December, as painted by Christ

We have a number of columns and articles in this edition of The Anchor which remind us of how we should be living these December days of Advent, leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Genevieve Kineke on page nine reminds that in our world today there are “horrors where there isn’t the slightest hope of Norman Rockwell setting up an easel.” Father Healey on the previous page listed several examples of that in our local communities, while Father Landry on the page before him told us of the horrors our fellow Christians and other people have had to endure under ISIS.

We can be so worried about “getting Christmas right” in a Martha Stewart way (sometimes going to lengths that she herself probably wouldn’t do) that we become a parody of St. Martha, to whom Jesus said, when visiting her home in Bethany, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Lk 10:41-42).

During this time of Advent, we have the contrast of the people who have truly great things to worry about (illness, unemployment, persecution, death, etc.) and those who are worrying about the “little things” (getting, and receiving, the “right gift”; perfect decorations; etc.).  Dwight Duncan on page 19 has some great quotes from people about the uselessness of worrying (not attacking people for doing so, but reminding us that we are to trust in God, Who always is with us, no matter how dark life becomes).

St. Martha took Christ’s correction to heart and grew in her faith, so much so that when her brother Lazarus died, she understood that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of God, the One Who is coming into the world” (Jn 11:27) and that He could even do something to help her dead brother.

On page 13 Dave Jolivet reminds us of the centennial of the deaths of thousands of people in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the kindness of Bostonians, who immediately rushed to help the surviving Canadians there in their moment of need. A Canadian Protestant apologetic blogger named Bruce (no last name given) wrote online last month, “If you’re wondering how this ties in with Christian Apologetics, it doesn’t other than to demonstrate the unintended consequences of war and how quickly our fragile lives can be extinguished.” As Dave mentioned in his column (and as one of the books he cited explicitly mentions in its title), if it weren’t for World War I, this tragedy would not have occurred. This is something to ponder as we are tempted to start other wars.

Christ did not bring people in Halifax physically back from the dead, but He did inspire the Bostonians who either sacrificed their own time (to go to Halifax to help) or their money (Mayor James Michael Curley, together with Governor Samuel McCall, used his gift of oratory the next day to help raise a huge amount of money at a fund raiser at Faneuil Hall the day after the explosion, and many other people opened their wallets over the following days) to be able assist these Nova Scotians. The people of Nova Scotia reward us each year by giving an evergreen (a symbol of eternal life) to Boston for our Christmas tree.

The actions of our ancestors a century ago inspire us to respond to people in need. Our newspaper today documents a number of ways people are doing so throughout the Fall River Diocese, be it by giving gifts, or visiting the sick, or spending time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament (as Christ reminded Martha in Bethany, we need prayer if we are going to have our actions [after prayer] truly reflect what He would like us to do to show His love to our neighbors). 

One of the things which can impede this Christian response is bitterness. Martha may have been tempted to be bitter (because she felt her sister was lazy), but she accepted her correction. Pope Francis this Monday said in his homily that some people like to stew in “a broth of resentment.” It’s as if someone said, “My treasure is my bitterness.” The pope cited as an example the paralytic at the pool of Siloam: “He was there 38 years, with his bitterness, always explaining, ‘It’s not my fault because when the waters are stirred, no one helps me,’” reasoning “negatively — For hearts [such as these], that which is bitter is more beautiful than that which is sweet.” 

The Holy Father said that these folks seem to treasure “the bitter root,” remembering “the sin which has wounded them” and they “do not let themselves be consoled.” He echoed the sentiments of St. Teresa of Avila, who bemoaned fellow nuns who were always complaining about supposed injustices done to them. 

Another quote from St. Teresa (not mentioned by the pope on Monday) which offers us good food for thought this Advent is: “We are brides of Christ, and as such, we share in the dishonors done to our Spouse, as is the case with husbands and wives. To want a part in His Kingdom and not a part in His dishonors and trials is nonsense.”

Although we are not all religious Sisters (but the soul of every Christian is called to be the spouse of God in the Heavenly Marriage feast), we are all called to participate in His Kingdom (otherwise, this is all a big waste of time). May we trust in Christ Our Light this Advent and follow Him, even into the dark corners of our world, so as to share the love that He has given us.


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