Saturday, January 7, 2012

We CAN trust him

It's human nature to want everything to be "just perfect" – in spite of the fact that we all experience life as a combination of joy and pain. There are no exceptions. And the Bible goes out of its way to emphasise this mingling of joy and pain when talking about the first Christmas.

Mary has to tell Joseph that the child within her is not his. Think of trying to convince one’s betrothed that the pregnancy is due to nothing less than the power of God! (God himself had to help convince Joseph!)

The arduous journey to Bethlehem resulted in the birth of Jesus among animals in a cave.

The Holy Family trudged to Egypt as refugees, and stayed there for two years, until it was safe to go home.

The blood of all those slaughtered little boys two years old and younger ran in the streets of Bethlehem while their inconsolable parents wailed in grief.

For thirty years at Nazareth God in earthy human flesh loved, ate, spoke, slept and sweated, his hands bearing the calluses of weariness and work.

The joy of his coming is mingled with pain, for his journey to the cross overshadowed his birth and life. As it was the real world into which he came, the real world he set out to save, it could not be otherwise.

God the Father didn’t smooth out the pathway ahead of Jesus or those who were closest to him. Jesus suffered greatly; and the others shared in his suffering, his poverty, his labour and his pain. This was crucial to God’s way of saving the world. These things are, as we might say “the birth-pangs of the new age.”

Thank God that Christmastide is a time of joy, sharing, singing and praise; a time for exchanging gifts and greetings; a time even for rekindling faith, as treasured childhood memories and religious sentiments are revived by the trappings of the holy season. Let’s celebrate as sumptuously as we can. God would want that.

As long as we don’t forget that Christmas is also for those who find their faith journey a bit of a trudge: those in poverty; those who suffer pain at this time of the year because they have outlived their friends; or their families and other relationships have crumbled; or they are separated by great distance from loved ones; or they struggle with psychological illnesses; or they just - in all honesty - find it so hard to believe.

Gathering at the altar with the spirit-filled community is still the best way of entering into the joy of this season, because every Mass is ANOTHER CALVARY, where the “one perfect sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world” is offered to the Father; and every Mass is ANOTHER BETHLEHEM where Jesus comes among us in as real a way as when he lay in the manger.

Whatever circumstances we face in our lives at this particular moment, we can trust the Lord. In leaping from the throne of glory via the Virgin’s fiat into this world which - for all of its beauty and wonder - we had turned into the gutter of the universe, he has already shown how much he loves us.

Dear reader, he is “the same, yesterday, today and forever,” and if you reach out to him today, you will know his love, his strength, and his healing power supporting and sustaining you . . . in your joy as well as in your pain.

Or, in the words of St Paul: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)


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