be it in our own case or in the case of anyone else, God’s love and help is not dependent on us repenting first. “While we were yet sinners …”
And that is what would get Jesus into awful trouble with the Jews. Instead of avoiding sinners and giving them a wide berth he sought out their company. “He has gone to dine with sinners” (e.g. Mk 2:16). He suggested harlots would get to heaven before others (Mt 21:31). Simon the Pharisee thinks to himself, “If this man were a prophet he would have known what kind of woman this is who is touching him for she is a sinner” (Lk 7:39). Even the disciples wonder why he is chatting up the woman at the well (Jn 4:27).
But even before any of these individual acts of befriending sinners occurred Christ actually made his main statement in his incarnation. He united himself with our sin-prone flesh while we were yet sinners. Why? Because God so loved the world that he sent his only son. To quote yet again from the Church’s Te Deum, “When you took our nature to save mankind you did not flinch from birth in the virgin’s womb!”
Jesus’ outreach to the lost sheep begins in Mary’s interior. She offers God to use her as he wills in this pursuit of sinners and she herself will partake fully in his work. The fact that shepherds are the first who come to him after he is born hints at his role of Good Shepherd come to befriend sinners. His outreach to all humanity is expressed in the foreign wise men. He distains no one. The world in his time was one of condemning and judging and ostracising. But Christ wants none of that even if he calls a spade a spade when speaking of evil. His mission is to get the sinner to change and become a new person bringing out their best.
And that friendly outreach to all was imitated by Frank Duff in his rejecting no one but seeking out even the worst public sinners, not to condemn but to help. Legionaries too must be clear that sin is sin but that no one is to be rejected but rather befriended and helped change direction for the better.
And here I wish to point to something that may have been missed. Our Lady must have felt let down by the disciples who ran away. At the foot of the Cross she may interiorly have asked herself, not unlike her son when only one of the ten cured lepers came back to say thanks, “Where are the others. Has no one come back to stand with us but this youngest of them all?” Yet within a short while we find her in the company of the same disciples praying that the Holy Spirit will come to help them and change them and assist them be faithful to their commitment to Christ. She is uniting herself to her son’s outreach to sinners and not rubbishing them for letting him suffer as they had. And we too pray, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners …”
Let us join her in the mission of Christ in his friendly outreach to all sinners. First we must see ourselves as those to whom and for whom Christ came while we were yet sinners and appreciate what he has done for us. Let us sinners, owning our own sins and not diluting that reality, experience and acknowledge the marvels God has worked for us. And then with friendship in our hearts, empty of any “better that thou” mentality, let us reach out to those who have potential and by a friendly encouragement show them a better way.
I leave you this final thought in your preparations for Christmas. Ask Our Lady to help Christ to be formed in you. We could say a lot of words. But more will be said by the kind of person you are. “Christ indeed in all eyes that see you, in all ears that hear you, in all hearts that think of you!” May Mary bring Christ to birth in all of us. Amen.