SYMPHONY OF SUFFERING column for December 5, 2000
SYMPHONY OF SUFFERING
Is there room in your inn?
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
since my last letter to you, I have been led into quiet time where I have reflected and prayed. Yes, I have prayed, and will continue to pray always to LOVE GOD for HIS SAKE alone, and to love myself as He Loves Me, and in doing so, then I am able to LOVE my neighbor as He LOVES all of His children, which is realizing the fullness of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Yes, I have put aside all of the rhetoric and debate, the endless lawsuits in this debacle called the Presidential Election, and yet I have continued to pray with HOPE. Yes, we always must hope, and in that spirit, when we pray from and with our heart, we place all of our CONFIDENCE in God, Who has all things (even this election) in His Hands. Yes, it is important that we are informed (remembering always that the media puts its own spin on events), and ask God to win the Victory for the Culture of Life.
Advent is about Life. It is about the Sanctity of Life. It is about the Mystical Body of Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! But do we understand this? Do we realize the importance of this in our lives, each day, each moment?
In our society today, and in the majority of dioceses and parishes across the US, where the American Roman Catholic Church holds sway, hanging onto the phantom spirit of Vatican Council II, the season of Advent has lost much, if not all, of its proper meaning in our spiritual lives.
Advent is a time of anticipation…and in order to reach the fullness, the height of spiritual re-birth when we celebrate the Birth of Our Savior, we must do all that we can to prepare properly.
For example, when a marriage is to take place between a man and woman, think of the intense preparation that the couple make. First, and always, there must be spiritual preparation, which includes but is not limited to the Pre-Cana Conferences. These conferences, at least in some dioceses, are truly magnificent, and having read several that are on-line, it would seem that by and large most dioceses have this Pre-Cana preparation solidly in place. Yet, there is always the materialistic preparation. And with what care does the bride set out to make the wedding day truly spectacular. With what care does the bride select the dress that she will wear on the day when, in the sight of God, and her fellow men, she will be made one with her new husband, for life! Ah, for life! Not a sentence, but a privilege. With what care are the flowers selected, the colors of the wedding, the gift selections, the showers, the invitations, etc.
Advent is for us an invitation to be present at the Birth of Christ. We are literally invited, each year, to come to this awesome occasion, to witness, as did the Shepherds, and the flocks they tended, the coming of the Messiah. We are invited to witness the splendor of Heaven visited upon earth, the ecstasy of both Joseph and Mary, who held in their arms the helpless infant, Who came to bear the weight of the sin of the world upon His Shoulders, that we might be invited again to the wedding feast in Heaven.
All of these events speak of, they point to, LIFE ITSELF! Marriage between husband and wife is about LIFE!
Christmas is about LIFE, the fullness of LIFE as God intended for all of His children. And we, who are blessed with the gift of faith in the Roman Catholic Church, must prepare for this Birth, as if we are planning the most spectacular event in our lives.
We cannot come to the Birth of Christ distracted, stressed, hurried, thoughtless, uninterested, and lukewarm, etc.
Oh, how we hurt the Heart of Christ, and the Heart of His Most Blessed Mother when we arrive at the Birth of Christ in such a state of disrepair.
Therefore, we must focus on the season of Advent. It is the time set aside by Holy Mother Church by which, through God's grace and our own efforts, we do all that we can to arrive at the Birth in a proper state of mind, heart, and of soul.
May I humbly make a suggestion? Take yourself aside from all the preparations for the secular part of Christmas, which permeates our society. Take time, each day, when all of the distractions of the world, of Christmas cards to send out, of holiday decorations to put up, of presents to be purchased, all dwindle down to a mere nothing. Then, in the silence of this quiet time, place yourself in Bethlehem. Walk the streets of Bethlehem. Listen to the chatter of the people who have come to this city to be counted in a census ordered by Caesar Augustus. They are poor. They are cold. They, too, are having a hard time finding a place to stay, and the "inns" of the time were not the Holiday Inn that we have today. A tiny city in a place that hardly anyone thought of as important…except God Himself.
Place yourself there, and think of where you would go to find your meal. Think of housing your spouse, your children, and the knowledge that as the breadwinner, you are temporarily out of work, because you have been uprooted from your daily routine by the order of an Emperor of a pagan nation. Can you see the lights in the windows of the homes, of the inns? Can you hear the men gathered at a particular spot, where a fire is lit to keep them warm, all telling tales of their struggle to arrive in time for the Census, of the cost in money, time, and patience. Can you hear the conversation that ensues, words denouncing the greedy innkeepers who, having this unprecedented opportunity, are raking in the shekels by housing hundreds of guests? Can you see the stables where there are many donkeys that have born the people to this place? Can you see the shoemakers, who are making a bundle because so many pairs of shoes have been worn out on the trek to Bethlehem? Can you feel the cold? Can you see your own breath in the cold air?
The people there are poor. Their clothes are not elegant. Their cloaks are not sufficient against the cold. Their purses are nearly empty, and the census cannot end soon enough for them, so they may make the long trek back to their place of residence, where, once again, they can pick up their normal lives.
Do you think that there is one person there who realizes that before they leave for home, the entire world will have changed? Do you think even one realizes the magnificent gift that God is giving them? a gift long prophesized, a gift long awaited. Yet, we know they do not, for Sacred Scripture tells us that. When the least amount of people were awaiting the Birth of the Messiah, when the least expected it, God brought to fulfillment the prophecy…He brought forth His Only-Begotten Son, the Savior, the Christ, the Messiah.
Is that not the same today? Are we not angry, upset, hassled, stressed, worried about money, thinking of all the food that must be bought and prepared, the cost of presents under the tree, the decorations that must be put up inside and outside the house. Are we not just like the people of Bethlehem where, in a very short time, the Miracle of the Virgin Birth, the Birth of Christ, is most definitely going to happen, but instead of readying for this miracle, we are too concerned about the materialistic aspect of our human lives. Are we not, like the people of Bethlehem, concerned about where the money will come from to pay the bills that go on our credit cards, forcing us deeper into debt? Are we not too occupied about our guest list, the parties to which we have been invited, and what we are to wear? Are we not too concerned about the presents we've purchased, now to be wrapped in glorious colors with fancy ribbons, stacked beneath a tree that is bedecked with ornaments and tinsel?
Are we not the group of people in Bethlehem who are shortsighted, frustrated, and therefore, hardly in a spiritual frame of mind and soul. Are we not, in these weeks leading up to Christmas, too much consumed by materialistic things, with hardly a thought about what Christmas is about?
Advent is to make us spiritual beings, aware that the Birth of the Savior is for us, personally.
What would you do if, knowing now this Blessed Event of the Birth of Christ, you were in Bethlehem at this time?
Would you be gathered in a humble inn, anxious to get the census over with so you could go home? When we are too much bothered by the materialistic aspect of the holidays, then we are the people of Bethlehem who gathered together to complain, to express worldly concerns. What if, at this time in Bethlehem, you were in a spiritual mindset, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, you recognized the work of God as the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph passed in front of you, tired, worn out, humble, poor, and the Blessed Lady was due to deliver her Divine Son at any time.
Would you follow them? Would you hunger for their presence, for with them God Himself dwelt in the womb of the Blessed Mother, protected and cared for by her beloved, chaste, holy spouse, St. Joseph.
Or, would you shake your head and say, in effect, "Well, here are two more to be counted. At least I've got a place to stay, and some money for a piece of bread. Thank God I'm better off than they are!"
Oh, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us work together to make this Advent Season the best preparation we've ever had to await and then receive into our hearts and souls the Infant Jesus, born at Midnight, in the cold, in Bethlehem.
As we enter the first week of Advent, let us all together place our Advent Wreath in a special place. The Advent Wreath must be a holy symbol that keeps us always mindful of our spiritual nature, which supercedes our fallen, frail human nature. Let us pray and make sacrifice, let us fast and pray, that we may recognize the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, as they make their way towards Bethlehem. Let us travel the rough terrain, in the cold, with them. Let us walk in their footsteps this year, and with each step, may a prayer, a sacrifice, a time of fasting and penance, replace our otherwise unmindful approach to Christmas.
Yes, this first week, we are going to walk together, as we approach the city of Bethlehem. We do not have to go there. Bethlehem is in our soul. It has always been in our soul through the grace of Baptism. Together, let us offer humble prayers of petition to God that through His Grace, through the Infinite Merits of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through the "fiat" of His Blessed Mother, and the magnificent grace bestowed upon St. Joseph, may help us to clean out our souls of all the debris that has gathered over the last year. Let us examine our soul with a microscope so that we are made aware, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, of all that keeps us from full union with God.
This is possible. It is, in fact, God's very Will, His Desire for all of us. With what Joy does God behold us at this time, and He awaits our own "fiat" so that we, too, may be grace-filled children of the Creator, not hassled by the culture that demands so much of our time, our talent, and our treasure. Let us recognize that whatever we do possess is His, and if we do not possess much, that is also His Treasure. Let us, as we walk in the footsteps of the Holy Family, leave behind our attachments; let us strive for purity of intention as we pray; let us recognize our sins and ask forgiveness with a humble and contrite heart; and let us accept with grateful hearts each and every cross God has asked us to carry for His sake. If we do this, if we start now, we will be present at the Birth of the Infant Jesus, and He will take us into His Heart, replacing our own frail, human hearts, with His own. Let us pray that we recognize this unspeakably sacred, holy moment that forever changed the world, that brought to the world the fulfillment of Salvation History.
Let us never forget that we do not walk alone. We are recognized by the Holy Family. They invite us; they welcome us. Let us not leave them out in the cold, on the rough road to Bethlehem alone, but accompany them with our entire will, so that we, too, may know the splendor that is to come on Christmas, and which splendor is to reign in our hearts all the days of our lives.
I continue to pray for all of you and ask for your own prayers, so that we, members of the Mystical Body of Christ, may prepare as we have never done before.
Your very little sister in Christ,
December 5, 2000
volume 11, no. 252
SYMPHONY OF SUFFERING
Return to front page of current issue