A Brief Christmas Reflection

Christmas is upon us, and it is necessary to ponder this great mystery. Jesus, the son of God is also the son of Mary, the Uncaused Cause became born in time, the King of kings became the Suffering Servant, the God of all eternity took on the form of a babe in a manger.

The circumstance of Jesus’ birth ought to place human vanity and desires in check.  God came into the world as an infant, poorly lodged and barely clothed.  This was the condition of the entrance of the Divine into the world in which He created.  If this entrance is to teach us anything, it is that human desires for the comfort and riches of the world is all but vanity. Humanity, fallen from the state of grace, mistakes temporal goods for eternal happiness and clings to it.  Jesus’ birth is meant to reveal to us that temporal goods, no matter how greatly and abundantly possessed, can ever replace God, the object of the desire within every person’s heart of heart. For without His incarnation, humanity would still be lost in a fallen world without any hope of ever returning to its Father, the One for whom its heart truly longs.

So as Christmas day approaches us, let us remember on that day that Jesus is truly the reason we celebrate this holy day; that while we joyfully celebrate with our family we may remember that the reason for our celebration is God’s great love for us manifested in His own humble birth in Bethlehem a little more than two thousand years ago.  Let us, then, rejoice, not because of a few days off, but because the period of waiting and yearning is over.  Let us join in with the choirs of angels and the rest of creation and proclaim: Glória in excélsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis.  Laudámus te, benedícimus te, adorámus te, glorificámus te, grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam, Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis.

Merry Christmas, friends!

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Actions and Words

Jesus’ parable of the two sons teaches us an extremely important lesson in what it means to follow Christ.  The verbal rebellion followed by complete obedience by the first son is contrasted with the verbal obedience and failure to act by the second son.  Jesus’ adversaries recognized that it is the first son who truly loves his father, since he has carried out the task that was asked of him.  So, Jesus seemed to question them by this story, are the teachers of the Law who claimed such noble love for God and yet fail to do His will that truly love God? Or, are the prostitutes and the tax collectors, those who received John, Jesus’ predecessor, who delivered the message and commands of God and allowed the message and commandments to transform them who are the true lovers of God?

It is curious that some of us think that Christianity solely means taking on the identity of ‘Christian’.  I think we all know what Christ thinks of such ‘lip-service’ mentality.  To nominally claim Christianity does not mean that we are Christians.  To to be Christian involves following the radical calling of Jesus, often demanding that we abandon worldly attachments and relationships in order to follow him.  This means that we will need to be personally transformed, brought to conformation with the virtue of Christ, which will lead us to serve one another.  We will leave comfort behind in order to follow Christ, but this is the only way for us to be Christians.

Thus, it is not only the sacrament of Baptism that identifies us with Christ, but rather all of the other six sacraments also work to help us live our Christianity.  Why? It is because following Christ forms a new relationship between us, the disciples, and God, which allows us to understand that following Christ will mean having to carry a cross.  This is what it means to be conformed to Christ; insofar as Christ understood this both of himself and of his mission, we therefore must also understand this.  In this sense, each sacrament merits a particular kind of grace in order for us to be able to take on the task that God has reserved for us.

Once we grasp who Christ truly is and what he wants of us, we will have to answer his question, “Which of the two did his father’s will?”  Will we, imperfect Christians as we are, be like the first son; we may not like what God has called us to do but we do it anyway?  Or will we be like the second son; we wear a Christian identity, we readily advertise this identity to others, but we refuse to forgive when forgiveness is asked and we only see human dignity in those whom we favor?  Let us pray that God gives us the strength and courage to be like that first son.

Happy Thursday, friends.

 

What Do You Seek?

Chapter 1 of St. John’s Gospel (vv. 35-42) records an encounter between the Baptist’s disciples and Jesus. As Jesus walked by, John the Baptist proclaims to his two disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God!” and the two disciples immediately followed Jesus.  As Jesus notices them following him, he turned and asked them frankly, “what do you seek?”  They responded by asking him where he is staying and he invites them to “come and see” (Jn 1:35-51).  The entire exchange is deceivingly profound because there is much more going on than just a meet and greet.

The Baptist’s disciples were curious about Jesus and wanted to learn more about him. However, biblical scholars tell us that the disciples had no intention of immediately following Jesus to where he stayed; rather, they asked where he was staying so they may come and find him at another time if they so wished.  Jesus’ immediate invitation to them indicates his openness to receiving them, even if it was unplanned on their part.  The two men were surprised but went on to stay with Jesus and left that evening changed and convinced of Jesus’ Messiahship.  Because of this change they went on to proclaim this conviction to others, who are consequently also changed because of their encounter with Jesus, like Simon who is renamed to Cephas.

The question that Jesus asked those two disciples so long ago is the very same question He stirs our hearts with: what do you seek? This question, like water in a foundation, seeps through every part of our being, and it finds its formulation when we are in our early teens.   We may be distraught by the question but what we must realize when we begin to hear the question is God’s openness to receiving us, like His openness to those two disciples.  He is quite ready and His answer will always be, “come and you will see”.

Our response to this invitation will require faith, courage, and love.  We will need to have faith that God wants what is best for us and will never call us to a vocation that we will not find joy and peace in.  We will need courage in order to combat certain facets of our culture that tell us that joy is to be found in fame and fortune.  Finally, we will need love in order to respond generously to God’s invitation to “come and see”.  This love allows us to look beyond our own immediate determinations of who we ought to be and to genuinely discern who we are called to be by allowing God to enter our hearts and direct us towards where He stays.  When we are successful at allowing the Lord to take hold of our hearts, we will, like the disciples of John, be completely transformed by Him.

After two thousand years, Jesus’ question and invitation remains the same for all of us.  Our responses will depend on how faithful, courageous, and loving we are.

I return from my hiatus.

Happy Wednesday, friends.