Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
He is the reason for the season
Completing the work of creation
By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
December 24, 2014

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;
but the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat
for on the day that you eat of it you shall die'. (Genesis 2:15ff).

Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified,
and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.
And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation,
and the tomb was nearby, they laid him there.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb
and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.
As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;
and she saw two angels in white,
sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying,
one at the head and the other at the feet.
They said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?'
She said to them, 'They have taken away my Lord,
and I do not know where they have laid him.'
When she said this, she turned around
and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?'
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him,
'Sir, if you have carried him away,
tell me where you have laid him
and I will take him away.'
Jesus said to her, 'Mary!'
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
'Rabbouni!' (which means Teacher). (John 19:38ff).

God's work is only good when it is finished. How else can we understand our existence and our nature as man in a garden where two trees stand, one, a tree of good and evil and, another, a tree of life? It is no coincidence that the glory of God's creation was destroyed in one garden and restored in another where the glorified Son of Man appeared whom Mary Madeline thought was the gardener.

God made the world a garden where all was "good" and the last thing God made he said, was "very good," a man, to live in the garden and to care for it. Unlike the sky, sea and earth, unlike the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky and the plants and animals on the earth man was free to live as he chose in God's garden because man was made a free creature in God's image with a mind and a will like God's. Of all that is good man prizes freedom most of all. We may take our freedom for granted or it may be constrained by other forces in nature including other men but that was not what God envisioned. God always wanted us to choose rightly but would not control our will which would destroy who we are.

Without a mind to comprehend the good and a will to choose the good we lose the essence of who we are in the image of God. The good and the true does not depend on the receiver of goodness and truth but on the giver. Only one man has ever entered the world or will ever enter the world who is goodness and truth himself, the author of life, the perfect reflection of God and man, Jesus Christ.

He is the reason for the season. We celebrate in faith, hope and love the joy of Christmas in a new garden to which we journey. "Come follow me" Jesus said to his disciples and to all of us.

We are all here, however, as sinners, and heirs of sinners. Even when we follow Jesus in his admonition, "Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect," we bear the sins of others who are our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers as did Jesus, the worst of all human suffering. We profess that God is the creator of heaven and earth but not pieces of heaven and earth we may carve out in this world for ourselves only and call it heaven on earth.

Where is the Christ child today we ask on Christmas day? "What child is this," comes the answer from a familiar carol, who [is] laid to rest,/ On Mary's lap is sleeping? / Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,/ While shepherds watch are keeping? / This, this is Christ the King, / Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: / Haste, haste to bring Him laud, / The babe, the son of Mary . . . . Raise, raise a song on high, The virgin sings her lullaby."

Is there any experience more heavenly than the vision of a small child asleep? Softly open the door slightly ajar into his or her room, look in and wonder. "A child is father of the man," a poet once wrote, when we take in the innocence, joy, trust and wonder of a young child asleep or recall the experience of a child grown older or remember our own innocent childhood from memories long, long ago – the happiness God gave us at our birth – He shares with fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins from one generation to another.

One the worst trials a husband and wife may suffer – some in ignorance and some in complicity – is a marriage without children. Abraham and Sarah and their son, Isaac and Rebecca, and their grandson, Jacob and Rachel were all barren for a while and suffered much as did Zachariah and Elizabeth who for many years were barren until in old age God intervened and they bore their only son, John the Baptist, the prophet who announced to the world the coming of Christ, our Savior.

Much of the world, however, has little or no interest in children and plays on our insecurities and fears, the inconveniences of having and raising children. How we can remove the danger of pregnancy and keep sex safe. Many others, I believe, regret, regret greatly not having children or having more children. A woman's cycle of fertility on average amounts to only eleven percent of her lifetime. It remains always God's call to marriage to "increase and multiple" which was the only command God gave to all living things including man in the garden of Eden. And no matter how old or how much beyond the years of child bearing we may be we will each always be a child of God which takes precedence over all other biological and human relationships. We should never forget in baptism we were born of God as the Apostle John in his gospel said:
    He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13). (Italics mine).
© 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 (Fr. Bartolomeo passed away on September 18, 2018. His obituary can be found here.)


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