Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is You Is or Is You Ain't?

Christ is born for us! Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to the men and women whom he loves. May all people hear an echo of the message of Bethlehem which the Catholic Church repeats in every continent, beyond the confines of every nation, language and culture. The Son of the Virgin Mary is born for everyone; he is the Saviour of all.
This is how Christ is invoked in an ancient liturgical antiphon: "O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, hope and salvation of the peoples: come to save us, O Lord our God". Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us!..
This is the meaning of the Child's name, the name which, by God's will, Mary and Joseph gave him: he is named Jesus, which means "Saviour" (cf. Mt ; Lk ). He was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take his place, to decide what is good and evil, to be the master of life and death (cf. Gen 3:1-7). This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God's help, unless we cry out to him: "Veni ad salvandum nos! – Come to save us!"
The very fact that we cry to heaven in this way already sets us aright; it makes us true to ourselves: we are in fact those who cried out to God and were saved (cf. Esth [LXX] 10:3ff.). God is the Saviour; we are those who are in peril. He is the physician; we are the infirm. To realize this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride. To lift our eyes to heaven, to stretch out our hands and call for help is our means of escape, provided that there is Someone who hears us and can come to our assistance.
Urbi et orbi address, December 25, 2011
Reflection – Now, just so everyone is clear, you all know that Christmas is not over, right? Christmas starts, not ends, on December 25, and extends to Epiphany (in Canada this year on January 8). One of the true benefits of living in Madonna House away from the secular culture more or less is that we are insulated from the modern notion that Christmas (meaning the shopping season) starts somewhere around Hallowe’en and ends on Christmas Day, by which time everyone is heartily sick of the whole business.
No – we have just completed Advent, and now are basking in the glow of the stable at Bethlehem, and so this blog, written from Madonna House, will be reflecting on the Christmas mystery and the Pope’s 2011 reflections on same.
Here we see one of his constant themes applied to this mystery: that in Christ the true healing, the deepest salvation we receive is being delivered from our self-sufficiency, our deadly egoism, our tragedy of being locked into our own self, the futile effort to be the source and summit of our own existence.
To know our need for salvation is, in itself, salvific for us… provided (of course) that there is Someone to save us, as Pope Benedict so ably points out. And that always is the question, isn’t it? So many of our other questions—all the hows and whys and whats of life, resolve around this: is God with us, or not?
The old song asked the question ‘is you is or is you ain’t my baby?’ We ask Jesus the question ‘is you is or is you ain’t my savior?’ And do we need the salvation He offers? This is the pressing question, I believe, for many. So many in the world today seem to be unaware of their need for salvation. I’m doing just fine, they say. I don’t need God. ‘Jesus is for poor people, Christianity is for losers,’ is the common attitude.
It seems to me that one of the pre-evangelization needs in the world today is to bring people to know their own need for salvation. In other words, you are a loser. You are a poor person. If you don’t know this, you are lost in delusion, building your life on sand, trapped in this maze of self the Pope speaks of.
People are very afraid to confront their own poverty, and hide from it behind a whole series of subterfuges and distractions. So much flight into drinking and drugging and vacuous entertainment culture is based on this. Let’s just think about something else, or not think at all.
But we have a savior. We are not alone. God is with us—Emmanuel. We have nothing to be afraid of. This is the constant message of Christmas, the constant hope held out for us by the baby in the manger, the man on the cross, the God who is made manifest in Jesus Christ.

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