December 17, 2017
The Third Sunday of Advent
(Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; John 1:6-8, 19-28)
In the beginning, the children hurriedly open wide a wardrobe door to quickly hide inside from the curiosity seekers who’ve come to view the imposing professor’s odd, old house.
It is not an ordinary wardrobe with an ordinary inside. Beyond the long fur coats that smell of mothballs, beyond the place where the back of the wardrobe should be and is not, is a land of destiny for Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.
They had come to live at the odd old house to escape the Nazi bombing of London. Unexpectedly, through the back of the wardrobe, they enter another world, a world bewitched, where winter never stops and Christmas never comes; a world where animals talk and plot, where nymphs and fauns live oppressed under the power of an evil witch turned Queen who turns her enemies into stone statues, and where redemption eventually may come for all from The Lion, Aslan, who is a kind and fierce Lion, and who isn’t tame at all.
There are horrors and hags, wars and betrayals, dangers and honors. It is a world whose future is balanced on the lives of these four unsuspecting, bewildered children, who must find inside himself or herself courage and, through faith in The Lion Aslan, the will to succeed, for should they fail, they will die. Should they fail, that entire world will remain in the icy fingers of the coldhearted Queen, a land in winter, forever.
This is the world of Narnia, a land created hundreds of years before by Aslan The Lion. It is Narnia, a world envisioned and created by C.S. Lewis, Christian and author, in his Chronicles of Narnia. His first book in the acclaimed series, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, was first published in 1950.
Narnia, as we enter it, is a land of bad news, of endless cold and endless snow. Spies are everywhere. It is hard for the honest people of Narnia and for their visitors to know whom to trust, and not to trust, even among members in their own families. The self-proclaimed Queen, who wickedly rules the land, knows of the ancient prophecy about four human children — two sons of Adam, and two daughters of Eve — who will come into Narnia to free the land forever from her icy grip, and who will then sit upon the thrones of the abandoned castle by the sea.
It is terrifying and horrible to be oppressed by the White Queen and to be living in Narnia where goodness is denigrated, and evil elevated. The good and captive people of Narnia, who live in justifiable fear of the White Witch and of her spies and multitude of minions, hope for the prophesied day when Aslan is again abroad in the land and when the two kings and two queens will come. The faithful people of Narnia hope for Aslan’s expected gift, the long promised liberation from evil and the anticipated gladness that liberation will bring.
When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy arrive to fulfill the prophesy, the White Queen quickly plots their deaths. Only Aslan the Lion can save them, and only those four — the two sons of Adam, and the two daughters of Eve — with Aslan’s help, can save Narnia from the evil that blankets and chills the land.
Although The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a fantasy book set in a fantasyland, it allegorically tells the story of our Christian faith. Unlike Narnia, where Christmas never comes, for us Christmas comes once a year, not because of Jesus’ birth, not because of His life that He spent preaching the good news, not because of His death, but because of His resurrection when He became the Good News itself.
The key allegorical piece involves Aslan. Insert Jesus for Aslan and you get an idea of C.S. Lewis’ Christological perspective.
Jesus, the Great Lion of the Lord, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who comes to us proclaiming the good news to set us free. What Aslan does, the Messiah does.
Both Jesus and Aslan bind up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, releasing the prisoners, and proclaiming a time of favor. They come to break the power of evil rampant in the land, and for those good creatures with sadness in their hearts, and for those who mourn — they give joy. They come loving justice and hating wrongdoing. They also come forgiving those who repent.
The good news Aslan brought was, first of all, merely the power of his presence when he returned to Narnia after a long absence, and there were joyous rumors that he was abroad in the land. As when Jesus preached in His hometown temple, proclaiming in His reading of the prophet Isaiah that He was there to announce the good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, a release of the prisoners and a time of favor, what joy there was throughout the land. The people heard and saw Him, and felt the power of God come through Him, and they had hope that He was indeed the one to set them free.
That hope is our hope — that Jesus sets us free; it is the hope of the people of Narnia for Aslan, that he will set them free; it is the hope of all people in Christ who are brokenhearted, who are held captive literally or figuratively, who are prisoners in jails, or at work, or in relationships, or in their bodies through illness. Jesus comes and we are set free when we hear and live the good news of salvation. Aslan comes and the people rejoice, and willingly do battle, sacrificing themselves for the liberty of others, and are set free from their captivity.
Similar to Jesus, Aslan — because of the sin of one in this case (Edmund), rather than the sins of many as in the case of Jesus — willingly gives himself over as a sacrifice for atonement. It is through his selfless gift of his life, and humiliation at the hands of the witch and her hags, apes and evil dwarves, that Aslan gains the new power necessary to fulfill his destiny and free all of Narnia. It was through the selfless gift of Jesus on the cross that He gained the power to fulfill His destiny as the Son of God, and to give us the grace of salvation as children of God.
Jesus has the power to melt a frozen heart. In Narnia, the presence of Aslan melts winter away, allowing spring and new life to return. Wherever Aslan walks, springtime follows. Streams melt and brooks gurgle. In his resurrection, with his breath, Aslan frees fauns, dwarves, a lion, a giant and a host of woodland creatures who were held captive, turned into stone statues by the White Queen. Our hearts, which may have been turned to stone by life, by pressures, by stress, or illness, or rejection, or loss, can be made free by the breath of God, freed by the good news of Christ.
In the end, the children return home to England, by the same doorway they used to enter Narnia. Just like Jesus is the gate of our faith, the doorway to heaven, Aslan is the door of liberation for all of Narnia. The door of the wardrobe is the way the children entered Narnia, through which they were called by Aslan. It is the doorway through which they were called to a new life, where they face moral challenges, and challenges of faith and courage.
Jesus, our doorway, says, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with Me” (Revelation 3:20). And that is the best news of all — that there is a doorway into a new world for all of us, through which we are all called, and that doorway, that gateway, is Christ. “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate,” says Jesus (John 10:7). On the other side of the door isn’t a fantasy world invented by an author, but the real world of faith — the world of heaven, here and now, and eternally.
Should we heed His call, should we heed the knocking on the door of our souls by Jesus, who is Himself the door, and if we dare open the door, and enter into the unknown, then we, too, shall be set free and that is better than good news; it is the best news of all.
Let us pray.
That the Church will be zealous in bringing good news to the poor, healing to the brokenhearted, and liberty to captives. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
That the elderly, sustained by families and Christian communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations. We pray to the Lord.
For those who experience any kind of hardship or sorrow during the holidays; that the Father’s compassion will provide for them in every way. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to be free from anxiety and to be generous in showing kindness. We pray to the Lord.
That the many factions, hostilities and uprisings throughout the world may find peace and a genuine understanding of cohabitation of the earth. We pray to the Lord.
For those who are sick amongst our parishioners and family members that they may find healing and peace in the Lord. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, may Your peace that surpasses all understanding ever guard our hearts and minds. May this season of Advent - a season of preparation for the coming of Your Son - be a true season of peace, understanding and a newfound love for our brethren. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic
San Diego, CA