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155. Praising and Pondering (Luke 2:15-21)

December 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Meditations, The Better Part

“God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Luke 2:15-21: ‘Now when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told. When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.’

Christ the Lord  When Jesus was born, the angels of heaven could not restrain their joy, so they appeared to some humble shepherds and gave them a Christmas concert they would never forget. The birth of Christ shows that its consequences are unlimited by time and space, and the same goes for his Lordship. This child, this infant, holds the universe in his hands – which is why we sometimes see the infant Jesus depicted as a king, holding a sphere in his left hand (symbolizing the world) and a scepter in his right hand (symbolizing power and authority). Christ is Lord because he is God’s Anointed, even when lying in a lowly little manger.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this absolute, universal Lordship is that it exists entirely for our sake. St Luke makes a point of telling us about Christ’s circumcision day, the day when he shed his first drop of blood, taking his place among sinners so that he could redeem them. It was traditional to give a boy his name on the same day he was circumcised. And so Mary and Joseph give him the name that God had assigned him through Gabriel’s message: Jesus, which means “God saves.” Luke reminds us that this name was given to him even before he was conceived in Mary’s womb. The Word of God created us because he knew we would like it, and now he comes to redeem us because he knows we need it. Christ’s whole life, his whole mission, is for our good, for our salvation.

Jesus’ us-centered orientation wasn’t an afterthought; we are the reason Jesus came to earth, lived, taught, healed, suffered, died, and rose again. Perhaps this is why saints throughout the ages have found in the simple name of “Jesus” one of their favorite and most fruitful prayers. Merely invoking our Lord, repeating his name over and over again, gives rest to our souls, because that’s exactly what he came to do.

Christ the Teacher  How are we to respond to the wonders God has done and is doing in the world and in our own lives? We can respond by following the shepherds’ example. First, we should “hurry away” to find Christ, go in haste to seek him out in the midst of his family, the Church, here represented by Mary and Joseph. Second, as the shepherds “repeated what they had been told” about Christ, we should make known the message we have received. Third, we should “glorify and praise” the God who comes to save. We must allow the wonder of God’s love to burst into our lives, as the shepherds did. We too must let God’s marvelous works amaze us, never falling into a blasé attitude, a routine, been-there-done-that Christian mediocrity. Children get excited every Christmas, so why shouldn’t we – who know so much more about the real meaning of the story – let it fill us with spiritual enthusiasm every single day?

We should also respond as Mary did: “Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” God did not tell Mary his entire plan. We know much more than she did about how everything was going to work out. She had to walk in the dim light of faith, one step at a time, trusting in God, witnessing his action, and seconding it whenever she could. But she paid attention. She knew that the life and mission of Christ eclipsed in importance any other concern or event that might surface. She pondered in her heart all of God’s gifts to her, all of his words, all of his actions and plans… She was truly a woman of the Kingdom. We need to learn this lesson as well, to be men and women who “seek first the Kingdom,” and let everything else fall comfortably (and properly) into second place (cf. Matthew 6:33).

Christ the Friend  God wants to give us the fullness of life. And he can give it to us – as a matter of fact, he is the only one who can give it to us. The problem is that we tend not to pay attention to him. His love, however, is determined. So he came up with a radical solution: he became a little baby, a helpless infant. Everyone pays attention to babies. So now we will look at him, even if only to see how cute he is. That’s a start. Let’s not belittle this reality! Coming to the baby Jesus and letting ourselves be charmed by his simplicity and innocence should be a frequent practice of our spiritual life – not something reserved exclusively to the Christmas season. We should, like the shepherds, gather around the manger with Mary and Joseph, and bask in the warm light of God’s love radiating out from the infant Lord.

Christ in My Life  You have revealed your name to me, because you want to stay close to me. Whenever I speak your name from my heart, you turn your attention to me. When I call you, you always come to me. You want to be available, to be close, to stay near. Why don’t I call you more often? Why do I let the hustle and bustle of life drown you out? Jesus, please walk with me…

More than half the people in this world still don’t know you or believe in you. I am one of the privileged minority who has received the Good News. Teach me, Lord, to be full of joy and generosity, like the shepherds, full of wonder and contemplation, like Mary, and full of the eager desire to spread the word…

How odd this Christmas story really is! The Creator and Sustainer of the universe becoming a little infant! No other religion has such a strange event. Dear Jesus, let me hold you in my arms. You are so small, so helpless. Let me take care of you. I adore you, Lord. I will never leave you; I will never abandon you. You are my life and my joy. You are safe with me, and you know that I love you. You can trust me, my Child; I love you, and I will watch over you…

 

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published two other titles: "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at www.RCSpirituality.org and questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", Inside the Passion--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Meditations for Mothers, and A Guide to Christian Meditation.

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  • Mary@42

    “Jesus, please walk with me…”. If you leave me alone, Jesus, I perish

  • Jpottery

    Beautiful!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000067803665 Judeen Harthun

    is not a babys love unconditional? it melts the hardest heart.. also so pure… no wounds , not judgemental.. if you watch a baby I do beleive this is what we need to acceive.. the eyes follow things we can not see… makes one wonder if they have sight touch and sound spiritually… and then lose it later as we lose our senses… to what we see around us… and then we seek these gifts once more as we grow in God again…. a baby is the most powerful.. in love.. it is a easyer way for God to leave heaven and become us…   just thinking

    • Jack g.

      My 2 year old son is this reminder, he was born on Dec., 18, so he is our Christmas present from God. When he was 1 year old we had a religious meeting in my house with other Catholic families. I asked Szymon (Polish for Peter the rock), where is Jesus? He didn’t speak but he pointed to his heart. Some of my friends could not believe, but in my opinion if you want to, you can teach a child about God from infancy. I just say Rosary when I put him to bed every night, or other prayers, but most of all I talk to my children about God, mostly every day. I believe that our children are closer to the spiritual and we know that Jesus said Himself, that their angels see the face of the Father constantly. I like to offer to Jesus all those “little”, precious moments of their childhood and offer them up as well. Converted only 2.5 years ago I have missed many, many precuious moments of my 3 other children, but God in His grace gave us one more chance to cherish the sweetness of parenthood. Sometimes I adore Jesus and The Holy Trinity in the innocent hearts of my children, for God dwells in the innocent souls of children. God Bless all those abandoned and hungry children all over the world. When I think of them everyday, I pray for our Lord to hug them all the time. With the love of Jesus, jack g.

      • Anonymous

        I believe it was St. Augustine who said something to the effect of: “Give me a child until he is five years old, then you can do with him what you like.”
         
        There are countless stories out there that support your idea Jack – the souls of children have just come from God, of course they know Him.
         
        The trouble is that we, the ‘supposedly’ grown up people, have forgotten.  Usually not through our own fault…….and we have a wonderful opportunity to change that, to watch the children within our circle of friends & family, to encourage and foster belief and devotion to Our Loving God.
         

        • Mary@42

          As a toddler and young child growing  up among the Consolata Sisters in the Parish, they taught me how to understand the Holy Trinity and the Role of Each Divine Person. Please Beck, do not laugh…. I told this to my Spiritual Director the other day and he was impressed…..So, here we go, Becky…..Jesus was my Buddy….so loving, so kind, so caring, so protective, unlike my brother who used to beat me up when I did something wrong… I shared all my secrets with Him…..He and I  walked together everywhere…when I was attracted by, say, a puddle of muddy rain water and I wanted to inspect it, He did not stop me….in  my enthusiasm, I ended by falling into that dirty water, messing my pretty Sunday-best dress….I stood up crying because my pretty dress was all messed up…..Jesus wiped away my tears,consoled me and lovingly told me not to worry or cry anymore…..He called the Holy Spirit and they agreed I needed to have my pretty dress fixed up, before we got Home to Father……They both fixed the dress….I was never quite sure, though, how They did it….when we got Home to Father, He did not seem to notice or know if I had been up to any mischief….Jesus and the Holy Spirit did not tell Him either….the three of us just looked at one another……and when My Heavenly Father hugged me, I was thrilled they had not disclosed the secret of what I had done….telling my heart never to do that again……That has remained my understanding of the Holy Trinity.  As a child it was very real to me…..of course, when I grew up I knew it was a child’s way the Sisters used to teach me the Mystery of the Holy Trinity……. but to this day, I treasure that Analogy with all my heart….Jesus still remains my Divine Buddy, especially when we meet in the Adoration Chapel and when He comes to me during Holy Communion…And when I have messed up my Sunday-best dress…as I, oh so often do, I go weeping to Him in His Tribunal of Mercy where I find Him waiting for me and – again – just like He used to do so many years ago – wipes away my tears, consoles and assures me that all is forgiven and My Heavenly Father is pleased with me and loves me very, very much.

          • Jack g.

            Hi Mary, I understand you just entered into the 4th quarter of your life and I love your attitude of a true child of God. I like your story, it is beautiful. You sound very refreshing and full of joy, may God the Father Bless you and hug you mightilly in His Holy Lap.With Love of Jesus, jack g.

          • Guest

            Thank you, Jack g. for you oh, so kind and moving words.  I am glad you like the story of my life. Yes, my relationship with Jesus has always been that of a Buddy.  And aware that I bear His Holy Mother’s Name – which I so often drag through the mud – and aware that my parents also bear His Grand Parents’ names, I strive to stay close to Him with the help of the Holy Spirit.  It is not easy, believe me, but I never give up, no matter how many times I fall flat on my old face. Yes Jack g. I have entered the 4th Quarter of my life…the day is far gone….I am basking in the late afternoon sunshine….the shadows of the oncoming night are gathering on the Western horizon…..and like the Disciples of Emmaus I daily tell Him…”stay with me, ‘J.C’….it is getting late”…….but, hey, as long as I do not give up the struggle, my Buddy will not desert me as long as I scream to Him when I fall.  And believe me, I do that very often, and He immediately comes rushing to pick me up – just as He used to do all those over 70 years ago.  He is the Best Buddy all of us have this side of Eternity. Have a blessings-filled Year 2012 with all your Loved Ones

          • Anonymous

            Wow!  This is beautiful!!  Thank you!

  • proclaim

    Jesus, You have been so very good to me. You have been there every moment, even when I was unaware, or worse, disinterested. What a precious gift Our Father has given us.