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Fr. Glenn: Blessed Are The Meek

on December 24, 2017 - 7:20am
By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

Ah, ‘tis the Christmas season—a time of joy for the billions of Christians throughout the world as we celebrate the birth of Jesus over two millennia ago. The nativity of Jesus (obviously) necessarily precedes in time and gets more press, but many non-Christians may not realize that Christmas is NOT the biggest Christian celebration of the year. The most important celebration is actually Easter with its celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from death, leading to our accompanying belief that He is the “first born from the dead” as both Saints Peter and Paul describe Him in New Testament letters. Christians believe that, in Jesus’ dual nature as both human and divine, He blazes a spiritual trail that we are called to, and may, follow … or not … to eternal life with Him.

“Oh yeah ... the big man in the sky!” ... is a derisive comment sometimes heard in our day. Hardly; God is infinitely more than that, and the Christian faith is infinitely deeper than that.

There’s a lot of modern animus toward Christianity; I’m not quite sure why, especially when “tolerance” is supposedly the watchword of the day, and remembering the thousands of Christian hospitals, charities and universities around the world. Well, actually, I DO understand to a degree; the reason touches upon G.K. Chesterton’s famous quote: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

We Christians are all too often Christianity’s own worst advertisements, often exhibiting irascibility rather than patience, selfishness rather than self-giving, hatred rather than love, etc.—almost in antithetical parody to Jesus’ own example of perfect love and self-sacrifice. Yes, there are teachings of Christianity which are counter-cultural—always has been, always will be; Jesus warns His disciples to expect that. But Christians should seek to teach and convince in love, not use God’s Words as a cudgel … remembering St. Paul: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.” (Romans 14:4) I often tremble at remembrance that Jesus’ only condemnations fell upon hypocritical and unfaithful religious authorities; the common people He always instructs and encourages.

An essential virtue leading to those lofty and desirable traits of Jesus is distinctly manifest in the story of Christmas: humility. Humility in our day of self-glorification, incessant selfies and self-promotion, etc., is almost anathema; we like nothing better than to have our name splashed across a newspaper headline (or … to write a weekly column? Uh-oh). But in Jesus’ birth we see the divine deign to come to earth not only to become one of, and to live among, His creatures, but even to come in humblest circumstance … a helpless babe, born in a stable, an animal’s spittle-strewn feed trough for His crib.

This humility Jesus will demonstrate His entire earthly life—fleeing murderous intent, living in a despised village, a manual laborer, having “no place to lay His head” in His ministry, and finally willingly giving Himself to torture and death at the hands of His own creations. This is, because in His unfathomable humility, “…the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

We Catholics and Orthodox, of course—and (I think) to a lesser extent Anglicans, Episcopalians and Lutherans as well—have much devotion of Jesus’ mother Mary, and her own humility is not missed especially during the Christmas season. It is she who acquiesces to become the mother of Jesus with her simple faithful response to the angel: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) … not objecting: “But my reputation!” … “But the danger to my very life if accused as an adulteress!” … and certainly not “But … how inconvenient for me! It’s not MY plan for how my life should go!” Rather, a simple proclamation of love, fidelity and trust in the Heavenly Father from her beautiful heart……very much as her Son would say to the Father 30 years later: “THY will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven...” … and “Not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Jesus declares in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5), and later in the Gospels: “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26) Service and humility: two of the sine qua non of the Christian faith. 

And so, to my Christian brethren: in remembrance of these principles of Our Lord, let us in this blessed season take renewed note of His words: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:29-30) 

And, of our non-Christian brethren, we beg forgiveness for our human faults and failings, which run counter to our professed faith. As we celebrate the coming of Jesus and the incomparable humility in which He was born, we ask His grace in the new year to more perfectly follow Him not only in love of God, but also in love of you and all whom we encounter. And to all, in the spirit of the season, in the words of Dickens’ Tiny Tim: “God bless us … every one!”