Priests at Christmas: Reflect on God’s love

| December 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
Christmas nativity

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Spending time with Christ in front of a Nativity set and his presence in the Eucharist, reflecting on Scripture, exchanging gifts and gathering with family and friends.

Asked to reflect on the meaning and opportunities of Christmas, three priests of the archdiocese shared different aspects of the season, all of them centered on the presence, gentleness, understanding and love of Christ.

“One of the hardest things for people to believe is that God is as close to us as he is,” said Father Michael Byron, pastor of Pax Christi in Eden Prairie.

For centuries, God had been understood by many as a far-away spirit, having little to do with the flesh, Father Byron said. But the mystery of Christ’s incarnation brings God directly into the human condition, demonstrating his great love and desire to be with us, he said.

“The Incarnation broke down that barrier,” he said.

Through God’s grace, man also can take on the divine, Father Byron said, pointing out a statement on the Christmas mystery in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.”

Some question whether God would have taken on flesh if man did not have to be redeemed from sin, Father Byron said. “Others say the Incarnation is the completion of what God always intended to do to complete his creation — to unify his very being with us. That is his good will and pleasure.”

“These are legitimate questions, and good ones,” Father Byron said.

In any event, Christ did take on flesh, the promise of redemption is real, and people can reflect and experience the divine in everyday actions, most profoundly in the Eucharist, but also in activities as simple as sharing each other’s company and gifts at Christmas, he said.

“It’s something more than the experience of human love; divine love is experienced with that as well,” Father Byron said.

Father Thomas Balluff, pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Little Canada, said Jesus Christ in the world at Christmas is what God looks like as a human being.

“As we read about him in the Gospels and Scripture, we get know what he is like, full of kindness and patience,” Father Balluff said. At other times Jesus is angry, such as when he cast out the money-changers in the Temple, or anxious and even in agony, such as during his Passion and death, he said.

“He comes into the world, and it is something we need to celebrate, to set aside time to focus,” Father Balluf said. He recommends 15 to 30 minutes of reflection a day, at home in front of a Nativity scene, at church before the Eucharist, or in quiet prayer in a chapel.

“We need to ponder the goodness, the beauty, the love God has for us. Especially in this season, as a little baby, Jesus,” he said.

In this world, loudly and deeply divided by politics, religious practice and other difficulties, it is important to remember God’s voice, said Father John Paul Erickson, pastor of Transfiguration in Oakdale.

“He speaks in the still, small voice of a child,” Father Erickson said. “It’s not to say there isn’t a time and place to defeat evil and even suffer martyrdom. But most of us are called to work in meekness every day of our lives.”

“Only through service, understanding, the whisper of love, can we come to truly experience the goodness of God,” he said. “Only in the day-to-day, only in the person in front of us, right now, can we really love. … It’s counter-cultural, it always will be, and we Christians are called to embrace it.”

Father Byron said he will embrace that kind of love when he gathers with his family ­— three sisters, two brothers and their families — to celebrate Christmas.

“I would hazard to say, without the experience of human love, love among family and friends, I would not know who God really was,” Father Byron said. “It’s one aspect of the Incarnation. … This is the real warp and woof of human love.”

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