A few years back, John Denver wrote and sang “Take Me Home Country Roads.” As I drive along The Ridge on Highway 33 the lyrics of that song almost come to life for me this Christmastime. Those of you who know me well enough by now know that I always have double meanings behind the words and phrases of what I’m trying to say! Even my posts on Facebook get at a deeper sense of reality that is lurking underneath the words!
As I look at the Nativity Set (we still have Nativity Sets, don’t we, or has that been banned, too?) I’m reminded that the Catholic Church is always a place that you can call your home, a place “we belong” as John Denver sang. It wasn’t always that way with the Holy Family for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They wandered through their country roads this time of year in ancient Israel wondering if any town or village would welcome them. St. Joseph received a stubborn “no” from every innkeeper on this Holy Night of Christmas Eve. He was rejected even in his own hometown! Every refusal for shelter was actually a refusal of Jesus. The time had come for Jesus’ birth and Mary knew it would be only a matter of minutes. What was St. Joseph to do?
Every door that closed must have opened up a new pain in Mary’s heart. No welcome was found but the poverty of a manger—a feeding station—with some hay and animals. How ironic that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords be born in poverty. The wisdom of this world says such a person should have been born in a palace or a mansion. And at a time when it was so unexpected—when no one except for 3 Wise Men was ready to receive the long-awaited Messiah. They made a big mistake by going to King Herod and telling him that a newborn king of the Jews was about to be born. His palace and his court were all filled with anger and anxiety and jealousy that someone else was going to be king instead of him. So he gets filled with rage as he issues the order that all newborn children shall be slaughtered, to get rid of the competition. The maji the three kings, Caspar, mechoir, and Balthazar realize what a big mistake this was as they journey back to their countries by another route. Jesus has been born in poverty and in the pain of rejection, yet the welcome mat is always open at that manger for us and other seekers of Jesus.
That’s why we are told on this holy night of all nights: be not afraid.
Be not afraid. The powers of hell find themselves powerless by a new force and a new love. In the darkness, a brightness in kindling. If Mary, the 14-year-old virgin mother of God speak to us, what would she say to us on this holy night?
Mary would probably say:
“ with the voice of a concerned mother, who hears a thousand voices who still reject my son, and who listens with dismay to the sound of a thousand doors who are still closed, I say to you: do not be afraid….do not be afraid God is with you. Tonight there is born to you a savior for all. With a heart wounded by the great coldness and with a soul made desolate by the rejection of God which has turned the earth into a great desert, in the face of such hopelessness I say to again, do not be afraid…do not be afraid. Do not be afraid, my children, who are exposed to so many dangers…
The danger of my adversary, Satan, seems to be triumphing in the hearts of men…by inflicting them with anger and hatred, and everything seems lost, be not afraid.
In the face of the dangers of wars, of fierce threats to destroy the one and holy Catholic Church,
The message from me on this holy night is be not afraid. God is with you.do not be afraid my children exposed to so many dangers… Jesus is here!
I look upon my children whom I am well aware of that are suffering from cold and hunger….I look upon my children whose families are breaking up…i look upon all my children who are suffering because of the injustices inflicted upon them…especially upon the priests who have committed no crimes, yet the modern day media does not stop in persecuting them or me or my son..in the cradle of all this immense suffering, I today am placing my heavenly child.
Pray that the hearts of all may be open to him…throw open wide the doors to Jesus Christ who is coming.,,who indeed is already here.
The welcome mat is always rolled out in front of the Catholic Church calling all of us,including those who may have been away for a while, home once again “to the place we belong.” To where Jesus truly is in the tabernacle, in the Eucharist. That’s what the red lamp signifies. That’s why the red lamp is lit. Jesus is truly here. It’s his house, but’s our house to…as children of him and children of Mary, as we are. This Christmas, and every Sunday for that matter…don’t let anxiety or fear stop you from entering this house. Just simply take advantage of the invitation. We are all welcome into His house. However: Is the Holy Family Jesus, Mary and Joseph welcome in ours?