December 21, Fourth Sunday of Advent

              Most people believe in God, they just don’t believe in a God who believes in them.

 

When I read those words in a book by Neale Donald Walsch and given me by a friend recently, they hit me between the eyes.  The staggering truth of those words!  We find it hard to believe in a God who believes in us.  That’s the crux of the matter.  Words from Matthew’s Gospel spring to mind:  “And he (Jesus) did not work many miracles because of their lack of faith.  (Matt. 13:58)  Because of our disbelief in a God who, without question, believes in us, our faith remains small; impotent.  Such disbelief is the proverbial stumbling stone that makes faith falter.  Why?

 

In January, 1985—my first year in monastic life—the writer and Notre Dame professor John Dunne, CSC, gave the Community retreat.  During one conference, he mentioned once looking up the word “unloving” and finding the synonyms “unloved”, “unlovely” after the definition.  For Dunne, this was revelatory.  He went on to explain, saying that our unloving behavior stems from, and is in reaction to, the experience of being “unloved” lurking beneath the surface of our awareness.  Deeper still, is the wounding conviction that we are somehow “unlovely”: broken; damaged goods. 

 

With all that lurking inside, how could we ever hope to fully believe in a God who believes in us; who loves us, damaged goods that we are?  Such disbelief, born of crippling self-doubt, has a rippling effect upon all our relationships; especially those closest to us.  When Dunne spoke that overcast, January morning, it was like a door had opened within me.

 

Most—if not all—of us feel like damaged goods in some way.  Emotionally, we’ve been dropped.  Somehow, without ever uttering it, we feel unlovely.  Is this not the predicament of Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, played out before our eyes every Christmas? 

 

When we are willing to believe and take to heart the Birth of Christ, it becomes the antidote for such self-doubt and negativity.  Swaddled in flesh and with tiny hands, the immense God reaches out to us.  God becomes small, like us, and takes hold for good our fragile nature.  This Divine Birth says, beyond words, that God believes in us; that we are loved, damaged goods and all.  In the Birth of Jesus, God gives his Word:

 

For when peaceful stillness compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, your all-powerful word from heaven’s royal throne leapt…(Wisdom 18: 14-15)

 

It was a leap made with abandon and great love.  Are we willing, then, to take to heart and believe in a God who believes in us?

 

It’s been said that we can actually miss heaven by eighteen inches.  Physically, that’s the average distance from head to heart.  Too often, we live out of our heads:  calculating and controlling.  Spiritually, we need to let our heads descend into our hearts.  Only then, will my life change; less heartless and vastly more meaningful:  “Only the heart sees”, says the Little Prince.  “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

 

To let our heads descend into our hearts:  what might that look like?

 

At a Christmas concert presented by our Choir recently, a parishioner began to cry during “O Come All Ye Faithful” and mentioned afterwards that she gets teary-eyed whenever she hears that carol; (Michael Smith’s carol “All is Well” does that for me; my eyes brimming most times).   I recall the Catholic novelist Walker Percy being moved to tears during a Midnight Mass.  Suddenly, the miracle of Christmas dawned on him.   To his great surprise, he was overwhelmed in a way not felt before.  As he sat in that pew, the head descended into the heart.   He believed deeply and with faith alive; born again.

 

This Christmas, let’s put our heart into what we are about; wherever we find ourselves.  There, God is found; One who believes in us.  This Christmas, will we allow ourselves to be surprised by the enduring, loving nature of Christ’s Birth with its timeless message that we are loved and lovely in God’s eyes?

 

A Blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones!

 

 

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

 

 

 

 

 
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