You and me in salvation history
The fading night now gives its place
To dawning day, so clear and bright;
Now rises, too, the Morning Star,
Outshining all the stars of night.
Aeterna Lucis Conditor (Anonymous)
This time of year, we marvel at the very real fact that God chose to become a vulnerable baby so as to be with us. And while the Christmas octave has already come to a close, the twelve days of Christmas bring us to today, the feast of the Epiphany. The Christmas season ends with the Baptism of the Lord. In a few short months we will be celebrating the Incarnation (March 25) and looking forward to Christmas again!
As Servant of God Fr. John Hardon explains in his book Retreat with the Lord (1993, p. 62), Mary and Joseph were not prepared for any of these events. They didn’t go to Bethlehem expecting to sleep in a cave nor to have multitudes of angels descend singing God’s glory at Jesus’ birth. They were not prepared to ‘receive guests’ when the shepherds arrived with their miraculous tale of the angelic announcement and then later when the star-struck Magi came with gifts of wealth. Mary and Joseph didn’t rant and rave when preparations went awry, nor worry about their image at being seen with lowly shepherds, nor were they embarrassed by their ‘circumstances’ when presented with the wealth of the Magi.
Their guests were unprepared too. For the shepherds, it was to be another cold night like any other night keeping watch over the sheep. They were unprepared for Heaven to kiss the earth, rousing them to abandon their flock (and livelihood) even if just for a few hours. The magi arrived after a long journey following a star, perhaps expecting to bestow their gifts on a king in a castle not a baby in an animal trough. Even King Herod was ruffled by the unexpected news of a king’s birth.
In essence, each was going about their normal daily life, not realizing their own part in salvation history.
What if I lived each day realizing that I too am part of salvation history? Would it change my New Year’s resolutions? Change me in keeping them? This is truly the Epiphany moment for each of us, realizing that how we live each day really matters.
Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? (Mark 4:21)
Everything we do should be sacramental—a sign of Christ within us. Unfortunately, our attachments to earthly things act like the bushel basket put over the light of God’s glory in our soul. Fr. Hardon explains that God desires us to objectively (‘dispassionately’) look at both our relationships and material things to discern which will lead us to Him and which to let go.
- Persons, places, or things that God wants me to enjoy
- Persons, places, or things that God wants me to endure
- Persons, places, or things that God wants me to eliminate in my life because they lead me to sin (note these might not be sinful in themselves but are occasions for sin that pull us into our vices and bad habits which are the segue to sin)
- Persons, places, or things that are not sinful nor occasions of sin but God wants me to sacrifice these to Him out of love for Him.
(Adapted p. 28)
If we only seek that which we enjoy, especially relationships, we might be ending other relationships that God wants us to endure. An example of this is when people divorce not because of life-threatening abuse but because their spouse ‘no longer fulfills me’. Another example is avoiding the neighbor or co-worker that you dislike. It is difficult to fulfill our Confirmation duty to evangelize others when surrounding ourselves solely with like-minded people. In any circumstance, a hard look will usually also bring to light other things that fuel an ungodly attitude, form a self-indulging rather than charitable mindset, or bring us into our vices.
What part do I want to play in salvation history? Being like the shepherd willing to drop everything to run to God, or like the Magi giving all that I possess to Him in adoration, will surely form me in the humble obedience displayed by the Holy Family. An efficacious practice is to, while in mental prayer, review my life weekly or monthly using the above list (embrace, endure, eliminate, sacrifice). In mass, listen closely to your Lord speaking in His Word, and offer yourself at the altar sacrifice. Regularly confess the Holy Spirit’s convictions. Anything disordered in your life God will lovingly put back into order, and is already waiting to do so for you. As you grow in discovering true happiness in Him, this blueprint will become easy to follow. And on our final judgement day, you will have the joy of your Lord showing you the important role you have played in salvation history.
“Happy are those who prepare themselves in this life to be judged and saved by His divine majesty. For His love and respect, I ask that, without delay, you most diligently reform your consciences, so that on the day of our final and awesome destiny your souls will be confident.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
(Image by Tyler Lillico from Unsplash)
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