And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and man

Homily for the New Year 2010

“And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age

and grace before God and man” (Luke 2:51)

By Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros

Today we start a new year. We advance one year in age. Do we advance in wisdom and grace? St. Luke said that “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and man” (Luke 2:51).

1. To advance in wisdom is to become more and more mature. St. Paul, in is Letter to the Ephesians, sees that the goal of every Christian is to “attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.” (4:13). How can we describe the spiritually mature Christian?

St. Augustine said: “I want to know only two things: God and the human soul.” The mature Christian is someone who knows who God is and who human being is.

a) First the mature Christian is, according to St. Paul, someone who has the knowledge of the Son of God. To know the Son of God is to believe in the depth of one’s heart that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16). If God so loves us, there is no longer any reason for fear, worry or anxiety.

b) Second the mature Christian knows who he is. The mature Christian has a dynamic sense of personal uniqueness. Each one of us can truly say that he or she has no replica, and that God has given to each of us a special mission to be fulfilled, a life’s work that no other can accomplish. If I am a husband, a father, a mother, a businessman, no other man or woman can fulfill these roles in exactly the way that I can. In their outside appearance, people are different but inside they are all children of God, and are called to incarnate God in their lives..

I read a nice story I want to share with you:

A little boy was watching a man selling balloons at a Country Fair. This man allowed a red balloon to break loose and soar up into the air. Next, he released a blue balloon, then a yellow one, and finally a white one. They all went soaring up into the sky until they disappeared.

The little boy stood looking at a black balloon for a long time and then asked, “Sir, if you sent this one up, would it go as high as the others?”

The man gave the boy an understanding smile. He snapped the string that held the black balloon in place. As it soared upward, he said, “Son, it is not the color! It’s what’s inside that makes it rise.”

Don’t judge human beings by their outside appearance. It is what inside them that gives them their value and their dignity, and make them rise to God. We read in the Book of Genesis that when God created Man, he formed him from the dust of the ground, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This breath of life is a divine breath common to all human beings. Inside every human being there is a breath from God. All human beings have been created in the image and likeness of God. The image is in their nature, the likeness is in their actions. When they sin they lose God’s likeness, but God’s image remains in them. Jesus came to restore in us God’s likeness, to give us divine grace. To advance in wisdom is therefore to know who God is and who human being is.

2. To advance in grace is a healthy self-acceptance. If God loves each and every one of us as his children, we should love and accept ourselves with all our limitations, and accept life with all its difficulties and limitations. The mature Christian is characterized by a fundamental peace that the many vicissitudes and sufferings in life cannot destroy.

We know that our actions do not deserve us God’s favor. Everything we have is a grace from God. St Paul had some sickness and he asked God to deliver him from it. God told him: “My grace is enough.”

Karl Barth, the great theologian, was preaching to prisoners on New Year’s Eve. He said, “Some of you have heard that over the last forty years I have written many books, many of them very fat ones. Yet there are four words which say it better than all the books I have written. These four words are ‘my grace is enough.’ When my books are forgotten, these words will shine in all their eternal richness.”

“My grace is enough”

The “grace of God” is one of the most beautiful expressions in our Christian vocabulary. Grace is God’s loving activity in the world. It represents the unlimited pouring out of God’s mercy. Grace is God’s unconditional forgiveness offered to the unworthy. It is God’s enabling power given to overcome the challenges of life. Grace is the quality in God which moves Him to do good to us even though we do not deserve it. Grace is God giving Himself to man. It is divine life itself: God coming to make His home in us. We don’t do good in order to deserve God’s grace. We receive God’s grace without any merit from our part. And we do good as answer to God’s grace.

There is a story about a man who went to heaven. He was met at the gate by St. Peter, who said, “It will take 1.000 points for you to be admitted. The good works you did during your lifetime will determine your points.”

The man said, “Unless I was sick, I attended church every Sunday, and I sang in the choir”.

“That will be 50 points”, Peter said.

“And I gave to the church liberally,” the man added.

“That is worth 25 more points”, said Peter.

The man, realizing that he had only 75 points, started getting desperate. “I taught a Sunday school class,” he said, ‘that’s a great work for God”.

“Yes,” said Peter; “that’s worth 25 points”.

The man was frantic. “You know”, he said, “At this rate the only way I am going to get into heaven is by the grace of God.”

Peter smiled, “That’s 900 points! Come on in”.

In this New Year, let us always remember that God’s grace accompanies us in every moment of our life. And every moment of our life should be a loving answer to the grace of God.

Happy New Year!