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Men of good will

Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 2:1-14

  1. AND it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus; that the whole world should be enrolled.
  2. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus the governor of Syria.
  3. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.
  4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David,
  5. To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife who was with child.
  6. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.
  7. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn.
  8. And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night-watches over their flock.
  9. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear.
  10. And the angel said to them: Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
  11. For this day is born to you a SAVIOUR, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
  12. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
  13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
  14. Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.

In the Name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Ghost. Amen.

On this Feast of The Nativity of Jesus Christ we will meditate on the Exile, Obedience, Humility and Charity.

When Cesar issued a decree that the whole world should be enrolled, our Savior was obeying the order of Cesar.

By that action Our Lord gave us the example of obedience.

During His public Mission among the Jews Jesus Christ many times confirmed that in certain cases the people should give respect and obedience to earthly authority, even to a bad one.

Many times the Pharisees wanted to ensnare Jesus in His own speech.

Once they sent to Him their disciples, who asked Him: is it lawful to give tribute to Cesar, or not?

18 But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny. 20 And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? 21 They say to him, Cesar‘s. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Cesar the things that are Cesar‘s: and to God, the things that are God’s. (St. Matthew 22:15-21)

Being God, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Jesus is not obliged to obey any human authority, because He is the Supreme Authority to every man over the whole world.

Our Lord just tells us, that in the things which are in jurisdiction of earthly authority, we should obey them.

But in the things that belong to God, we must obey God.

For Jesus, Who is true God of true God, the King of kings, to be obedient to Cesar's decree meant to be humiliated.

An owner of the hotel in the Bethlehem was so indifferent, if not to say cruel, that he did not give even a small place to pregnant Mary, although he saw that shortly she should give birth to a Child. And Joseph had no a choice, but to propose to Mary and Jesus a place, which was prepared for animals.

For God, Who came down from Heaven, it was indeed an act of humiliation.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (St. John 1:11)

But in spite of all those insults, given to Him by the people (who received Him not), our Savior gave them a sign of Charity, sending the Angel and a multitude of the heavenly army, who praised God, saying Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.

They (Jews and people like an owner of the hotel) received Him not by sending Him to the manger among animals. But (nevertheless) in spite of that He told them in that moment, that He recognizes (encourages) them to be men of good will.

By saying so, our Savior gave a chance of salvation for everyone.

By that heavenly hymn, our Savior confirmed the purpose of His First Coming – to return mankind to the state of twofold peace - peace with God, and peace among the nations.

Our Lord said that such peace would be possible, only under the condition that people will be “men of good will”. God wants all nations to be men of good will, and that is the reason why He did not call them “men of evil will”.

By the same hymn Jesus also said that His place (as True God) is not in a manger among animals, but in the highest.

Being really exiled and abandoned by the majority of the mankind, Our Lord gives us His personal example of Obedience, Humility and Charity.

By the Nativity, our Lord gave us an example of how we can keep a balance between two kinds of obedience – obedience to God and obedience to Cesar.

By this heavenly hymn (St. Luke 2:14) God declared that He is the God of peace, not a God of war.

"At the time of His birth the temple of Janus in Rome was closed, and there was peace over all the earth, because Christ was the Prince of peace (Is. ix. 6); and the God of peace (1 Cor. xiv. 33). The hymn of the angels is the keynote of His mission, to glorify God (John xiii. 32), and to give peace to men (John xiv. 27), especially peace with God, reconciling man to God by His death on the cross, peace with self, the true peace which comes from the knowledge and practice of the Gospel, and peace with the neighbor by the virtues of brotherly love, love of one's enemy, and meekness." (The Catechism Explained, From the original of Rev. Francis Spirago, Professor of Theology, Edited by Rev. Richard F. Clarke, S.J. BENZIGER BROTHERS, 1899. p. 180.)

We also can say that the hymn of the Angels is the formula of salvation for everyone who wants to be saved from his sins (reconciliation with God and peace with the neighbor by the virtues of brotherly love, love of one's enemy, and meekness) in order to go into life everlasting. This formula will be in force until the end of this world, and therefore everyone is obliged to live according to this formula out of infinite love of God and love of our neighbor.

So, if our Merciful Savior calls us men of good will, and He indeed says so, we have no other choice except to really be men of good will, wherever we are, wherever we go, in every place, in every circumstance.

Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.

In the Name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Ghost. Amen.

Fr. Valerii
A Sermon delivered to a group of hearers
on Christmas Day, December 25, 2018.

P.S. The words in brackets (clarifications) and the commentaries on the Gospel of St. Luke by THE MOST REV. DR. MacEVILLY ARCHBISHOP OF TUAM have been added on December 25, 2019.

A commentary on St. Luke 2:5, St. Luke 2:7, and St. Luke 2:14

5. "To be enrolled with Mary," &c. "With Mary," may be joined with "enrolled," or, "went up" (v. 4), or rather with both, as both occurrences took place. He went up with her, and he was enrolled with her. Women, as well as men, were enrolled at every such census, particularly with a view to the capitation tax, which, most likely, was the chief or ultimate object Augustus contemplated in ordering it. Nor can we see why Mary, in an advanced state of pregnancy, would have undertaken so toilsome a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, unless in obedience to the law requiring her to be enrolled. So that she might say with her Son, "We must fulfil all justice," particularly as she was an heiress of the Tribe of Juda, and family of David (see Matthew i. 16, Commentary on). All this was regulated by the all-wise providence of God, in view of the birth of His Son in Bethlehem, as had been long before predicted by the prophets (Micheas v. 2).

7. "Because there was no room for them in the inn." Either on account of their having arrived late, the inns, or places of public reception - caravanseries, as they are called in the East - were crowded by the concourse of people coming from all quarters, to be enrolled at Bethlehem. Hence, no room for Joseph and Mary; or even if they arrived, as most likely they did, in time, they were obliged, on account of their poverty, to make way for more favoured and more welcome guests, especially as there might be some reluctance in receiving a woman evidently far gone in pregnancy. Thus "there was no room for them." They were, therefore, forced to take shelter in a stable, where the King of Heaven and Creator of the Universe, to whom belongs the earth and its fulness, was to be born. There is a diversity of opinion among Commentators regarding the site of this stable. Some hold, that it was a kind of outhouse attached to the inn, in the little town of Bethlehem. Others, however, who explored the Holy Land, and among them St. Jerome (Ep. ad Marcellam; Bede, de locis sanctis) maintain, that it was at the extreme eastern side of the town, a cave hewn in a rock, whither the shepherds were wont to drive their cattle as a place of protection against the inclemency of the weather.

What a mystery of love and humiliation. The God of heaven, the Almighty Creator of the universe, the Eternal Son of God, becoming a weak babe and born in a stable, although His "was the earth and its fulness." What excess of love. "God so loved the world" (and this world His enemy by sin, sunk in the depth and mire of sinful degradation), "as to give up for it His only begotten Son" (John iii. 16), "and evidently great is this mystery of godliness, manifested in the flesh," &c. (1 Timothy iii. 16.)

What a moving example of humility, austerity, poverty, penance, and above all, of charity, does He not leave us in the stable. While "the foxes had their dens, and the birds of the air their nests, He had not whereon to lay His head." Born in a stable, living in a workshop, dying on a gibbet "being rich, He became poor, for our sakes, that through His poverty we might be made rich" (2 Cor. viii. 9). From the pulpit of the crib, He addresses us - I, "who measured the waters in the hollow of my hand . . . and poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance" (Isaias xl. 12); who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing, the King of glory, and Lord of majesty, before whom "the pillars of heaven tremble" (Job xxvi.11), "and under whom they stoop, that bear up the world" (Job ix. 13), in order to save you, wretched worms of the earth, and out of pure love, to rescue you from the unquenchable flames of hell, and bring you to the happiness of heaven...

11. "And on earth peace to men of good will" "And" may mean, "because" Glory to God, &c, because, on earth peace is established, which was so long desired. The word "peace," according to a Hebrew usage, means every description of blessings. It may mean, "peace," reconciliation with God, which is soon to be effected by the blood of His Son, who is to reconcile sinful man to His Father, offended by sin, and pay the price of his ransom, and make full satisfaction and atonement; or, "peace" between man and man, who were hitherto held asunder. This peace Christ came to establish, breaking down, by His blood, the middle wall of partition, which kept asunder for ages Jews and Gentiles. He came to establish true peace between all the tribes of the earth, by meriting for them the grace to overcome their dreadful feelings of mutual enmity and desires of revenge, which corrupt nature of itself could not overcome; and by substituting in their place, the sweet law of charity, forgiveness of injuries, and brotherly love.

"Men of good will," is understood by some to mean, that while Christ came to establish peace for all, and to tender to all the blessings of peace; it was only men of good will, men well-disposed to profit by the graces and blessings thus offered, that would actually enjoy the priceless blessings of this peace, which He came to establish.

Others, looking to the meaning of the Greek word for "good will," ευδοκια, which, although sometimes understood of men (Romans x. 1), generally, and almost always, in Sacred Scriptures is understood to refer to God, to His benevolence, favour, gracious designs of mercy towards men (as Psalm cxlix. 4, 7; Ephes. i. 5), interpret the words in connexion with "peace" thus, "and on earth, peace of good will" which results not from men's merits or deserts; but is purely the effect of God's merciful designs "in" or towards, "men" elected by God to salvation, according to the purpose of His good will (Ephes. i. 5), and merciful designs in regard to them.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, on 30th April, 1879.
pp. 48, 49, 51, 55

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