Tuesday July 23, 2019
7:29 am
Bishop Hying

Perhaps this season of hope and expectation finds fulfillment when we fall in love with God

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on December 24, 2017

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 

      We all go through painful experiences of feeling unloved, unappreciated, unnoticed. We may feel taken for granted, marginalized, manipulated or even abused. In those dark moments of lovelessness, we recall that Jesus Christ deeply felt such moments as well. 

      When he was born, there was no room for him in the inn. The Holy Family ends up with animals and shepherds. King Herod wants to kill Jesus.  Later, the Pharisees and leaders reject him and the Lord of Life is ultimately put on the cross and brutally killed. “To his own he came and yet his own did not accept him.”  (Jn 1: 11)

      As we celebrate Christmas, we joyfully acknowledge that God entered our humanity and our history to fill the frightening void, which hatred, violence, idolatry and evil had planted in our hearts, with the light, love and mercy of God. Jesus absorbed all of our failures to love and lifted his own life to the Father as a sacrifice to save us, healing humanity forever by placing love where love was not.

      Is this not our Christian vocation? To forgive the undeserving, to serve the ungrateful, to love the unloveable, to respond with mercy and goodness to everyone is the hard, yet redeeming, work of the Gospel. When we encounter rejection or judgment, how easy it is to draw back, to hide our hearts, to say “I will give no more.”

        Christmas calls us to the opposite response - to choose to love, even when it feels there is no room for such gentleness and mercy in this broken world. Christ enters in as a vulnerable child, unbidden, unnoticed, silently and gently, a sign of contradiction that not all people will be able to accept. Christmas comes when we do the same.

      When we were children, it seemed like Christmas would never get here.

      I remember a joyful agony of hope and expectation during Advent. The December days could not pass fast enough to get to Christmas Eve! Now the seasons come and go in a blur. Either way, for us as Christians, Christmas is not a day on the calendar or even a season; it is a way of life, a new existence embraced and redeemed by the Son of God.

      Maybe Christmas comes when we are more excited about receiving the Eucharist than enjoying a gourmet meal in a fine restaurant. Does Christmas arrive when we feel more joy in giving money to the poor than receiving our holiday bonus? Maybe the Christ Child enters in when a deep experience of prayer is more satisfying than buying a new car.  Perhaps this season of hope and expectation finds fulfillment when we fall in love with God and break the ancient curse of death by casting all resentment, hatred and egoism from our hearts. 

      May you, your families and loved ones know the joy and mercy of the Lord who came to plant love in the barren garden of the world and to restore a fallen humanity to the freedom and peace of Eden.

      Merry Christmas!

 

       + Donald J. Hying

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