Thursday November 14, 2019
2:00 am
Bishop Hying

Where is God silently, gently, mercifully breaking into your life this Christmas and beyond?

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on December 23, 2018

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

      After the tragedy of the Fall and Original Sin in Genesis, God speaks to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head while you strike at his heel.” 

      In this Protevangelium or pre-Gospel, as the early Church Fathers named it, God prophecies the ultimate victory over the power of evil through the Offspring of the Woman.  Even though the original innocence of Eden has been shattered, God does not give up on the human project but promises the ultimate advent of a savior.

      This beautiful plan of mercy, goodness, life and love restored reaches its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus. Fully God and fully human, the Lord of all things is born as a fragile infant in poverty on the margins of the mighty Roman Empire. In a fallen world of hatred, violence and sin, God humbly and quietly enters in, to begin the work of restoring all things to their intended beauty and goodness.

      What captures your heart about the scene of the first Christmas?  Is it the wonder of the angels in the starry heavens, the humility of the shepherds, the poverty of the stable, the loving trust of Mary and Joseph? Is it the fragile beauty of this Holy Infant born into this messy world, pristine in his birth, lying in a manger of hay, already beginning by his sheer existence the work of salvation?

      Paul reminds us in the First Chapter of Colossians that Jesus Christ is the visible form of the invisible God. In the Child of Bethlehem, the universal, mysterious, invisible and powerful God pours himself out in humility and steps into our enfleshed existence and the pages of human history, changing forever the sad trajectory of world affairs towards the victory of love, hope and forgiveness. How precious our salvation must be to the Lord for him to unfold this entire plan for the sake of each of us, for the cause of our eternal happiness?

      Where is God silently, gently, mercifully breaking into your life? We have no singing choirs of angels, no guiding star in the heavens, no Divine Baby lying in new-born wonder. 

      What we have received is the saving Word of the Gospel, the divine presence in the sacraments, the Church as the Bride of Christ, the Eucharist as the Body of Christ, our own experiences of mercy offered, sins forgiven, love embraced, mystery celebrated - fleeting moments of transcendence where the Divine breaks through into the seemingly hum-drum rhythm of our earthly existence. 

      We are called to walk by faith, sometimes in the dark night of the soul. But is such surrendered trust so different than the characters in the Gospel?  Mary believed the angel’s promise, Joseph trusted what seemed impossible, and the shepherds saw a simple couple in a challenging moment. Were the Magi disappointed by the seeming ordinariness of it all when the star finally led them to the destiny of their epic journey?

      Every time we hope in the midst of despair, forgive those who wound us, love the unlovable and surrender in faith to the promises of God, Christ enters in, often so quietly that we barely notice the divine arrival. As St. Thérèse of Lisieux puts it, “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.”

        May you have a joyous and blessed Christmas!

 

       + Donald J. Hying

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