Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful. Deeds are precious"

Saying you believe in Jesus is the easy part – It’s the “living it” that proves it - The proof is in the pudding.........

For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another.... If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. (1 John 3) But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth ?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." (John 1)

It is not enough for us to say: "I love God," but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me. – Mother Teresa

We continue to celebrate Christmas by continuing to open our hearts to receive what we've been given by Christmas. It's like discovering new wrapped gifts, newly discovered and unopened. The invitation to "Come and see" what is still being offered us is so important these days.

How do we keep discovering the gifts? I think we are invited to go and to look in surprising places. We are invited to go to those places where we least expect to find an encounter with the divine. Notice how Nathanael discounts Jesus, simply because he's from the sleepy town of Nazareth : "Can anything good come from Nazareth ?"

We may think that no good can come from taking a hard look at our anxieties, or our fears, or at the anger in our hearts. We may ask, "What good can come from looking at the primary relationship in my life? What's going to possibly change there?" We might not have the imagination or the hope to look at how we live, what basic habits define our lives or what patterns tend to define our sinfulness. There may be dozens of "places" in our hearts which are simply "off limits" to our reflection.

Christmas comes alive again for us this week or whenever we can let God be with us, especially in the messy or challenging places of our lives. When my fears can be the stable and the manger into which Jesus is born, I receive a great Christmas gift.

What do we do? We follow the invitation: "Come and see." We let our Lord show us the seemingly unlikely places of encounter, discovery, incarnation. For example, we might ask, "What were the places which were tough over the Christmas holidays? Where did I feel hurt, bruised, upset?" When we come to those places, with eyes open to discover a Savior waiting for us there, we see his presence. We discover we are loved there. We experience a healer binding our wounds. We reflect upon his own coming in smallness, his own bonding with the poor and broken-hearted and we feel closer to Jesus. Finally, in that place of grace, we can hear the call to love others the same way - to see brokenness in others as an opportunity to love them.

Imagine what a sustaining Christmas gift it would be if we could look at our relationship with our spouse as the manger into which Jesus is looking for the opportunity to come and give life. A stable is a messy and sometimes unpleasant place. We can ask, "How will anything clean up, fix up this mess? It's been bad for a long time; how can I do it alone?" If we let Jesus into my hurt or anger, to my disappointment and fear, we can begin to believe that I can be healed by his presence and that he can give me the grace to forgive and to heal and to love my spouse because he/she needs healing and loving.

So our prayer during this Christmas season can be, "Keep coming, Lord Jesus. We still need you."

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