Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. James Farfaglia

12/26/2012 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The terrible problems that challenge the world this Christmas are not really a God problem, they are our problems.  How do we respond? 

Highlights

By Fr. James Farfaglia

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/26/2012 (1 year ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: Challenges, Hope, Joy, Benedict XVI, priesthood, Christmas, homily, homilies, Jesus, Father James Farfaglia, Pope Benedict XVI, challenges, evil, tragedy, free will


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In Africa, a tale is told of a boy called Amazu, who was always very inquisitive. One day he asked, "What language does God speak?" But no one could answer him.  He traveled all over his country questioning everyone but could not get a satisfactory answer. Eventually he set out for distant lands on his quest. For a long time he had no success.

At length, he came one night to a village called Bethlehem, and as there was no room in the local inn, he went outside the village in search of shelter for the night. At last he came to a cave and found that a couple and a child also occupied it. He was about to turn away when the young mother spoke, "Welcome Amazu, we've been waiting for you."

The boy, amazed that the woman knew his name, was even more amazed when she went on to say, "For a long time you have been searching the world over to find out what language God speaks. Well, now your journey is over. Tonight you can see with your own eyes the language God speaks. He speaks the language of love."
 
And so each Christmas we contemplate the mystery of our God who became man. He is born in silence, poverty, simplicity and purity in Bethlehem, the house of bread.

Our God made man later taking bread and wine transforms it into his body and blood; thus is the mystery of his Incarnation continued for us in the mystery of the Eucharist, God made real for us.

God becomes man. Bread and wine becomes God-man.

Each time we come to the Eucharist, we come to a new Bethlehem.  He, who rested once in a manger, now rests in our entire being, as we receive him in the mystery of the Mass.
 
Long ago, there ruled in Persia a wise and good king who loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived, and he wanted particularly to know about their hardships. Often dressed in the clothes of a worker or a beggar, he visited the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited even thought he might be their ruler.
 
Once he visited a very poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the coarse food the poor man ate, and he spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left.

Later when he visited the poor man again, he disclosed his identity saying, "I am your king!" Then the king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he did not.

Instead, he said, "You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the course food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart! To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!"
 
This is the true meaning of Christmas.  The second person of the Blessed Trinity becomes incarnate.  Jesus is true God and true man.  He is one person with two natures, a divine nature and a human nature.

"For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man" (Roman Missal, 3rd edition, Profession of Faith).

Had our greatest need been knowledge, God would have sent us an educator.  Had that greatest need been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.  So too had our greatest need been for money, God would have sent us an economist.  Had our greatest need been for pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But, because our greatest need was for redemption from sin, God sent us a Savior.

All of us are familiar with the character of Ebenezer Scrooge depicted in Charles Dickens famous novel, A Christmas Carol, or we have come to know of him through movies and television specials aired during the Christmas season.

Ebenezer Scrooge is completely self-absorbed.  He is resentful of the demands made upon him by those who are poor and less fortunate.

Scrooge, a tragic figure indeed, is visited by three spirits: the spirit of Christmas past, the spirit of Christmas present and the spirit of Christmas future.

The dramatic journey elicits his repentance. He becomes aware of his past indifference and cruelty and is moved to be more generous and benevolent toward those he had been mistreating in the past.

Through a profound catharsis, Ebenezer Scrooge learned how to live for others and not only for himself. By breaking the circle of his ego, he had enabled the light of Christianity to invade his soul and change him into a new man filled with joy and hope.
 
We all have wonderful memories of how we have celebrated Christmas in the past.  On this Christmas, we will relive those memories, create new ones, and cherish our fondest memories in the recesses of our hearts.

The joy and excitement of opening Christmas presents; sampling the delicious foods and deserts that our mothers and grandmothers had prepared; the decorating of the tree; the setting up of the manger scene; the singing of Christmas carols; and of course, the gathering together of family members and friends, all make up the wonderful memories of Christmas.

I have many beautiful memories of Christmases past.  From early childhood, I remember how our entire family always attended Christmas morning Mass at our parish.

Inevitably, somewhere along in the liturgy, the choir would sing Silent Night.  As the beautiful hymn filled the church with harmony, my grandmother would begin to weep uncontrollably.  Once, as a child, I asked my grandmother why she wept so much. "God loves us so much," was her immediate answer.
 
This Christmas memory of my grandmother fills me with sadness at times, but then I remember how she died a number of years ago.  As she lay in bed taking her last breath, she said, "Dear God, I love you."   I am sure that now in heaven she contemplates the eternal face of the God made man born in Bethlehem.
 
There is another Christmas memory that fills me with profound joy, the memory of the first time that I celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a newly ordained priest.

Yes, I was given the amazing privilege of celebrating my first Mass on Christmas morning after having received the inestimable gift of the Catholic priesthood on December 24, 1987, twenty five years ago.  

My family and friends gathered together with me in Rome at a beautiful basilica dedicated to our Blessed Mother, as I celebrated my first Mass at an altar containing relics from the manger of Bethlehem.
 
Most of our memories of Christmas are beautiful indeed; however, many people have memories of a Christmas past permeated with sadness, times of difficulty and distress.

Why does terrible evil exist in the world?  Why doesn't God put a stop to it all?

This world is not a fantasy world as if we were immersed in a Harry Potter movie.  God does not fly around the world like Super Man or like a wizard stopping bad things from happening.

The gospel tells us that the wheat and the weeds grow together.  God respects our freedom and many times our choices are bad.  There are periods of history where it seems that the weeds outnumber the wheat.

Despite the tragedies that man inflicts upon man, the goodness of man prevails because the God-Man Jesus Christ overcame evil.  The tomb is empty.

Tragedies exist; evil exists; bad things happen precisely because man rejects God.  Our modern times are marked by a general rejection of God thus causing the terrible chaos that we see in the news each day.
 
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.  You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils" (Isaiah 9: 1-2).
 
If we live as autonomous beings as though God does not exist, we will be unable to recognize our need for a Savior simply because we will be incapable of recognizing ourselves as sinful creatures needy of redemption.
   
Christmas is all about the Savior who came to save us from sin.  We need to open our minds and our hearts, and allow this Savior to possess our entire being.  As Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote: "The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience."

Whatever language we may speak as we contemplate the Christ child lying in the manger of Bethlehem, God speaks only one language and that language is the language of love.

The terrible problems that challenge the world this Christmas are not really a God problem, they are our problems.  How do we respond?

The answer is not a what, it is a whom.  "I proclaim to you good news of great joy; today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord" (Alleluia, Mass at Midnight).

Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics.  You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



Comments


More Year of Faith

The Sower. The Seed. The Field. Understanding the Christian Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

"A sower went out to sow. And, as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for ... continue reading


A Meditation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus: My Heart to Gods Heart Watch

Image of

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, O burning furnace of divine Love, you are the symbol and summary of the whole mystery of our Redemption.  O mystery of mysteries, an infinite Love which no vessel can contain emptied itself into a finite human vessel of love-and so became ... continue reading


Reflection on the Catholic Catechism: Understanding the Bible Watch

Image of

By Michael Terheyden

How we interpret the Bible is of immense importance! It directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, and our faith, but it is also related to many of the grave problems in our society and the world. Yet, despite the gravity of this situation, we have good ... continue reading


Christ the King, the Year of Faith and the Catholic Counterculture Watch

Image of On this Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Year of Faith inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI comes to a ceremonial end. However, in reality, it cannot and will not end, because Jesus Christ is King! The Year of Faith was only the beginning for those who choose to live the Life of Faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Church year offers to each one of us to consider the creature called time, receive it as a gift, and begin to really live our lives differently.  This is one of ... continue reading


The Bones of Peter, the Successor of Peter: Close of the Year of Faith Watch

Image of The bones of St. Peter the Apostle

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Sunday which marks both the end of the Church Year and the end of the Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis greeted thousands of the faithful and presided over Holy Mass and the ... continue reading


Fr Randy Sly on Becoming a House of Prayer Watch

Image of Jesus drives the money changers from the temple. 

With hearts clear and focused on our Lord, we can follow the advice of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Everything starts with prayer. Love to pray--feel the need to pray often during the day and take the trouble to pray. If you want to pray better, you must pray more. The more you pray, the easier it becomes. Perfect prayer does not consist of many words but in the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus. (Fr. Randy Sly)

By Father Randy Sly

Becoming a House of Prayer is the best discipline we can take on. St. Ephraem of Syria states that Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy ... continue reading


Jesus Weeps and Offers the Path to Peace Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your ... continue reading


The Kingdom of God is Among You. What Did Jesus Mean? Watch

Image of The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well. Indeed, we call an apostolate every activity of the Mystical Body that aims to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth. (CCC#863)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In Jesus Christ, the Kingdom has been inaugurated. Upon his return it will be made complete and fully manifested in a new heaven and a new earth. We are members of the Body of Christ which makes it present here and now - as seed and sign for a world which is in labor. ... continue reading


Year of Faith: Bringing the Feast of the Presentation of Mary to Life Watch

Image of The Feast of the Presentation of Mary is celebrated in both the Eastern and Western Churches. It recalls the day in the life of the Jewish girl named Mary (Maryam) when her parents, Joachim and Anne, presented her to the Lord in the temple and dedicated her life to Him.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On this Feast of the Presentation of Mary, let us make the choice to surrender ourselves to the same Lord who Joachim and Ann honored when they presented their dear daughter in the temple. Their daughter, Mary, became the Second Eve. The New Creation was born through ... continue reading


WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Our Lady's Encouragement Watch

Image of

By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT

I got off the subway at Termini station and went up to the busy streets of Rome.  I had to walk past the place where all the prostitutes gathered.  I looked down at the street and began to pray in fear.  Suddenly I heard a feminine voice say, "Be a man!" ... continue reading


All Year of Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 37:1-14
1 The hand of Yahweh was on me; he carried me away by ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 So let them say whom Yahweh redeemed, whom he ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 22:34-40
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Andrew the Scot
August 22: Archdeacon and companion of St. Donatus. Andrew and his sister, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter