Friday, December 24, 2010
Our Lady of joys, we know, is also a Lady who understands sorrows. Even as we now all rush to prepare for one of several Christmas Eve Masses, we wonder, "have I done enough?" Have we forgotten someone, or even, hasn't someone forgotten me?
To live in the paradise of real love, we must constantly live in the country of mercy. When Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you," He did not mean that we are a kingdom unto ourselves, (despite what all the new age gurus and pop psychology self help books would have us believe.) A famous self helper recently spent thirty minutes explaining to his audience how the song "Row row, row your boat" should be one's philosophy of life. Yes, we know, "gently down the stream, merrily merrily...." but no, life is not a dream. So, what did Christ mean? A kingdom implies a King. Our hearts must be ruled by love and God's Divine Mercy, not by ourselves. We must get this part right, or all is out of sync with His purposes, which are so much higher than our own.
Our Lady is joyful today, yet even in that joy, She, as the Ark Bearer of Christ, has always served at the pleasure of The Most High God. For this reason, even while we see our friends today and even as we celebrate tomorrow, we will remember all those who have no home to call their own and we shall find a way to think of them as we would our own family.
The Kingdom of the heart indeed is within us, but must be ruled by God, and not an amorphous vision of a cloud like, new age philosophy. The Magi knew their gifts were appropriate for prophet, priest AND KING. The world today is not comfortable with the concept of being ruled over. Much of the world worships itself and ignores the very poverty that gives Our Lady one of Her many titles, Our Lady of Sorrows." For She sees in the midst of celebration those who cannot celebrate. She sees in the midst of joy those who weep. In the midst of every familial gathering, Her holy eyes and Christ's see far beyond the tables laden with food, the happy faces, the warm fires. She sees the homeless, the dis-enfranchised, the forsaken, and even as She smiles and blesses all who gather around large tables, She also sees beyond the lace curtains, past the manicured lawns and across all boundaries of time and space.
She sees the real Kingdom, and her loving eyes tear with joy and sorrow at the same time. Christ's heart and Hers shall teach me the way to see with new eyes and set me on the right path to make more people welcome to the Feast.
God With Us, Emmanuel. This is the Prayer of Paradise. Far across the continents, where people beg for bread in the streets, and as near as the person next to us on a bus or subway who misses home and hearth, God's love is the only love big enough to inspire us to the task of welcoming all to the Feast. He tells us that He has sent the invitation throughout the world: to both high and low, over highways and fields. Shepherds felt this and moved closer, Magi knelt in adoration. Angels praised with Glorias across the night sky. And thus, we tremble at the task before us: "What can we do? Show us!"
Who is missing from the table? No one need be left outside. That is the message of the Nativity: Royalty in a manger/cave, God with Us, from cradle to grave and beyond, and love's urgent desire to welcome all.
"The Kingdom within us" implies the necessity for The King Himself as ruler of the heart. I see Mary at this feast, looking across at all who celebrate. She celebrates with us, certainly, only Her eyes lift intermittently to the open door, to see those still afar off and those hungering for warmth and shelter. Only God can hold joy and sorrow simultaneously. Even our Lady must rest her eyes on these very human characteristics but one at a time. She does it beautifully, whispering in our ears that not everyone has yet been seated....go in your joy, and make them welcome, while there is time. Make my joy complete, for there is great bounty here. Explain the Mass, joyfully recount your own journey and bring them back, bring them to Us.
Even as Christ handed the keys of the Kingdom to Saint Peter, the angels rejoiced. Whatsoever we bind or loose here on earth will be bound or loosed in Heaven. There is no hunger, no poverty, no abuse or loneliness there, so ban it here. There is joy and bounty, Divine Mercy and Love in Paradise, so loose it here!
God be with us today, of all days, and tomorrow. Give us the eyes and ears of love, and the loving hands to welcome all.