Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Blessed Christmas to all--For Unto Us A Child Is Born

 This past year has been filled with so many incredible blessings and great experiences. The list includes another trip to Honduras, the publication of my book, The Wandering Friar, as well as the great reception the book has received at parish missions and various book signings, the opportunity to appear on Catholic TV to celebrate Mass and to be interviewed about the book,  the great send-offs given to me by the parishes in northern Wisconsin that I have served over the past 18 years. As wonderful as all of these events were, the top moment of the year by far was the birth of my grandniece Madeline Elizabeth Donahue on May 11 to her proud parents Kevin and Michelle, that along with her Baptism in August.

    Although I have only been to Boston twice since Madeline's birth--her baptism in August and again on a family visit at Thanksgiving--I have delighted in the impact that she has had on her parents, grandparents, and everyone in our family, an impact that I became keenly aware of when I began to prepare this Christmas reflection.  One of my favorite parts of Handel's Messiah is the chorus, For Unto Us a Child is Born, based on a prophecy found in Isaiah.

     What happens when a child is born unto us?  In the case of the arrival of Madeline she certainly brought great joy.  She has a beautiful smile to heighten that joy and like any little baby she just draws the love right of of you.  The pictures below of her and of her with her grandmother Laureen illustrate all of that.  In addition a little baby has to be cared for and nurtured, a 24 hour job of feeding, changing, bathing, soothing and so much more.  I admire the way that her parents share that responsibility, which is also shared by her four grandparents and her aunt Laurie.

Loved by Nana
  Now what does all of this tell us about Christmas?  A great deal I think.  We gaze upon the newborn child in the manger.  He is sent by the Father as a gift of love to all of us, but he also evokes love from us, just as Madeline and any newborn baby does.  The challenge for us is that Jesus needs to be cared for in all kinds of ways.  In humbling himself to come down to us as a baby born in a manger He trusted that He would be cared for.  Think of that, God needing us to provide care.  Now Mary and Joseph did a great job. they did all the things that Madeline's parents, Kevin and Michelle, are doing and even more because there were no modern conveniences. The apostles took a while before they stepped up to the plate  .  But
Madeline's winning smile

      Do we realize that He also trusts us to care for Him today?  How is that so. We often think of the great mystery of the Incarnation, of God taking on flesh, as a 33 year event that ended with the Resurrection and Ascension.  But that was only the beginning.  That mystery continues today in the Church and in the sacraments. Jesus is among us and through the Spirit dwells in us.  We care for Him well in our life of prayer and in reverently approaching Him in the Eucharist.  But there is another way in which He is so often neglected.  In the oft-quoted 25th chapter of Matthew we are told, "I was hungry and you fed me, naked and you clothed me, sick or imprisoned and you visited me." How is the Christ being cared for in that way?  By many that job is being well done, but by others not so much.  I have to admit that I have lived on both sides of that equation.

      This Christmas may our hearts be filed with joy because unto us a child is born.  We celebrate not only that He was born all those years ago in Bethlehem, but that He desires to be born in us today, in our own lives and most especially in the lives of the so many poor and needy where He awaits our loving care.

    Merry Christmas Everyone!
As a special treat listen to the London Symphony Orchestra Rendition of For Unto Us a Child is Born

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