“To be courageous is to love the good more than you fear evil and suffering” Fr. Donald Calloway
The root word for cour-age is heart (coeur in French). The symbol for love is often depicted as a heart, which tells us that to love means to take courage. “Love hurts” so says the song from Nazareth, and how much so for the One that literally poured out His heart on the Cross.
St Thomas Aquinas described love as “to will the good of the other as other”, meaning that true love does not look for recompense or reciprocity, it is not utilitarian, and it does not mean conforming or asserting someone’s errors. Jesus asked his followers a simple question: “Is there anyone among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?” Mt 7:9 He of course assumed that the parents knew what was good for their children; “If you, then, evil as you are, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Mt 7:11. Today, the question is would anyone among you hand his son bread when he asked for a stone?
One of the hardest things to experience is to see a child cry. It pulls every heart string and literally makes you suffer along with the child, something we call com-passion (root word meaning with-suffering). How difficult it must have been for Our Lady and St Joseph to know and hear babies all around them being killed by Herod in an effort to kill their baby boy. Little did she know, that 33 years later, she would be sitting at the Cross watching her own innocent Son being mocked, tortured, pouring out His Blood for all of us. Yet there she remained, at the foot of the Cross, surely remembering what her Son had said earlier, ” ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mt 16:24
Brothers, the “I’m ok you’re ok” or “be yourself” gospels are as false as the “once a sinner always a sinner” you-are-going to-hell type gospel. What each of them demonstrate is a lack of love for the other by avoiding difficult discussions, either because of fear of risking the relationship, sometimes fear of losing something else, or a lack of faith in the power of God to convert hearts, maybe a lack of faith in ourselves. Whatever it is that is stopping you from speaking the truth to someone you love, it ultimately is fear and fear alone, for otherwise, it’s no longer love, it’s not hate either, it would be indifference. It is like walking by the Cross, Jesus hanging there, some people crying and mourning, others laughing and mocking, but you simply walk along lest you be late. Indifference.
It’s hard and painful when a child you love is ungrateful, resents your presence, lies to you, is disobedient, takes advantage of you, ignores you. Depending on the inheritance some may even wish for worse. We know and feel this in our heart, and yet through some supernatural grace we endure always in the hope of seeing that child come home. Not for one moment do we accept, let alone celebrate, pride or disobedience, slander or disrespect, yet we are able to see though the actions and know that there is a person behind those choices, and that person needs help. A person that needs bread not more stones.
Where can one get the best bread in town? I know a place that offers a “brand” that originated from the House of Bread itself (translation of Bethlehem In Hebrew, sometimes also translated as house of meat in Arabic). It all started in a manger (where animals feed, which gave us mangiare in Italian) and that made its way to Egypt, at the time known as the bread basket of the world. The latter was due to a certain St Joseph listening to God in a dream, and then following His advice, he stockpiled grain for many years, so that when everyone else was starving, Egypt had plenty. By an amazing coincidence, another St Joseph, brought what was to become known as the Bread of Life, also to Egypt, so that later on, everyone could have it!
Prior to this, free samplings were given to the Israelites and they called it “manna”. Here’s their description: “It was like coriander seed; it was white and its taste was like that of wafers made with honey.” Ex 16:31. The psalmist called it “the wheat of heaven” Ps 78:24. Jesus multiplied the loaves not once, but twice, proving that just because you are a son of a carpenter, it doesn’t mean you can’t become a great baker! He made a point of breaking the bread in His final supper, and to ask His disciples to “do this in remembrance of me”. Lk 22:19 In the days prior to Christ, they called it the “feast of Unleavened Bread”, a precursor for what was to come. Today we call it the “Eucharist” or ‘Thanks Giving” – it’s still free, except you have to give your whole life to really enjoy it, as St Paul tells us. 1 Cor 11:23-29
Many Christians believe in the power of mere water to cleanse sins, yet struggle with the belief that Christ the Lord could really be present in mere bread. For some non-Christians, it’s hard to believe that God would take on human form (In-carnation, literally means turn to flesh!) Let us earnestly pray for all of them – it is not an easy teaching, and many left Jesus Himself on this account alone. Jn 6:66 In one of the most poignant parts of Jesus’ ministry, He turns to His remaining disciples, almost disheartened,and asks them, “What about you, do you want to go away too?”. St Peter gave the right answer – what about you? i must admit at times it’s not easy with the mounting scandals and corruption coming from Rome, and the feeling of helplessness to do anything about it, however, I find strength in the words of Mother Teresa that “God didn’t ask us to be successful. He just asks us to be faithful.”
The first 30 popes were murdered and only one disciple was not martyred. By all human accounts, their mission should have been a failure, and yet, the Church lives. Scandals and heresy have plagued the Church from the very beginning, and it’s hard to find an institution so mismanaged as she is. Yet during those troubled times, the Roman empire has fallen, the Mongols disappeared, Napoleon died, the Berlin wall fell, and so on, and the Church still remained. The very fact it is still standing can only be the work of something greater. It’s interesting that today’s so-called social justice warriors rail against hierarchies and patriarchies, and yet, as Harley Price said in his book, Give Speech a Chance, “Today, the most zealous anti-racists are also enthusiastic proponents of affirmative action, which, being state-sponsored and coerced, is the most systemic form of racism imaginable.” Yes, even they believe in hierarchies, they just want them to serve them not God. Someone else asked about not serving God…Mt 4:8-10, and all the kingdoms of the world were promised, presumably because he controlled them all. St Pius X called modernism a “synthesis of heresies”, the blending of all errors with truth as equal. What modernists miss about Christianity, is that truth is not simply a proposition or a set of rules and obligations, Truth is a Person.
No, mere bread will not be enough, as Jesus reminds us Mt 4:4. He didn’t come down and suffered on a cross to simply create a NGO to help feed the poor. He didn’t come to have a ministry for 3 years, and then disappear. He came to build His Church (Kingdom of God) so as to participate in His mission of salvation to the world. He wants Communionists not communists, and His capital is in Heaven. On the road to Emmaus, two disciples who knew what had taken place at Calvary, and by all accounts had known Jesus personally, were walking away from Jerusalem distraught, and even after a Bible study given by Jesus Himself, they still could not recognize Him. So He sat with them, gave thanks and broke the bread… (read Luke chapter 24 to know what happens next). Lk 24
“I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Jn 6:51 This is why He was born in a manger – so what are you waiting for? Let us feast on this beautiful mystery as we approach the day when the Word became flesh.
Merry Christ-mas brothers!
St Joseph: Pray for us
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