Reflection on the Message 
by Fr. Charles Sellars, OMI

Peace and Joy

For Christians the story of the birth is packed with emotion and sentiment.  The Gospel writers such as Luke take a somewhat different approach. Luke sets the scene of the infancy narrative right in the midst of secular history and political struggle. Caesar has called for a census which to the majority of poor people meant higher taxes and higher numbers inscribed into the Roman military. Mary and Joseph and thousands of peasants like them must make the journey to their home towns and be registered. Little do they know that Mary is carrying in her womb the future great rival of Caesar? The struggle will be the kingdom of Caesar versus the kingdom of God. 

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy, glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to His people on earth as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations in the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at their marvelous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?


There is Joy in God

 There is no “A” list, no group of individuals who are in as opposed to those who are out. Every society has its pillars or its movers and shakers. Unfortunately, people sometimes figure that only those individuals deserve respect, that only those people count. Moving from the margins of society to its center can become a person’s main goal in life.

 Jesus does not say that people who pray publicly are evil or that making large donations to the temple are bad. He does say, however, that these actions do not give someone an inside track with God. They are good if they reflect interior conversion, they are evil if they are intended to substitute for such conversion.

 Everyone counts with God. God does not have one way of acting with one group of people and a different set of rules for dealing with other people. All have been made in God’s image and likeness.

Be My Extended Hands for Every Creature

 Where is God when we suffer? What matters is how we respond. Rooted in despair we can engage in a futile denial of the value of life, or inspired by hope, we can in faith peer through our troubles for the goodness of God. When we do, Jesus will assuredly appear as He did for the apostles.

 There may be a time when it becomes our rare privilege to be offered the option of God’s continued absence. It will bring on a loneliness that only Jesus can understand. Someone once said, “The greatest cry of anguish the world has ever heard, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ was answered by the greatest act of love the world will ever know—the resounding silence of the Father.”

The enigma of Divine Love—beyond our comprehension.

Gift of Peace and Joy

“Always have fun,” Randy Pausch implored his last lecture audience. How many Christians do we know who walk about with a sour look on their face? If we see the Kingdom—God’s love, alive on earth—bursting forth about us, why not enjoy it? That is not reckless abandon, by the way, it’s doing what you know ought to be done, with a joyful spirit.

Make time for what matters. These closing days of the Church’s year—it ends next week with the Feast of Christ the King—are a good time to take stock. Each of us is challenged to look to the future with our hearts set out on the right priorities.

The world is constantly drawing us to care about things that really don’t matter in the big picture. What really lasts, we should ask ourselves. The answer is easy; Jesus tells us again and again, relationships. Love God, love your neighbor. Do what it takes to build stronger relationships. As we head toward the holidays, is this the time to reach out to those who have turned aside?

Look for the best in everybody. Easy words, hard task! But the presence of God’s kingdom implores us to do so. We are challenged to cast aside our negative assessments of family, neighbors, and people on the street, and imagine them in a new way.

Christian Hope

 “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Most of us are accustomed to regard eternal life as beginning when we die. But Jesus states that for those who believe in Him, eternal life has already begun. Who we are now is what we shall be forever. Physical death is not a defeat but another step on the way to follow to the fullness of God.  For us eternal life has already begun.

Because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we too can hope to share in his Resurrection.  Christian spirituality is based upon the death of Jesus and His resurrection guided by the Holy Spirit within us. Jesus is here with us. Lazarus is a sign of God’s love and mercy—if we believe.  God loves us and desires that we be saved. Eternal life is a free gift, but it is not automatic. 


Carry It to One Another

Mother Teresa went to Calcutta, India because she distinctly heard God calling her to serve among the poorest of the poor. The Ascension marks the transition from the ministry of Jesus culminating in His death and resurrection to the ministry of the Church. The commission of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew continues to this day.  Many saints and contemporary members of the body of Christ experience moments or even lengthy periods of doubt. Many of us are sometimes troubled by such experiences. I assure you, it is normal. The disciples fell down to worship Jesus, demonstrating their faith; yet, this was mingled with doubt.

That St. Matthew thought it important to reveal their doubt in the Gospel passage can give all of us hope as we experience the deep and dark questions of our time. Telling the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, He commissioned them to go into the whole world, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all that He had commanded them.  We are assured of His continued presence. St. Francis exhorts us to preach the Gospel always, and when necessary, use words.

Lent

During Lent we review the way we are living in the hopes of making changes that will take us into the Easter season and beyond. One of the things we look at is our commitment to following God’s Way. Moses tells the people that if they follow God’s law, other nations will see this wisdom and intelligence. Unfortunately, not many people looking at the United States today would reach that conclusion.

After a summary of the Ten Commandments in Leviticus, Chapter 19, we read: “Stand up in the presence of the aged, and show respect for the old… When an alien resides with you in your land, do not oppress him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself” Lv 19:33-34. This is reflected in the sonnet by Emma Lazarus engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty that asks, “Give me your tired, your poor.”

On a local level it is reflected by teachers, doctors and nurses who do not ask questions when they encounter students or patients, but treat them as all others who come through their doors. As Christians, whose Lord has come to fulfill the law, let us work to make this principle our law, to embrace its wisdom.


"Do Unto Others"

In the Gospel, Jesus tells His followers to treat others as they wish others would treat them.  Even meeting this standard, as difficult as it is, pales in comparison to the compassion God has shown us.  We must remind ourselves of the great gift we have to Christ Jesus who has given us the power to become sons and daughters of God.

When we are tempted to seek the best place for ourselves, we have the example of Jesus to follow.  Throughout His ministry He praises the least, lost and forgotten as those most worthy of the kingdom of God.  If others wish to honor us, that is fine and good; but if not, we have been honored by God--dignity enough for any mortal.

In the parable of the great dinner, Jesus urges us to consider how God generously offers His bounty to the righteous and sinners alike. Rather than identifying with the invited, we can see that we ourselves are the sinners and outcasts. Recognizing that all we are and have are gifts from God, we can be more compassionate to those who need our charity.  We need no repayment because we have been paid ahead of time.  The Holy Eucharist is the greatest example of God’s generosity toward us.

updated October 3009