Keep Your Gaze Upon the Stable at Bethlehem!
Dear Parish Family,
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, wants to minister to YOU this Christmas and throughout 2023. Allow him to do so! I know for so many of us, with all that has gone on in the world, these last couple of years have been disorienting and disheartening. Many of you have come up to me exasperated and befuddled, asking, “What is the world coming to?”
And what do you have in mind when you ask that question? Well, so much has gone haywire in the world, precipitated by all sorts of things: Covid, inflation, divisive politics, injustices, the abuses of power and corruption not only by politicians, but even figures within the Church, the utter disregard for human life (especially preborn children), unscientific ideologies being forced upon our youth and the religious persecution of those who would oppose those radical ideologies, the disastrous effect addictions of all sorts (alcohol, drugs, porn, screen time, etc.) have had on relationships, all these seeds of massive societal upheaval being sown, not to mention the drama that goes on within our own families, and simply the frenetic pace of our lives.
But guess what? There is a force for good that is INFINITELY MORE POWERFUL than all of the above! And that omnipotent power decided to enter into our material universe of space and time and first appear to us…SURPRISE…as a little baby 2000 years ago at the first Christmas. That eternal divine force of love became human; God became man, and God did so because he wants to minister to YOU! ALLOW HIM! “Do not be afraid; I have conquered the world,” Jesus tells us, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”
How do you allow Jesus to minister to you? By continually fixing the interior gaze of your soul upon him…at all times…so that you are ready to receive him, his grace, his power, and his wisdom that puts all things right again! See, when we find ourselves frustrated, disoriented, and despairing, it means that we have taken our interior gaze off of him who is the source and center of all creation and instead have been too focused on humanity’s ever vacillating worldviews that have too often become untethered from reality. That is true not only for us as individuals, but also as a society. We as a society have rejected God, and when society rejects or becomes too busy and distracted for the One who is the source of all creation and the One who rightly orders it, then of course it becomes disordered.
So both as individuals and as a society, we and our families need to reorient our gaze back to the God of love and rid ourselves of anything that distracts us from that gaze. Those distractions are many and varied; those distractions can even be very good and healthy things for us and our family. Because they are good and healthy, we don’t need to do away with these blessings from our lives completely, but only to the extent that they keep us from placing God as the very center and nexus of our lives. So how do we do that and reorient our gaze upon God? TWO THINGS:
- Fundamentally, that first and foremost means we orient all other things around the Lord’s Day, not the other way around of going to Sunday Mass only when there aren’t other things going on. As individuals and as families, whatever we find getting in the way of Sunday Mass becomes our false god, whether those false gods are ourselves and our comfort and our hobbies, sports, kids’ activities, travel, entertainment, etc. (cf. Phil 3:19). This is why missing Sunday Mass, or a holy day of obligation is a grave sin; it sets up all these good things as false idols and rivals of God rather than seeing them as blessings from him.
- Second, that means a daily prayer life, where we begin our day envisioning the daily commitments and activities ahead in the light of the will and Word of God for that day. Then, throughout all of those activities of work, play, and family life, we keep the interior gaze of our soul upon God and have a continual interior dialogue with the Holy Spirit. Finally at the end of the day, we review our day in light of God’s will, resolve to make any improvements, and recount and thank God for all the blessings of the day.
It all begins with a CONTINUAL relationship and union with Jesus in the sacramental life of the Church, to whom he gives his grace and power to live a transformed life in the world. Without the life of grace that Jesus offers to us each Sunday and keeping before us his positive vision of the Kingdom of God through a deep dive into Sacred Scriptures, then we will revert to the world’s solutions of medicating, numbing, distracting, and/or entertaining ourselves from reality, instead of redeeming and transforming it. What we discover in the end of those efforts in joining ourselves to Jesus is that our own hearts and minds have been redeemed and transformed, ready for the eternal life of love God has destined for us!
Yours in Christ,