Sunday, December 14, 2014
Exploring how to return Christ to Christmas, I returned to the homily by Fr.Henri Boulad, S.J. on the scandal of the Incarnation of Christ in reflection on Isaiah 63: 19 "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down..." According to Henri Boulad: "You, who created heavens and earth, are enthroned in the seventh heaven. For God to be God he must be the Most High, inaccessible One. This the God of the Greeks, the God of Pagans, the God of Muslims and, to some extent, the God of the Old Testament. Except that in the Old Testament we discern a God that is close, a God that descends, is interested in Man, and speaks to Man... Is it possible that the Most High descends and becomes the Most 'debased' ? If Jesus Christ is an illusion...If Christianity is a sheer mystification...If God did not come to us and did not descend from his heaven...If he did not take the radical and seemingly impossible leap of the incarnation, then he ceases being credible - he ceases being love - he ceases being God. The scandal of the Incarnation, which means that people cannot believe that God could debase himself or else he loses his honor, becomes the key and the supreme proof that this is the truth. If I can walk the walk to help the needy, can't God descend and walk with me?" In the Incarnation God descended to the manger and became a needy person like us. God is here among us in every good will and act - He is particularly present in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, giving us his body and blood. Reflect on it. We have priests here, so we can reconcile with everyone we hurt and go to confession to receive Christ in the Eucharist with pure hearts for eternal joy.
The story of St. Ignatius Loyola is an example to reflect upon. Ignatius Loyola was brought up in Spain. The founder of the order of the Society of Jesus in the 16th century was not born a monk. He was born to a Basque noble family, a man of pride ascending the ladder of fame in Spain, then manifested in the military honour and power of knights, and the dating of nice girls until he was seriously wounded in the battle of Pamplona in 1521. In Ignatius of Loyola we see again the power of the transformation God uses in us -weak humans - so that we can become one day united to him in Christ. God who is the eternal Mystery is also the approachable father who calls everyday his servants to become closer to his eternal Son. While being hospitalized, Ignatius read De Vita Christi written by the influential theologian Ludolph of Saxony and there he contemplated in a vision the "discernment of spirits." From the hospital emerged the conversion to Christ when Ignatius experienced the joy of being with Christ and likewise the experience devoid of joy when he projected his glory without Christ. True joy is a fruit of the Spirit as written in the New Testament. And here Ignatius discerns the true joy which will carry him, with some friends, to Jerusalem and then to Rome. The Jesuits or Society of Jesus, approved by Pope Paul III in 1540, carried the missionary work to China in the Far East, to the Middle East, and the New World. Ignatius of Loyola was beatified then canonized in 1622. In his active life as a disciple of Christ, Ignatius educated many followers in the Spiritual Exercises.
How can we return Christ to Christmas in the noise of commercialized materialism? I suggest we start by reflecting on Christ, his humility in the manger, his teachings to the disciples to love everyone including our enemies, and his self-sacrificing love of all creation until death on the cross, and how he uses everyone's good deeds to offer through them his saving grace to others. Let's reflect on him and saints when we are walking or in the train or the bus without being distracted. Let's reflect on him, recall our families, the needy and sick in our communities, in prayers and in helping as much as we can those we encounter.
Fr. Ibrahim El Haddad commented briefly "Christ suffered out of love for his Father. He had a choice to reject the cross, yet he said to his Father 'Not my will but yours be done' (Luke 22: 42)...Christ taught us to pray 'Our Father ...Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done' (Matthew 6: 10). In the first 3 centuries of Christianity many martyrs sacrificed their lives rather than denying their faith. This is happening today. It is, however, the duty of armies to defend their countries against aggressors as it is the duty of police to defend homes against thieves. It is the order of peace, good society and human dignity of everyone that we must uphold. Help each other and all to receive Christ not by standing in the streets and shouting out the Gospel but by incarnating Christ in your actions, services, and prayers." Fr. Ibrahim replied to questions regarding heresies in the early church. He said "Heresies arose mainly because of emphasis by some theological schools on Christ's divinity leading to the heresy that he only appeared and was not truly human but as St. Paul had said, Christ is, in every way, like us human except in sin. Other theological schools emphasized Christ's humanity to the point that a heresy arose which separated his humanity from his divinity and claimed that the one who died on the cross is not God but only a man. These groups caused some divisions among Christians and were to some extent the source of Islam's teaching on Jesus. This is why the Church is active for regaining Christian unity today." More reflections by friends included how to be a Christian model as a parent, and how to strive as much as possible to love and pray for your opponents whether at work, in school, or with people who violate your faith, your family and your home.
In closing, Fr. Ibrahim gave the pastoral blessing while the attendees sang the closing hymn "Akathist to the Virgin Mary" Listen here.