God first loved us
I hope this issue of Vermont Catholic magazine finds you and your loved ones healthy and growing in faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
This issue leads us through the celebration of Christmas and into the new year, a year that I have designated as a year of “Communion: Creed, worship and life.” As we celebrate Christmas, I see an opportunity for us to reflect upon the Incarnation as the greatest moment of communion between God and humanity. Consider if you will that God did not have to choose to be born through the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, but He did in the person of Jesus who later revealed why: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
Think about that for a moment, “for God so loved the world.” As such, this primary love for us, as revealed to us, calls forth a response from us to either love or not love Him in return. When we do choose to love God, we are called do so as the great commandment says, “with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our soul.” St. Augustine of Hippo offered great encouragement for us when he wrote, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”
Now out of God’s love, comes the crux of what we celebrate at Christmas, that God “gave his only Son … so that we might have eternal life.” God did so by incarnating Himself as “true God and true man” in Jesus Christ: The Incarnation was the greatest communion because it was the primal communion, it is what began the whole great plan of salvation in and through Jesus Christ. All other communion flows from that moment. Notice as well that this moment is Trinitarian: God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, became man in the person of Jesus. Subsequently, that communion becomes manifested in each of us at the moment of baptism, when we are born again and take on the new person of Christ.
During this time of Christmas and the beginning of the Year of Communion, my encouragement is for all of us to begin by praying and meditating on the fact that God first loved us and how we love Him in return. As baptized members of the Church, we share in its communion as community and as ones in communion through the sacraments. I offer the words of Pope Leo the Great (c.400-461) from one of his Christmas homilies for your prayerful reflection:
“Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. …”
The Most Reverend Christopher Coyne
Bishop of Burlington
—Originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.