Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
'Tis the season, Part Four
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By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
December 20, 2014

Today, December 21st, the Winter solstice, is the darkest day of the year. We are enshrouded in nearly sixteen hours of darkness four days before the birth of Christ who becomes the light of the world. Last Sunday we heard about "the light" of a "mighty savior" (Luke 1:69) heralded by John the Baptist who said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord'." (John 1:23). It would be another thirty years, however, before the Messiah and Son of David, Jesus Christ, would claim his kingdom. His kingdom, Jesus told Pilate, the prefect of Rome who took his life, is a kingdom "not of this world." (John 18:36).

God the Father, though, and his Son, Jesus, did not want his people to be ruled by a king of this world which the people of Israel demanded, but God acceded to their wish and Saul became their first king. Let's pause, here, for a moment and consider God's providental rule. God preferred to continue his relationship with his people as he had with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children who called themselves the sons and daughters of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As their numbers grew God appointed judges and prophets to lead the Israelites. When they demanded a king to rule them like other nations God directed his prophet Samuel to anoint Saul Israel's first king, and the welfare of the state of Israel worsened. God then had Samuel search for another candidate for king who was David, the youngest son of Jesse and a shepherd. David proved himself a worthy king, nearly ruined his relationship with God but repented and was among a few of his heirs who ruled Israel in service to God and his people. Through David God renewed his personal relationship with his chosen people as he had with the great patriarchs and prophets. For David's love and loyalty God promised David that his kingdom would last forever, that David's heir would rule God's kingdom forever.

It remained a "secret kept for long ages according to the command of the eternal God . . . ," saint Paul said, "to bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ." (Romans: 16:25-27 ). God essentially bided his time from King David and his many successors who squandered God's largess leading Israel into dissolution and ruin until the birth of Christ. God chose Jesus to be the Son of David to establish the Kingdom of God he wanted for his people. How ironic, too, that during the time of Jesus many did not accept God in the flesh and blood of a man or in the disguise of bread and wine in the Eucharist. Should any think that God can not do this? If God can take on the flesh and blood of a real man he can certainly commune with us in the appearance of bread and wine for the nourishment of our souls. How many ways God communes with us: in words through Sacred Scripture, in his Word make flesh and in the bread and drink he gives as his body and blood. "So Jesus said . . . unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink." (John 6:32ff). If we can ingest ordinary food which becomes our flesh and blood certainly we can ingest the food of angels in bread and wine and have the life of God become a part of our lives.

Be careful who we presume God is and with whom God lives especially in the darkness of this world. Jesus entered our space as a vulnerable child and appeared first to shepherds and then strangers from a foreign country. Who would limit God's power or presence? Among whom of us does Jesus appear? When the Word of God was spoken and then became flesh John, Jesus' favorite Apostle, said
    He was in the world, and world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believe in his name, he gave power to become children of God, where born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13).
The Word of God first came to his patriarchs, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, and to his prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah and other prophets down to the last and greatest prophet, John the Baptist – in the office of Rabboni, teacher and priest whom God ordained in the person of Jesus Christ who came in secrecy and taught in secrecy through his parables. "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his life?" (Mark 8:36).

When Jesus' disciples questioned Jesus, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

'You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people's heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.'
    But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:10-17).
This exchange with his disciples followed the first parable Jesus taught, the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, where some seed was sown and destroyed by predators, some seed was scorched by the sun or chocked by weeds and some seed grew and multiplied in clean and fertile soil. When Jesus' disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable he told them that the seed was the word of God. For them Jesus was the Word of God. Would the life of God grow in their soil, in their hearts and in our hearts. That, too, is a secret, a mystery.

Jesus brought light and life into a non-existent world in creation, "a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep," a black hole of nothing. "Then God said," "Let there be light . . ." in the Book of Genesis (the Book of the Beginnings). Then all of creation and all things "came into being through him" as John the Apostle said in his Gospel. It was Christ's world and he would be the first and everlasting king of heaven and earth.

Man's freedom to obey or disobey his Creator is a great mystery which we can hardly understand in our present condition. The Apostle Paul explained, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12). This season Christ once more comes in winter when many seeds of grain lie in the dark on the ground, seeds so small they may not be seen, seeds walked on or hidden under rocks or entangled in the debris of the world. These seeds are planted in the soil of our souls at baptism and exist in various states of life. Only God knows the state and condition of these seeds. Some may still lack moisture, sunlight or fertile soil in which to grow – first the blade then the stem and lastly seeds of their own. Those who have ears to hear ought to hear. Those who have eyes to see ought to perceive.

Summary

Today, December 21st, the Winter solstice, is the darkest day of the year. We are enshrouded in nearly sixteen hours of darkness three days before the birth of Christ who becomes the light of the world.

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

 

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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at FatherTomSays@gmail.com.

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