One of the opportunities I have as Assistant Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), is to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.
Reflections on the Word | Saturday in the Christmas Octave | December 29, 2018
A member of the Dominican community, Anthony Ross, wrote a collection called Five Poems. One of them reads as follows:
Christ ran stumbling down the street
on little twisted feet;
small blue hands over the place
where someone had bruised his face.
His starved thin body shook with tears
and quick short gasps of fear.
Bitter the December day,
streets and sky an equal gray;
no brightness but the neoned pub
where city men with Christmas grin
forgetfully went out and in.
When did we see you?, folk will say
at that last day.
In the first reading, we hear –“This is the way we may know that we are in union with Jesus: whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.” John reminds us that light emerges from love, while despair and all that is not of God comes from hate.
We live in a time when hatred is given space to flourish and battered and neglected children and adults can be found all around us if we see the stumbling and the bruises.
As followers of the Christ, whom the Gospel reminds us will be a sign that will be contradicted, our experience of Christmas reminds us that we, like him, must take our stand on love – in our personal lives, in our churches and in our society.
The reminders of this challenging but necessary commitment to confront hate and invoke love have been around all of us during this holy season. They teach us the specific shape our Christian love should have. Jesus came in poverty and in love for the poor – the shepherds; the outsiders – the magi; and even old souls waiting in the back of the ‘church’ (so to speak), like Simeon (and Anna, though she isn’t mentioned in this reading) – all of them hoping for a glimpse of saving love – all of them victims in their time, and ours, of exclusion and hate.
Christmas is a beautiful season and this time of year can be beautiful for many of us, but not all of us. Where have we seen “Christ run stumbling down the street” ignored or even hated? Have we encountered someone whose own depression or despair has turned to hate? Maybe you know someone who is experiencing their first holiday season following the loss of loved one? Or maybe that person engulfed by hatred or despair is you?
The Child of Christmas is warm and inviting and beautiful, but Simeon reminds us that Jesus also reveals our hearts.
In this joyful season, and during the waning days of this year, what does he reveal to us? Have we let hate or indifference crowd into our hearts, leaving no room for the stumbling Christ we see in the poor, or the immigrant? Have we noticed the ways people around us are hurting but haven’t thought to help – even if all we can give is a joyful greeting or an encouraging word? Do the words of St. John invite you back to the ‘old and new and first commandment’ of God and of Jesus – to love and live in God’s light?
Or maybe we have been battered by others hatred or indifference and are exhausted by it? Do you hear the words of Simeon reminding you of the refreshing and renewing peace that Christ can offer? Are you amazed, like Mary and Joseph, by how this child – and what he will do – reveals God’s glory?
The psalmist reminds us that even the heavens and earth should rejoice at the news, inviting us to announce God’s glorious deeds. A God who was born and lived and died and rose close to the heart of things – close to those whom society often misses, or fears or even hates.
As we pray for renewed spirit in the quickly fading year, let us look to the Eternal Word born in the stable which brings prophetic truth of comfort and challenge into our lives, and ask God for the saving truth to be revealed to us for how we can live in the light of Christ, now and in the coming year. And let us pray for all those we have seen – children, family members, colleagues, young, old – where Christ has come to us stumbling and in pain, and ask for a blessing on them and on us to respond to their needs according to the same great love that Christ has shown to us.
God give you peace!