Advent, Christmas, Holiness, Jesus

Humble As the Incarnation

(Originally written & printed in “The Bells of St. Mary” parish newsletter.)

The Incarnation – the event of God becoming man, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the Son, taking on a human nature – is the sort of event that alters the course of human history. It is the definitive move by God to usher in the great work of our salvation, thousands of years in the making. It is also, arguably, the most humble act of God.

There are dozens of ways to describe humility and dozens of examples of lives characterized by that virtue. As well, there are plenty of reasons to strive for humility in ourselves and encourage it in those we influence. However, no better description, example or reason can be found than Jesus Christ, Himself.

Our human mind tends toward the belief that to do great things we must be greatly acknowledged and honored. Success is achieved by audacity and notoriety. What do we make then of this Heavenly King born in the quiet of a hidden stable? What could be accomplished by such an entrance into human history? Why would God decide to come in this manner, without a display of pomp and power?

What we make of it ought to be exactly what Christ stated in the Gospel: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15). This Advent, consider the effectiveness of humility. Like Christ, you can enter the scenes of life with humble actions and attitudes yet working for great and glorious things. Trusting not in the power of ourselves but the power of God in us, we can do more than we could imagine. With willing obedience to God the Father’s laws and guidance, you will become a conduit of His love, mercy, strength and compassion.

No work of our own, good as it may be, can produce what God’s work can produce. No words of our mouths can convey truth as well as His words. No outreach of ours can reap the changes in this world like His outreach can do. When we submit ourselves to the Lord as His son or daughter and servant, He humbles Himself yet again, as He did at the Incarnation, and works through us in this world. Amongst our families and friends, in the daily grind of the workplace, in the quiet times of prayer, God will include you in the work of His hands. He may bless you with the rewards of your humility here and now, but without question, “your reward will be great in Heaven” (Matthew 5:12), where the Lord keeps for you “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4).

Prayer for Humility
Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that you may fortify me with the grace of your Holy Spirit, and give your peace to my soul, that I may be free from all needless anxiety and worry. Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to you, so that your will may be my will.
Grant that I may be free from unholy desires, and that, for your love, I may remain obscure and unknown in this world, to be known only to you.
Do not permit me to attribute to myself the good that you perform in me and through me, but rather, referring all honor to you, may I admit only to my infirmities, so that renouncing sincerely all vainglory which comes from the world, I may aspire to that true and lasting glory that comes from you. Amen.
~St. Frances Cabrini

Christmas, Faith, Holiness, Hope, Jesus

Joy Has Come

“You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” (Psalm 16:11)
Christmas has come. The simplicity and quiet of the celebrations this year (compared to how it is normally when the entire family gathers at my parents’ house) is lending itself to being more Christ-centered and reflective. I’m enjoying that a lot. It can be a difficult enough task, so any help is welcome. Fr. Mark’s homily on Christmas Eve was a compelling call to strip away all the wants of this life and want, above all, a “happy ending” to this life, or more truly a “happy eternal beginning.” Then yesterday, my friend, Erin, shared a little with me from Fr. Mike Chenier’s Christmas morning homily.
Fr. Mike is my friend, Mike, whom I mentioned previously in the post asking for prayers for his sister, Amy. That post can be found here. Excepting a miracle according to God’s great will, Amy is expected to live another one to three months. She is confused a lot of the time and has difficulty communicating now. The whole thing continues to break my heart. I have wept for Fr. Mike, who has been dear to me for so long, and for Amy, who ranks among the sweetest and most good-humored people I’ve been privileged to know. All of it breaks my heart in a way that tears away any pretense I might hold onto of knowing what this life will or won’t bring for me or my loved ones. The sense of vulnerability, our inability to sustain our own lives, and the prevailing authority of God as the Author of our lives is strong. I haven’t been able to shake it from my mind in the last few weeks.
What Erin shared from Fr. Mike’s homily has provided some necessary rounding out of these contemplations. I do wish I could have heard his sermon but the bits of summary have given me ample mental soil to work with this Christmas. He preached on joy, on the joy of Mary and Joseph and his and Amy’s joy, too. Joy instead of bitterness; that’s what was chosen by the Holy Family in the face of unavoidable suffering, certain hardship, and disconcerting mystery. Total entrustment of their lives to God’s Providence allows for this joy. The loss of all the plans and expectations for their personal lives; facing the unknown of what God was asking of them, taking from them, and giving to them, all of it could have led to fear and bitterness, even self-pity. Sorrow over the losses could take hold with no release; surely we all know people for whom this has been the case. This was not so for them. The sorrow and grief may be real but they are not the highest powers. Instead there is joy. True joy that comes from peace; true peace that comes from hope; true hope that comes from faith in the God who promises to never leave us, to always carry us back to Him, to be our “fullness of joy” for all eternity. Fr. Mike shared that in this most harrowing of times for his family, there is joy. Amy has joy; he has joy. I don’t know if I can think of another example that more effectively teaches me of the difference in depth and worth between joy and happiness. What a glorious sign of holiness when a soul still genuinely rejoices in the Lord when all sources of happiness are stripped away. I am humbled by the sight of this holiness in my friends.
Advent, Christmas, Photography

Let’s Find a Christmas Tree!

As we do every year, my sister and I (with our niece too this time) went tree hunting. It’s a lovely process. Taking our time, picking out our favorites, tramping through the snow to compare the possibilities, realizing we aren’t lumberjacks when our shoulders are aching after sawing through half the trunk. Good times are had by all. This year’s tree is decidedly plump, overtaking half the living room. I’m growing more fond of it each day.