Emmitsburg Council of Churches


Father John J. Lombardi

Christmas caroling the other night…a lady expressed how joyful it was to see and hear the many, varied carolers (she even hooted when they finished singing!). The psalmist does say: "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord"! Some babies went caroling, too, and many of those who were ailing, hurt or ageing-who were otherwise a little oblivious to the adults, actively reached out and wanted to hold the babies. God comes like that, you know. When the carolers were singing or outreaching, sometimes the visited folks didn't react overtly but, later would respond by a brief word or gesture: surprise!-they really were touched by the visit…That's the meaning of ChristMass--Christ comes to us in so many ways and: we may find Him in others! This Christmas let's remember: "For unto us a Son is given"… Thank You so much for all you do for us, the Grotto, the Lord and Lady of the Mountain-all benefactors and volunteers who do and bring so much-selflessly-to help so many come here to be healed, inspired, divinized by God's Love! I find God thru you and am grateful!

The Reason for the Season

"God came into our neighborhood." That's the catchy-insightful phrase of a preacher I recently heard the other night. That brings The Message home for me, how about for you? Everyone's got some kinda' neighborhood they live in and, what if your new neighbor wasn't Mr. Rogers but Jesus Christ-God Himself?! Another way to express it, I guess, along with "Going green w/ Pope Benedict 16," might be: "Think global act local." God did. He's always thinking about, and loving all of us 8 billion souls in the world and yet He acts local: into Palestine-Bethlehem (the word means "House of Bread"-get it?!) and there He went and lived and died and rose from the dead. God didn't stay in starry Heavens but came down to us and lived with us. Praised be God in Jesus Christ!

At Christmas Time we celebrate the Solemnity of the Incarnation-God's Greatest Work of Art and Salvation! "And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (St. Jn. 1:14). One of most popular statues, prayer-and photo-points in the Grotto is the "Pro Life" statue with the inscription just cited above, which depicts the Birth of Jesus: Joseph is nobly standing with staff over the Blessed Virgin Mary, who just gave birth and who Herself is looking tenderly over upon her Son, Our Lord-Who has Incarnated-of and by her. The marble-art catches the Glory: the Baby is born, really, a boy, a kid, a human being: and the King is united with the queen and all humanity!…Let us never cease to appreciate, ponder and amalgamate this Divine Mystery, Reality and Saving Grace into our lives!

We humans, Catholics and Americans all like to experience things on a concrete, down-home level-right here, right now (if not yesterday!). Well, that's just what the Incarnation is all about: He's come into our neighborhood." The greatest philosophers-truth-seekers-Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Buddha and all the rest-were somehow searching for "The Absolute," the "Prime Mover," the "First Cause" the "Supreme Principle" of Life, and then the Jews and Hebrews did the same. Moses said to God-mysterious-Yahweh: "Do let me see your glory" (Ex. 33:18). Everyone was searching-seeking. Finally, then, God in Jesus Christ came to the world, to Israel, took the Initiative and definitively spoke, acted and, ultimately, loved-He revealed Himself to us. That's what Christmas/Incarnation is all about: God's love for us and His desire for unmistakeability (is that a word?-I know it's a reality!). Emmaunel means, God-with-us. Anyway, we have many phases of "incarnationlism"-it's in our DNA, in our blood-the desire to know and see "for real"- we have many pedestrian phrases to express it. So as you prepare for, and celebrate Christmas, let us now explore the Incarnation of Jesus Christ thru Incarnational Instinct…

"Could you put some flesh on that for me?" -Yes, He did-God became man, that's the very point of the Incarnation. There's an old Latin maxim summarizing the meaning of life in three words (the "ultimate 'Cliff Notes' "!)--Salus salutis sarx --on the flesh hinges salvation. Our lives and destiny depend on it-Him becoming human, flesh, real. He said to the Apostle: "Put your finger here and see My hands, and bring your hand and put it into My side-do not be unbelieving but believe" (St. Jn.20:27).

"Make no mistake about it"-is another way of saying the contemporary "duh"-or, "no-brainer"-it's obvious: God-become-Man. So-don't be oblivious to the obvious! St John the Apostle says it this way: "What we have heard we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands…the Word of Life" (I Jn. 1:1). You may look around for a long time for Truth and God: but He's right here

with us in Jesus Christ-in His Church, His sacraments, His teachings, in others.

"Good to see you": Another way to say/mean this is: Better to see the face than to hear the name.

We like reality, not just maps to it. Divine Reality passed thru our midst-still does. St John the Baptist said it this way pointing to the Incarnation--"Behold-look, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn. 1:27). Jesus came among us and still does in Holy Eucharist and in the poor (Mt. 25). So, both seek and savor Him all around you!

"Thanks for dropping by": it's good to visit with friends who "drop in on us"-we get energized with other holy souls. Our Divine Friend dropped by for a visit-sojourn-so befriend Him!

Facebook: I guess this is a popular, contemporary way of meeting people on the Internet. Now, meet Him as He calls you: "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone answers I will come in and sup with him" (Rev. 3:20). Don't leave Him out in the cold-invite Him into your heart: now, daily-and truly get to know Him.

Facetime: you want this with your boss, spouse, kids, the Pope, etc. We all want an audience-personal, not a pink slip. Think of St Veronica (the name means "true image") and how she saw and consoled the Holy Face of Jesus in His Passion (Station IV of The Stations of the Cross)- forget not His Cross and His sacrifices for you, and Image within Him. St. Paul says: "And we all, with faces unveiled, are gazing upon the glory of the Lord, being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory" (II Cor. 3:18) And don't forget His counsel: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (Jn.14: 9). We see God, however faintly, in Him, thru and with Him - the Christ!

Beyond a shadow of a doubt: Look, if the "doubting Thomas" turned into Believer, so can we: he said--"My Lord, My God" (Jn. 20:28). These four words are a great prayer-remember them in Holy Communion, whenever you walk into a Church with the Blessed Sacrament present-go beyond doubts to Divinity.

"Heavy, Deep and Real": We used to say this in high school thinking we're just that. Anyway, He-Jesus Christ-the God-Man-was all three. Heavy=lots of meditation materials; deep=profound truths; and real=concrete-not-abstract. St Paul describes it this way: "May the eyes of your heart be enlightened that you may know…the riches of His glory and what is surpassing greatness of His power for us (Eph. 1:18).

Knock-out punch-not like those famed boxers Ali and Frazier but, The Lord gives you definitive teaching you can trust: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn. 14:6) . Notice, He does not say I Am a way or "I am one of the truths" etc. Some of the greatest men and women of all time have chosen to believe and follow Him-so-let's get or keep with the program!

"Come down to my level": This is what a bumpkin might say to a pinhead intellectual. I keep trying to understand physics and can't quite do so. Anyway, The Lord Jesus speaks on our terms. This Palestinian-Israeli-Jewish God-Man did just that and spoke about birds of the air and flowers of the field possessing more peace than a Solomon-king arrayed in kingly power. He talks simply about denying yourself and accepting God's Love for you. He described Heaven and Hell and everything in between. He speaks in black and white and in color-colorfully (heaven is a rich banquet, etc.). Meet Him where He is and He will meet-greet you-He's not over your head; He's in your head (Phil. 2:5).

Now a poem-prayer, by Angelus Silesius, Seventeenth century Polish priest and convert, "Heaven Becomes Earth": Heaven humbles itself, toward earth makes its descent; / When will the earth arise and become heaven-bent?...Think about it: deepen it within.

Okay, lastly with Incarnational Intuitions-- Take the Initiative: Your dad told you to do certain things-to get a job or score a soccer goal or help an ailing person. Be industrious, be a do-er! As Americans we can be proud we took the initiative to defeat communism and Nazism and also feed and clothe tsunami victims recently. That's good but, just think, counter- intuitively, we're "beaten to the punch" by the Lord Jesus in His Incarnation-Christmas and grace means that by an unmerited Gift He

comes to us and doesn't wait for us to confess, or to fully convert or believe or acquiesce to Him: just think--He's described as: for sinners and evaders-- the "Hound of Heaven" always pursuing us with His Endless Love and Mercy; for lovers-he's called "the Divine Lover ," and, not just for mystics anymore: Bridegroom of the Soul. So, wed yourself to Him-esp. if you wanna spend eternity with Him.

Now, meditate upon some more Incarnational poems by Silesius:

For the Crib of Jesus:

Here lies the precious Babe: first fruit of Virgin's womb, Angels' delight and joy, men's richest price and boon.

Should He your Savior be and lift you unto God,

Then, man, stay near the crib and make it your abode.

A Sigh:

One placed God upon straw when He a man became;

If only I had been that very straw and hay.

On the Stable: O pilgrim, enter here; the stall of Bethlehem/Exceeds by far the town, the fort Jerusalem. You gain good shelter here, for the eternal Babe/Is found here with His bride, His mother and His maid.

Heaven Becomes Earth: Heaven humbles itself, toward earth makes its descent; When will the earth arise and become heaven-bent?

To the Virgin Mary:

O noble Lady, speak, was it humility

That chose you to conceive God, Who's infinity?

Or was it something else? For I would like to know/How to be maiden, bride,

God's mother here below.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi