Friday, December 24, 2010

The (Re)invasion

Tonight we celebrate a very special night two thousand years ago (give or take a few), when God fulfilled his ancient promise of promises, to send a Savior, a Redeemer who would break the bonds of sin and death wrought by humanity's disobedience and call all things, renewed and restored, back to himself.  We celebrate the night when, through the cooperation of a humble virgin, he made good on His promise.  And, true to form, he did it in a way almost unimaginable.  (I love how our Father so often works in ways that literally blow our minds).  He didn't just send anyone, he sent his only Son, his splendor and Word, through whom all of creation came into being, into time and history history.  He sent the God-man, the King of Kings, among us as a completely vulnerable infant, to be greeted only by the company of shepherds and their flocks.

He sent a baby, and in the birth of that baby, the God-man, the invasion began.  Or, better, the re-invasion.  The Son became man to teach us how to live as sons of the Father, and to send us forth with a mission to continue His work.  We are the guerrilla, re-invasion force, Baptized and sent to operate "behind enemy lines" in a world that continues to reject him, as he promised us it would.

Tonight, as Christians we pause to remember.  We remember and thank the Father for keeping his promise and sending us the greatest gift of all, a perpetual gift that all of mankind, through all time, has longed for.  Instead of abandoning us to our just fate of eternal damnation, out of unfathomable love he gave us the equally unfathomable gift of Jesus Christ.

A very happy, holy, blessed and merry Christmas to all.  May the peace of the newborn Christ be with you and yours through Christmas season and into the New Year.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Be A Hero

Being a hero doesn't always mean going forth to give our lives valiantly and gallantly for a cause, including the cause of the faith.  A few of us may be called to that, and stand as noble examples of living the faith, but they are the exception.  The vast majority of heroes--saints--are people who have lead quiet and persistent struggles, day in and day out, for their love of our Lord and against the evil forces that seek to drown out we who are his love and light to the world.

For all who are weary, take heart.  Step out again today, and continue doing what you're doing.  Be a hero.

This program is from

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Baptists' Doubt

I generally try to refrain from commenting on the Sunday Gospel readings in my posts; I've always felt that was better left to the homilists, our priests, to proclaim from the pulpit as they are ordained to do.  But today I could not help but share some thoughts on today's Gospel passage, that contains such a striking and representative dialogue between John the Baptist and the Messiah, the Christ whose coming it was his mission to announce.

The passage, Matthew 11:2-11, opens with John, from behind prison bars, posing a very direct question to the Christ, "Are you really he who is to come, or shall we look for another?"  Put a bit more plainly, John, who leapt in Elizabeth's womb at the sound of Mary's greeting as she carried the Savior of the world (Luke 1:44), is now faced with a twinge of doubt.  He is essentially asking the same question that everyone who dares to call themselves a Christian must ask of Christ at some point, and that more than likely we ask multiple times throughout our lives: Are you really who you say you are, the Messiah, the Holy One of God?

John's doubt, just like our doubt, is never a bad thing in and of itself.  God encourages us to question him, to seek him out, because it is only in doing so that we look beyond ourselves and come to know him more deeply.  It is our attitude that determines whether the doubt is ultimately an avenue to spiritual fruit--salvation--or destruction.  More on that in a second...

First, let's briefly examine Jesus' response.  Far from rebuking John's questioning, he uses it as an opportunity to reaffirm John as the one who was prophesied from of old to herald the coming of God in the flesh (Isaiah 40:3).  In doing so, he accomplishes two very specific things, which he also seeks to accomplish in each and every one of us if we are truly open to his will.

First, he quells John's doubt and offers him the satisfaction from despair, that his life and suffering have not been in vain.  Isn't that what we all long for, reassurance that all of the hardships we face in this life, especially the ones that come because we are striving to live an authentic Christian life, are not in vain?  Although Christ may not always give us the comfort of feeling that we are living and suffering for a purpose, he gives us something much more important than feeling:  he gives us fact.  He gives Himself, the Truth incarnate, as an assurance (see my previous post about fact vs. feelings).  He gives us the Eucharist, a blessing beyond compare that not even the Baptist himself was able to partake of during his life and mission on Earth ("yet he who is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he").

Second, in reaffirming John's mission, he also, in a roundabout way, confirms his own identity as the Savior, the God-Man who a fallen world has longed for since the first sin.  He brings everything back to himself, because ultimately it is only in him that anything has purpose and meaning.  Apart from him our lives are purposeless; apart from him we can do nothing (cf John 15:5).

Ultimately, within our dialogue with Christ, our attitude and openness to his reply is the avenue that allows his salvation to take effect in our lives.  Either we end up closed like the Pharisees, with an agenda of constantly trying to trap Jesus in his own words and refusing to surrender their own self-centered view, or we end up like John here.  Like him, like the Samaritan woman at the well, and like the many other saints who have asked openly and honestly, who have sought to know God as he his, not as we would make him to be, and to live according to the Truth of his reply, if we are open to him the kingdom that he has promised will become our inheritance.  Christ stands always at the door, ready to answer "anyone who has ears to hear."  Let us, like John, ask humbly and honestly, and be willing to receive him regardless of the consequences, because we know that the eternal consequence that he has promised for those who love him are far beyond anything we could ever imagine.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

In Eager Anticipation

I've had to take a few weeks' break from blogging to focus on other goings-on in life: end-of-year wrap-ups at work, final exams, etc.  Thanks for continuing to visit and read; there will be much more to follow in the weeks and months ahead as the Christmas vacation period opens up free time to be able to catch up with friends and family and--of course--to slow down life enough to actually reflect and write on the the year that has passed, and what lies ahead for the future.

That leads me to something I've become more convicted of in the past few years: the importance of actually celebrating Advent.  As a kid, I remember feeling like Advent was just four weeks that we just needed to get through to make it to Christmas.  All I could think about was gifts, gifts, gifts, with only half a thought (if that) to the greatest gift of all whose arrival we were preparing to celebrate: Jesus Christ.

The culture today seems to have that same attitude.  After Thanksgiving (or even before Thanksgiving), Christmas decorations are up, and the only reason not to skip straight through to December 25 is because there is so much shopping to be done, Christmas cards to be sent, and other things that drive us into busyness.  It is so easy to forget that Christmas doesn't start until the vigil on December 24, and this year lasts for over two weeks, until the Baptism of the Lord on January 9, 2011.  By the time that rolls around, most will already be well into the "Christmas burnout" period.  It shouldn't be that way.

Catholic News Agency featured an interview with Bishop Wester of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, who has encouraged the Catholics in his diocese to take a step back and remain silent in eager expectation of the Lord's  arrival, rather than give into the hurriedness of a culture who only gives his coming a passing thought:

Catholics urged to hold off on Christmas celebrations until Dec. 24

Bishop Wester's comments and pastoral direction should resonate with every Catholic, and every Christian for that matter.  Let's step back and celebrate Christ's birth with his Church, not with the culture.

Have a blessed second week of Advent.