Happy Christmas! Here in the Philippines we get into Christmas mood by September, long before any other country in the world. So you must be wondering why I am beating the gun and wishing you “Happy Christmas” in the middle of July! We must have heard the saying that “Every day is Christmas” but never really pondered the deep truth behind those words.
Every day and every moment is indeed Christmas because God comes to us at every moment with the intention of blessing us. What happened on Christmas night was unique in the sense that, in Jesus Christ, God came to us visibly and tangibly and gave His very self to us with the intention of blessing us with a participation in His own divine life. Ever since then, Jesus Christ, the God-man, never ceases to approach us in mysterious ways to communicate to us the gifts that He won for us on the Cross. This is why every moment is indeed a Christmas event.
The question that we should ask ourselves is this, “How do we welcome Christ, our disguised guest, in His many visits to us and receive the blessings He plans to bestow on us?” Sunday’s Readings show us three sure ways of welcoming Christ and receiving the blessings He intends to bestow on us.
First, God is coming to us through the persons that we encounter in life, especially those in need, such that when we welcome and serve others, we receive God and the blessings that He plans to give to us. In Sunday’s First Reading, we are told that “God appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre.” Surely Abraham did not see God but three travelers in need of some rest and food in a hot and sunny day. By welcoming these strangers and serving them a gracious meal that included his choice steer, Abraham received God’s blessing through these travelers, “I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah will then have a son.”
Second, we welcome Christ when we are in a prayer posture that listens with a readiness to obey. When Jesus entered the home of Mary and Martha in the Gospel, Martha “welcomed Him,” but then became “burdened with much serving” to the extent that she lost her peace of mind and a sense of Jesus’ plan of love for her, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do all the serving?” Martha was not listening to Jesus’ plan for visiting her but she was focused on her own plans for an elaborate and befitting service for Jesus. But Mary chose to “sit beside the Lord as His feet and listen to Him speak.” Mary chose to listen first to the plans and intentions in the heart of the savior during His Jerusalem journeys.
Listening to God in prayer, we learn to recognize His voice as He reveals His loving plan for us. Through such listening, we also encounter that grace that moves us to surrender our own plans to Him and receive His own plan for us with a readiness to obey and to act on His plan. This is what Jesus calls the better part that Mary chose, the part “that will not be taken from her” because it is God’s gift to her. We too choose the better part when we seek to do His will.
Third, God comes to us in and through all the events of life, even through our sufferings and trials. St. Paul writes to the Christians in Colossae from his confinement in prison saying, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the Church.” St. Paul found meaning even in his sufferings and connected with the gift of joy that God was offering Him through this suffering. He can rejoice in his suffering only because he is grounded in God’s mysterious plan to abide with us and in us, “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” and God’s constant labor to render us “perfect in Christ.” We will recognize and welcome Christ in His coming to gift us even in our trials if we have an enduring faith that makes us want to be “perfected in Christ,” becoming more like Him in all things, even in our attitude to our sufferings.
What does this plan of God look like in the concrete? God visits us to invite us to become more like Jesus by making one of four responses at each moment: enjoy, endure, remove, or sacrifice. We may be invited to enjoy the decent things of life like a good family meal. Or we may be invited to endure something like a lingering sickness. Or we may be invited to remove something that leads us away from God like a sinful relationship. Or we may be invited to sacrifice something good in itself for the sake of something of higher value like sacrificing marriage so as to embrace consecrated life in bearing witness to the kingdom of God. Our correct response to God at each moment determines our being slowly perfected in Christ and our reception of His gifts.
I cannot help but reflect on the massacre of close to a hundred people in Nice, France this weekend when a truck plowed through people in the Bastille Day celebration. How could human life be treated so worthlessly? What is the meaning of human life in the face of such atrocities against human life in all its forms and stages? We can be tempted to say that life has no meaning because of all the carnage in our world today. Our spiritual and physical sufferings can cloud our sense of purpose in life. Prayer may even appear to be useless in the face of such evils. Even God may appear to have abandoned this world and taken a long vacation.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our life will always have meaning because every day and moment is a Christmas event, a visit from God to bless us with His forgiveness, hope, joy, grace, peace, strength, consolations, etc. But do we recognize and welcome Him as He visits us through others, especially those in need? Do we recognize His voice in silent prayer so well that we recognize His mysterious presence and action in our daily lives with a readiness to let go of our own plans and agendas and embrace His own loving plans for us? In all the events of our lives, do we have faith enough to see “Christ in us, our hope for glory,” constantly molding us from within to become more like Himself in all things? These are the things that give meaning to our lives even in a dark and seemingly lonely world.
God, who never ceases to come to us to bless with amazing gifts at every moment, comes to us in this Eucharist. Because of the Eucharist, life will always have meaning because our Christmas never ends. This is why we can always say, “Happy Christmas”… even in the middle of July!
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!
Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations’ Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.