As I write this, Hurricane Irma is ravaging the whole states of Florida, Georgia and parts of South Carolina. The devastation caused by this powerful storm will be monumental. Sadly, there is another hurricane right behind Irma that will add insult to injury to those areas hardest hit.
While this is going on, I am reminded of the struggles that the Holy Family went through to bring the Christ Child into the world and then to keep him safe. Mary, Joseph and the yet to be born Jesus had to leave their home and travel half way across the country to a place they had not been to in many years just to be counted. In those days, the census takers did not come to your door, you had to go to the census takers to be counted.
Mary, very pregnant at this point, had to travel miles on the back of a donkey just so the authorities could have a count of the people. Sadly, this was done so the Romans could charge more in taxes. Even then, the rich sought to become richer.
And as is the luck of many people I know, they get to Bethlehem just in time for Mary to go into labor. Poor Joseph scurried from inn to inn looking for a place to stay. No one had any room. In the end, he and Mary had to settle for a little stable to act as their child’s first nursery. The onlookers for this miraculous birth were common farm animals.
As if that were not enough, by the time Jesus reached two years old, the family had to leave their country and travel to a strange land. They had to travel to Egypt in order to avoid the murderous rage of the King. The King was angry and jealous that another “King” had been born in his kingdom. And so he ordered all the children two years of age and younger to be slaughtered. Thankfully, Joseph was warned in a dream about this impending danger and so he took Mary and the Christ Child and got out of Dodge!
Jesus was barely two years old and he had already lived what some would call a life time. Many of us today do not have half of those problem, yet we find every little thing we can to complain about. We spend our days looking for ways to be angry or hateful to those around us.
A few days ago I wrote a blog post about how kindness cost us nothing. We as Christians are called to show kindness to everyone we meet. We do not fully know or appreciate the difficulties someone else is experiencing or has experienced. For them, a kind word or a smile may make all the difference in their lives! It could mean the difference between them offing themselves or staying around a little longer and seeking help.
Kindness cost us nothing. We need to remember this simple truth now more than ever. Our world is torn apart by anger, hatred, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, and a myriad of other foul things. We have the great opportunity to change the world for the better. We need only to have the willingness to reach out to others with kindness.
And while we are at it, let us not forget those impacted by the hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes. They need our help now more than ever. They are vulnerable, scared, and damaged by the ravages of mother nature.
And in this time of Advent and Christmas, as we prepare for the arrival of the Christ-Child, let us not forget the greatest gift we can give: Forgiveness. We spend time in this season looking inward and asking for God’s forgiveness for our shortcomings, however, we seem to forget the greatest gift we can give others.
We need to take time to forgive those around us who have hurt us. Even if they do not ask for our forgiveness, we are called to forgive them nonetheless. Many of us think we forgive easily. However, I believe that we are fooling ourselves.
You see, in order to truly forgive someone, we must not keep a record of their wrongs. When we hold grudges or keep recalling every wrong a person has ever committed, we are not truly forgiving them. Christ does not keep a record of the wrongs we have committed and ask forgiveness for. Scripture speaks of the fact that once we are forgiven, God wipes the slate clean.
If we truly want to give the gift of forgiveness to others, then we must be willing to wipe their slates clean. We must be willing to give them the “70 times 7” chances that Jesus refers to.
If we do not, we are not truly forgiving anyone and we are fooling ourselves.
I have been thinking that as we wrap up the Year of Love, just how much forgiveness is necessary for us to truly love others. Saint Paul tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs. In other words, love forgives and forgets. We speak of our desire to love others as Christ loves us. Then we must start living the message of love in our daily lives.
Saint Paul gives us a good image of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Maybe this season of Christmas is a good time to remind ourselves of what love really looks like.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has made this little magazine possible. With the next edition we begin our sixth year of publication. Without all your support, articles, and suggestions we would not have made it this far!
I hope we can continue to offer this magazine to those in our movement. But without your help, we will not be able to. I know how difficult it is to write on a regular basis, which is why this magazine is a quarterly publication rather than a monthly one.
I only ask that you prayerfully consider submitting articles for upcoming editions. This is the longest running magazine geared toward the Independent Sacramental Movement and I would like to see it continue.
Thank you again for all your support and efforts! May you have a very happy and holy Christmas season!