This Christmas our hearts are heavier because of the reality of the beastly events that took place on September 11th and the mounting tension and sorrow in the Holy Land as we near 2002. Many have complained that a lapse in tight security have allowed these tragedies. I would like to share with you a story of a time when security was not as lax, how security took extreme caution to prevent any unknown threat from penetrating our shores.
Some years ago, during a trip to the Holy Land a friend James Martin bought a nativity set. All the figures were there: Jesus, Mary, Joseph,the shepherds, and wisemen, replete with some of the animal figurines that stood watch on that holy night 2001 years ago.
When Martin arrived at the Tel Aviv airport for his return trip to the United States security was extremely tight. Customs officers checked and x-rayed each figure, even the baby Jesus. "We can't take any chances," the officer apologized to Martin. "We have to be sure there's nothing explosive in this set!"
Afterward Martin thought to himself, "If that officer only knew! That set contains the most explosive power in the world!"
The explosive power Martin was talking about is infinitely greater than the combined nuclear power of the U.S., Soviet Union and many of the other countries rumored to possess such forces of destruction. And what is this power Martin referred to? The power Jesus brought with Him into the world on that first Christmas night.
The uniqueness of that power is dramatized by the way Our Lord came into the world. Jesus came not as a powerful prince, living in a great mansion in the most powerful nation on earth. He came into the world as the Son of a poor carpenter, living in a dirty stable in one of the weakest nations on earth. Jesus came into the world as you and I did: naked, helpless, fragile, vulnerable. He knew hunger. He knew thirst. He knew pain. He experienced ridicule. He experienced rejection. He even experienced the worth death anyone could be subjected to, CRUCIFIXION. And when Jesus arrived in this world, He wasn't greeted by world leaders. He wasn't greeted by generals. He wasn't greeted by celebrities. Jesus was greeted by smelly shepherds whose earthly status was so low that their testimony was not accepted in a court of law. When Jesus came into the world He identified Himself with the poor, the suffering, the powerless, even the sinful.
The great power that Jesus brought into the world is the power contained in the incredible message that Jesus brought with Him. It is a two-fold message. First of all, it is the 'Good News' that the great God of Heaven and earth loves us, each and every one of us. God loves us without exception and without reservation. The great God of Heaven and earth loves us so much that He didn't send a letter to tell us. He didn't send an angel. He 'cared enough to send the very best.' HE SENT HIS OWN SON!
And this brings us to the second half of the message Jesus brought into the world. It is the additional 'good news' that the great God of Heaven and earth not only loves us, but is our Father and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
This incredible message is God's Christmas gift to each of us. What we do with it is our gift to God. And this brings us to the challenge of Christmas. Do we understand fully the truth? Are we living fully the truth? Are we loving fully the truth? Are we willing to be ridiculed, spat upon, or even persecuted for upholding the truth? Are we willing to place our hearts and souls in the wood of the Manger in order to embrace the wood of the Cross?
If not, we have no right to claim the greatest present He can give: Eternal Life!
Just as the shepherds were the outcasts of society because they failed to observe Jewish laws, so also those who uncompromisingly seek the truth today are outcasts of a modern society which is ashamed to kneel before the presence of the Word made flesh, ashamed to listen to the angels, ashamed to embrace the Cross. I pray you will never be ashamed to stand with Christ no matter the temporal circumstances. Even though the world has changed drastically and definitely not for the better, always remember that the Christ Who came 2001 years ago for the poor, the outcasts and the sinners, has not changed His company of preference. The same with what He taught. God cannot change, man does. We will find Him if we search in the right place - our hearts which will lead to the Tabernacle where He resides waiting to be treated with love, respect and awe just as the shepherds showed on that first Chritmas night.
If you can understand this, you'll understand the explosive detonation of truth and love that creche scene represents. The fuse is something you can carry with you always - the holy Rosary of His Mother, she of the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart. Within the fifteen decades of the Rosary and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are contained all we need to trigger the charges of these 'spiritual explosives' that will discharge graces no human gift could ever match.
I wish all the readers of The DAILY CATHOLIC a faith-filled spiritual Christmas and a Blessed and Holy New Year. I humbly ask you to keep this humble priest and all clergy in your prayers and the ministry of The DAILY CATHOLIC as well, possibly even helping this 'poor, ridiculed, outcast' apostolate with financial help if you are so inclined while seeking the truth always. And may all your Christmases be 'spiritually charged.'