CHRISTMAS MEANS CHRIST.
WHAT DOES CHRIST MEAN TO YOU?
December 25, 2014
Christmas Vigil Mass
You shall be called by a new name… “My Delight”… for the LORD delights in you.
I have a hard time believing Jesus calls me “My Delight.” But I have experienced that he accepts me. And that is the basis of my relationship with him.
I mean my personal relationship. It may be more fundamentally important to me that he “saves” me. That is what the name “Jesus” means, and I would attach myself to him for that alone if there were nothing else. But it is only because Jesus accepts me that I feel close to him.
And knowing I am accepted is the foundation for every other close relationship I have.
I have lots of “professional” relationships—with people who do things for me or I for them. Some of these are also “social” relationships—people I hang out with. But even in these I don’t always feel accepted. Not as a person; not as what I really, deeply am. Social acceptance isn't very deep; it can be just tolerance. And, honestly, I think a lot of my friends just tolerate me—although they wouldn't use the word—because I don’t annoy them too much, or I add something to the group, or just because I got included somehow and they continue to take me or granted as part of their social circle without thinking about it.
I suppose that is the way I grew up relating to Jesus. My parents had me baptized into the Church. I basically kept the rules and didn't do anything bad enough to be thrown out. Or if I did, there was a process called “Confession” through which a priest would automatically let you back in. So I was included in the ones Jesus had saved by dying on the cross.
And while I was grateful, I didn't feel he did it particularly for me as a person. I was just part of the human race he wanted to rescue. Jesus showed great, even incomprehensible love for “humanity,” and I was sure he had great personal love for some of them—like his mother, or saints like Francis of Assisi or Teresa of Avila—but I didn't think he particularly noticed or cared about me. I was just in the net with the rest of the fishes when it was dragged into the boat, and he hadn't thrown me out. I was “accepted’’ in the sense that no one was taking the trouble to reject me. But I didn't really “feel accepted.” Not by name. Not as a person.
Christmas is what changed that for me. It was after my first year of college. I was making a retreat and contemplating the manger scene, standing outside the stable in my imagination, just looking. And I had a weird thought: “If I had known Mary as a young girl, would I have asked her for a date?”
My instant, overwhelming reaction was, “No way!” Mary wouldn't have let me get close enough to her to touch her with a barge pole!
The scene was very vivid to me. I was wearing the grey suit I used to go on dates in. And I saw myself in it as I thought Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds gathered around the manger, would have seen me. Seen me as I was.
I felt totally, horribly out of place. I wasn't like these people. I was “worldly,” shallow, caught up in superficial things. They were deep, pure, focused on God and his values. They would not have had a thing to do with me, had I lived in their time.
And then, without a word, without a gesture or movement, I had the overwhelming realization that they accepted me. As I was. They didn't reject me. I was accepted.
By the time I stopped crying, I had entered into a new relationship with Jesus. And with his mother. And with all the “in crowd” of the saints. Except I realized there was no “in crowd.” I was in. Everyone was “in” who wanted to be.
I can’t say Jesus calls me “My Delight.” I am not even sure that I feel, in any clear, affective way, that he “loves” me. But I know he accepts me. As a person. As I am.
That is the foundation of my relationship with him.
Practice: Accept his acceptance.