DISCOURSES FOR ADVENT
Taken from THE INCARNATION, BIRTH AND INFANCY OF JESUS CHRIST
by St. Alphonsus Liguori
THE REDEMPTORIST FATHERS
With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur
The Eternal Word From Being Innocent Becomes As It Were Guilty
Say to the faint-hearted, Take courage, and fear not: behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense; God Himself will come and will save you. [Isaiah 35:4] Fear not, then; says the prophet; be no more in despair, O poor sinners! What fear can you have not to be pardoned, when the Son of God comes down from Heaven to save you? Has not He Himself made compensation to God by the sacrifice of His life for that just vengeance which our sins demanded? If you cannot by your own works appease an offended God, behold one that can appease Him; this very Infant which you now see reposing on straw, trembling with cold, and weeping, He, with His tears, propitiates Him.
You have no grounds for being any more sad, says St. Leo, on account of the sentence of death fulminated against you, now that life itself is born for you; "nor is there any lawful room for sadness, when it is the birthday of life." And St. Augustine: "O sweet day for penitents, today sin is taken away, and shall the sinner despair?" If you are unable to render due satisfaction to the Divine justice, look on Jesus Who does penance for you; already does He commence to do it in this little cave; He will persevere in doing penance all His life, and finally bring it to it conclusion on the Cross, to which (according to the saying of St. Paul) He will affix the decree of your condemnation, cancelling it with His Own Blood: Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the Cross. [Col. 2:14]
The same Apostle says that Jesus Christ, by dying for us, was made our justification: He is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption. [1 Cor. 1:30] "Justice," comments St. Bernard, "in the washing-away of sins." Yes; for God, accepting on our behalf the torments and death of Jesus Christ, is obliged to pardon us by virtue of the compact made: Him that knew no sin, for us He hath made sin, that we might be made the justice of God in Him. [2 Cor. 5:21] The innocent One was made a victim for our sins, in order that forgiveness through His merits might of right belong to us. For this reason David prays God to save him, not only for His mercy's sake, but likewise for the sake of His justice: Deliver me in Thy justice. [Ps. 30:2]
The eagerness of God to save sinners was always immense. This eagerness led Him to approach them with that cry: Return, ye transgressors, to the heart. [Isaiah 46:8] Sinners, enter once more into your own hearts; think of the benefits you have received from Me, on the love I have borne you, and offend Me no more. Turn ye to Me, and I will turn to you. [Zach 1:3] Turn back to me, and I will receive you in My embraces: Why will you die, O house of Israel? Return ye and live. [Ezech. 18:31] My children, why will you destroy yourselves, and of your own free-will condemn yourselves to everlasting death? Return to mM and you shall live.
In a word, His infinite mercy induced Him to descend from Heaven to earth to come and free us from eternal death: Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us. [Luke 1:73] But here we must be mindful of what St. Paul says: previously to God becoming Man He reserved mercy for us; but He could not feel compassion for our miseries, because compassion implies some suffering, and God is incapable of suffering. Now, says the Apostle, in order to be moved also with compassion for us the Eternal Word willed to become Man, capable of suffering, and similar to other men who are afflicted with compassion, so that He might be able not only to save us, but also to compassionate us: For we have not a High Priest Who cannot have compassion on our infirmities, but One tempted in all things like as we are, without sin. [Heb. 4:15; 2:17] And in another passage: It behoved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren, that He might become merciful.