C H R I S T M A S 1 9 5 9
The feasts of Christmas and New Year give us the opportunity to mark out the fleeting of time and it is as if instinctively we look back on the past year to thank God for all the graces that he has given us while at the same time, regretting our weaknesses.
The work of the Holy Apostles, which is constantly progressing, thanks to the divine kindness and the good will of its members has known and will know many trials. If we are inclined to complain, we will fail to recognize the supernatural character of our work. We absolutely want to give priests to the Church where the needs are greatest, it is our ‘raison d’être’. Do you believe that the enemy, I mean the devil, looks upon us favorably? We prepare men who will dedicate themselves entirely to fight against him: do you believe that he will not be interested in us? He doesn’t care that a human enterprise succeeds? But it is normal that he attacks the roots that appear to him a danger and a threat. If we succeed in our enterprise, the Church will have more priests and the kingdom of Satan will have to yield to the Kingdom of God. It is enough to drive the Prince of Darkness wild and that is why he has to be busy with us.
His tactics are simple: he divides to reign, and even more, he seeks to set up the members of a community one against the other, he sows misunderstanding. He increases in our eyes the defects of others and makes them unbearable to us. If he knows that we are working together, he is also conscious of the strong bond that unites us: the love of Christ. That is why he has dissociated the Lord’s double commandment which tells us that the second commandment is similar to the first. To love God and to love our brothers, it is one in the Spirit of God. But Satan has dissociated this love and, sometimes, even too often, persons dedicated to God by love live as if they didn’t like their brothers.
To protect us against such traps, we have a model, Jesus, who is meek and humble of heart and it is necessary that these two virtues, meekness and humility, penetrate all our relations with God and with others.
Meekness: God has given it to us and we must practice it in our relations with him. It is then called patience. We do not jostle God. He knows what he is doing and he knows our needs. Let us have confidence in him and let us remind ourselves what he was saying to St Paul who wasn’t always meek and patient when he saw himself limited in his apostolate by his physical disability. “My grace is sufficient.” It seems, at times, we don’t know how to satisfy ourselves with this grace.
Humility, it goes without saying, is the virtue which is the source of our relations with God. By humility, we become conscious that God is all and that we depend on him in everything. It is a fundamental condition to live an authentic spiritual life.
These two virtues must inspire our relations with others, be they superiors, equals or subordinates. It is the paradox of humility, because if we conceive that we must be humble to obey authority, we must see in our fellow-men as in our subordinates, representatives of God, the Supreme Authority. It is the beautiful title of the Pope: “servant of the servants of God.” Because he is the Supreme Chief, he is the servant of the least among us… Does that inspire our attitude towards our neighbor? Would we dare to rob all the meaning of the washing of the feet, that gesture that the one who came did come, not to be served but to serve? Will we forget the Gospel or pervert the teaching of our Master?
We must never loose sight of the example given to us by Christ. He knew that Satan would try to divide the elected and he was so conscious of it that he made it the object of his great prayer before his agony: “That they be one, as You and I are one.”
But the trial of misunderstanding and of division can be constructive. It is a purification through which we have to pass in order that “Christ grows in us”. Being conscious that we are sometimes divided, we must redouble our efforts to be united; being conscious that our love for God and for others is particularly frail, we must redouble our efforts to intensify it. We have the assurance that God will never fail us. It is up to us to be on guard, knowing that the enemy prowls and that he is always ready to divide us.
If we really want to love God and our fellow-men, we must take all the means that we have at our disposal to grow in our spiritual life. At times, we may feel discouraged and weary and we are then tempted to think that it is better elsewhere. This is still a trap. Now, we speak much about fidelity and it is one of the secrets of the spiritual life but let us think also about the fidelity to the present moment, to the place where we are now. It is God himself who wants us to be saints and before asking ourselves if we would have more chances elsewhere, let us, first, see if we take full advantage of our community life.
In this time of Christmas, let us consider that the shepherds and the Magi discovered Christ where he was, in the humbleness of the manger, in the gentleness of his Mother’s eyes. They didn’t think, even for an instant, to delay their pilgrimage and prostrated in adoration at the feet of the Child Jesus, let us make together this act of faith in the Child God who will give us the strength and the grace to live in his love.
Lord Jesus, let us realize that we are members of the same family in your Mystical Body.
Let all that the others do and all that happens to them become personal to me and reach me as directly as if I had done it myself.
That their successes become my successes, and their failures, my failures. Expand my heart which is naturally closed and selfish.
Lord Jesus, I know that it is impossible to accept you in my life without accepting at the same time all those that you bear in yourself. “That they be one as You, Father, You are in me and I in you” (Jo, 17, 21).
Eusébe – M. Ménard, OFM