Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Has Just Begun!

Christmas has come. Has it gone?

That depends on whether you have accepted the basic truth that you have become Christ.

This is the great mystery of Christianity that is neither preached nor practiced. But Saint Paul said it sums up everything he was sent to announce to the world

God’s commission…was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints: this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church (St. Augustine, John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 795) that by Baptism we become Christ!  Take it or leave it.

If you leave it, Christmas is over. If you take it, Christmas has just begun.

To be a Christian means to let the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and reborn in you at Baptism live now in you – “made flesh” visibly, unmistakably – in everything you say and do. Be Christ or be an inauthentic Christian.

To be a Christian does not mean to profess the Christian doctrines and live the Christian laws. It means to believe and live the mystery that is the “root and fruit” of them all: the mystery that, when Jesus died, you died in him. That when Jesus rose, he rose to live in you. That it is “no longer you who live, but it is Christ who lives in you” (Galatians 2:20).

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3).

In the newness of his life, his divine life. The “first and greatest commandment” is no longer “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It is “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It is no longer enough to love God with our whole human heart, soul and mind. We must love God as God loves himself. To do this we must be God – by “being Christ” and sharing in the divine life of God “in Him.”

And the second greatest commandment is no longer “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus changed it. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you” (Matthew 22:37; 5:48; John 13:34). To love as Christ, we must be Christ. And we must let him express his love physically with us, in us and through us as his living, real body on earth. To every single person we encounter. All day, every day.

If we accept this, our Christmas has just begun.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pope Francis in Memphis

I did something good for a change. But it wasn’t my fault. Pope Francis made me do it.

The three dogs I sleep with woke me at 3 A.M. this morning growling. I looked out the window and, sure enough, there was a tall man standing motionless in front of the gate. He was well bundled up, a ski mask over his face against the sub-freezing weather we’re having.

This is considered a high crime area. I asked myself: should I call the police? Just go back to bed?

Then Pope Francis intervened. I could not have stopped him. Ever since elected, he has been going to the poor and saying we all must do that.

I don’t know what Francis would have done. Or Jesus either. But I knew neither would have just left the man standing there. So I took my dogs with me and went outside.

When anybody even passes by my gate the dogs all rush to it, barking their heads off. This time they all ran to the other end of the yard and began hunting for mice.

So I said to the figure at the gate, “Hey man, how you doin’?”

He began talking incoherently. Something about his wife throwing him out, and what he thought of her. I figured he was either drunk or challenged mentally.

I weighed my options. Maybe Francis would invite him in. But he hadn’t asked for that, and I didn’t think it would be smart.

So we chatted a bit. He lowered the ski mask. Relationship. And I said, “It’s cold, man. You ought to get inside.”

I had some trouble saying that. James wrote: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”

I suggested the all-night Kroger’s a few blocks away. He mentioned the “church”  a shelter near it, run by the Baptists. He asked for a cigarette, which I didn’t have, and began to walk toward the shopping center.

I called after him, “Have a good night, man. And God bless you.”

He waved back: “God bless you too.” 

Brothers in Christ. Francis scores again.