God be with you

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | January 10, 2019 | 0 Comments

I was on my annual visit to the Mall of Everything. I was not in collar and wore a Wild jersey and an old hat. The various stores were filled with people of every style of clothing.

As I stood in the checkout line, my inner curmudgeon grumbled each time I heard someone say to another, “Happy holidays!” I like saying “Merry Christmas!” since it is after all, the reason for the season.

Father Charles Lachowitzer

Father Charles Lachowitzer

Nonetheless, the Scriptures during the Advent and Christmas seasons got me thinking about the level of my awareness concerning global issues and my individual responsibility for them. Clearly the prophets proclaimed a vision for how we are to treat one another in a just world, and this vision is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

I’m not a big fan of the phrase “What would Jesus do?” With all due respect to those who wear WWJD on a bracelet, my opinion was skewered long ago by a comedian who said, “What would Jesus do? Well, he wouldn’t need to wear a bracelet to remind him of what to do!” But the question seems central to living out the Gospel. What would Jesus do in the Mall of Everything? What would be his seasonal greeting? “Merry Me”?

My sarcasm aside, I cannot escape the dilemma posed when by proclaiming in the Mall of Everything “Merry Christmas,” I may cause offense to some people, even those who are not Christian. The mandate of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church compel me to treat others, without exception, with respect.

Is my need to say “Merry Christmas” at the expense of the virtue of charity? I stood in the long line at the Mall of Everything and took the time to think of an acceptable greeting for the season. As I concluded my plastic transaction, I slightly bowed and said to the checkout clerk, “The best of the season be with you!” It sounded only slightly better than “happy holidays.”

The clerk smiled, thanked me and then, after a sideways glance at the line of people, said in a lowered voice, “Merry Christmas, Father Charlie. You were the priest at my grade school!”

As I walked away, I chuckled at the coincidence and how reality often erases the inner white board of my great thoughts. But it is no light reflection to imagine Jesus in the Mall of Everything. He would seek out the lost. Those most in need would be drawn to him. He would treat everyone with great respect, kindness and much love. At some point Mall security would be alerted.

As Catholics, we enter into the mystery of the Incarnation every time we celebrate the Eucharist. As members of the Church, we are part of the One Body of Christ, the person and real presence of Jesus Christ in our world. To live in Christ is a far more authentic witness to the Gospel than mere confession on the lips when saying, “Merry Christmas.” How we treat the stranger either confirms or denies our faith.

I look forward to saying “Merry Christmas” to friends, families and at Mass all the way until January 13th. I do get odd looks. But in the Mall of Everything, especially when patience is tried and the virtue of charity challenged, there is a seasonal greeting I can use for all God’s children. It is the promise fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ — Emmanuel — God is with us. Perhaps the most respectful and truest of all seasonal greetings is to say simply, “God be with you!”

I am reminded that the old English greeting for “God be with you” was over the centuries shortened to “good bye.”

I think using the new English in the Mall of Everything is just fine: God be with you!

Dios sea contigo

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Category: Only Jesus