Friday, December 31, 2010

On the Octave of Christmas

In the 2nd day of the Simbang Gabi, we heard the genealogy of Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham. Being the list of the ancestors of Jesus, the genealogy showed us how God, in preparing for the Incarnation of his Son, elected a nation to whom his Son will be born. Today, we hear the letter of St. Paul to the Galatians: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law…” By saying that the Son of God is born of a woman, St. Paul teaches us that Jesus enters the family of all humanity (as every human being is born of a woman). By saying that the Son of God is born under the law, St. Paul teaches us that Jesus enters the family of Abraham. He is born into Israel, the chosen people of God. The Octave of Christmas celebrates these mysteries of the Divine Maternity of the Virgin Mary and the Circumcision of our Lord. For the past 8 days, we have been honoring the mystery of the Virgin Birth. The Infant lying in the manger is born to the Woman who knew not man. Today, this virgin-born child is circumcised: “When 8 days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus.”

To many of us, circumcision is simply a medical procedure that removes the foreskin from the male reproductive organ. This medical procedure is understood as a rite of passage, or as means for physical growth, or a matter of hygiene. Of course, some people really debate about the uselessness of circumcision. But to the Jews, circumcision is the seal of the covenant of God with Abraham. Any one who wished to benefit from the blessings of Abraham must be circumcised. The Jews thought that salvation rests on circumcision.

By being circumcised, Jesus is born under the law. He did not need to be circumcised because he did not need salvation. He is Salvation himself: “He will save his people from their sins.” If he did not need to be saved, why did our Lord submit himself to the Law? He did this to fulfill the law – He is the fullness, the completion of the Old Covenant.

Though not bound by the law, Jesus subjected himself to it “to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” He sheds his blood at his circumcision only to shed it more upon the Cross for the forgiveness of sins. His blood ransoms us from sin. By the shedding of his Blood, He obtains for us the very purpose of his incarnation: our adoption of children of God: “As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then also an heir through God.”

Because Jesus shed his blood on the Cross, all legal observations that used to be regarded as essential to salvation have been done away with. “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile.” (Gal. 3:28) “In Christ, neither circumcision or uncircumcision accounts for anything; but only faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:6) “In him you were circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by human hands but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him by baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2: 11-12) By virtue of the waters of baptism that have been empowered by the blood of Jesus and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, we have been grafted like wild olive branches into the olive tree of Abraham. No longer slaves of sin, we are now children of God.

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