Monday October 22nd 2018

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST 31st December 2017

Last week we left Pope Benedict XVI’s Midnight Mass homily where he had shown that God came to us in Jesus in simplicity. Not only as a small child who could not be feared but only loved. But also in that Jesus ‘abbreviated’ the Word by showing us its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything is summed up in the command: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mt 22:37-40). This is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love which embraces God and humanity.

But then we need to ask ourselves: how are we to love God with all our mind, when our intellect can barely reach him? This is precisely why John of the Cross speaks of the Dark Night of the Soul: we find God in ‘darkness’ because our senses are blind, deaf, feelingless when it comes to God who cannot be seen, heard or touched physically.

How are we to love him with all our heart and soul, when our heart can only catch a glimpse of him from afar, when there are so many contradictions in the world that would hide his face from us? This is where the two ways in which God has ‘abbreviated’ his Word come together. He is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart. He has become a child for us, and in so doing he has dispelled all doubt. He has become our neighbour, restoring in this way the image of the human being, whom we often find so hard to love. For us, God has become a gift. He has given himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, he has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high.

Christmas has become the Feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul and our mind to be touched by this fact! Among the many gifts that we buy and receive, let us not forget the true gift: to give each other something of ourselves, to give each other something of our time, to open our time to God. In this way anxiety disappears, joy is born, and the feast is created. During the festive meals of these days let us remember the Lord’s words: ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite those who will invite you in return, but invite those whom no one invites and who are not able to invite you’ (cf. Lk 14:12-14).

This also means: when you give gifts for Christmas, do not give only to those who will give to you in return, but give to those who receive from no one and who cannot give you anything back. This is what God has done: he invites us to his wedding feast, something which we cannot reciprocate, but can only receive with joy. Let us imitate him! Let us love God and, starting from him, let us also love man, so that, starting from man, we can then rediscover God in a new way!

And so, finally, we find yet a third meaning in the saying that the Word became ‘brief’ and ‘small’. The shepherds were told that they would find the child in a manger for animals, who were the rightful occupants of the stable. Reading Isaiah (1:3), the Fathers concluded that beside the manger of Bethlehem there stood an ox and an ass. At the same time they interpreted the text as symbolizing the Jews and the pagans – and thus all humanity – who each in their own way have need of a Saviour: the God who became a child. In order to live, we need bread, the fruit of the earth and of our labour. But we do not live by bread alone. We need nourishment for our souls: we need meaning that can fill our lives. Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how he became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, he gives us himself.

All this is conveyed by the sign that was given to the shepherds and is given also to us: the child born for us, the child in whom God became small for us. Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace of looking upon the crib this night with the simplicity of the shepherds, so as to receive the joy with which they returned home (cf. Lk 2:20).

Let us ask him to give us the humility and the faith with which Saint Joseph looked upon the child that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord to let us look upon him with that same love with which Mary saw him. And let us pray that in this way the light that the shepherds saw will shine upon us too, and that what the angels sang that night will be accomplished throughout the world: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.’

Fr Scott, CSsR

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Garden of Remembrance Project update

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