by Maureen McKew
The real work of Christmas is just beginning. Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND, teacher, columnist and friend of the catechetical ministry, has some thoughts to share. Here they are with permission of Rhode Island Catholic.
Now begins the work of Christmas
By Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND
Reprinted with permission of Rhode Island Catholic
The Christmas season is over. Some homes still have their outside decorative lights on to help us with these long dark winter evenings. Even the Churches have their Nativity sets stored for another year. Yet the Incarnation of Christ belongs more in our ordinary everyday lives than on just one day in December. It takes a lifetime to unwrap the gift of Christ himself which he gives to us.
The prophet Ezekiel can help lead us into understanding and appreciation of the Incarnation. Ezekiel says” Son of man, do you see the place for my throne, and the place for the soles of my feet? Here I will dwell.” The concreteness of “soles of feet” brings home the reality that Jesus was fully human. His feet left marks pushed the sand aside as he walked and left marks in mud or trodden earth. He moved from place to place just as we do, putting one foot in front of the other. He had to deal with hot days and cold nights, with wind and rain. He surely had sore feet sometimes after stepping on a rock or walking long distances. Such is the love of God for us that he walked among us two thousand years ago in his physical body and since then, in his mystical body.
Related to this humanity of Jesus is a story related over social media recently about Pope Francis. According to the story, Pope Francis keeps a statue of the sleeping Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, on his desk. At night the Pope writes down the names of people who need help and puts the paper under the statue, asking St. Joseph to watch over them in his dreams. God spoke to Joseph in his dreams.
The Pope knows well that God does not need us to put in writing our needs. Yet we, as human beings, need to do something concrete when we are troubled. Think of how many people light candles in church. Or how many Jewish people write their needs on paper and stick them into cracks in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The Hindus float their prayers on paper in the rivers. The Buddhists write prayers on small flags and hang them in the wind so God will receive them. When done in faith, all these concrete attempts to pray for needs are necessary, just because we are people of flesh and blood; and we need the physical expressions of ourselves. God, in whatever faith we worship, does not need the concrete expression but we need to make it.
Jesus walked among us, leaving his footprint behind him on the streets of Nazareth and Galilee. Jesus today is still walking concretely among us. Every Christian is baptized Christ. Christians leave not only their own marks when they walk, but the marks of Jesus Christ as well. When the mangers are dismantled, the statues wrapped up and the stars stored away, the reality of the Incarnation is seen in the footsteps of every Christian. Christ is among us, but if Christians do not act with Christ, the world will not know Jesus was ever born. The Incarnation is more real today in each of our lives than in a representation of a birth scene from Bethlehem two thousand years ago.
We are grateful for the beauty of the Christmas season with its songs and celebrations, but now the work of Christmas truly begins. The poor must be fed, the imprisoned visited, the sorrowful comforted, the hopeless given hope, the sick cared for, and enemies forgiven. Whether we fly prayer flags, float prayers or put our needs under the sleeping Joseph, we are walking with Jesus through the ups and downs of our days. We are reminding ourselves and each other that we have a God who has promised to be with us forever; and we believe he keeps his promises to the end of the ages.