“Search diligently for the child.”
Sometimes I wish I lived in the time of Jesus’ birth. Now, for better or worse, there is a certain baggage that comes along with the name of Jesus that takes away from the rawness and purity of who he really is. What would it have been like for the Magi, who knew nothing besides their own intrigue? What was it like when everything about this child was mysterious and intriguing?
Why did the wise men follow the star? Because they were certain of who they’d encounter at the end of their journey? No. But something about that star made them stop and say, “huh.”
Our faith in Jesus is never a given, a “done deal.” It must always be reaffirmed, always renewed. Every action, thought, and word requires that we choose him or something else. The choice to follow him is at the heart of every choice we make.
For the most part, we are all content to follow what we like or find convenient in God’s law; which Church teaching we like and ignore or reject the ones we don’t, usually without lifting a finger in study or curiosity to learn what Jesus means of what he is proposing to us through his Church.
To say, “I love you Jesus, I want to follow you” and then to make up our own way or remain content in our doubts about him, disagreements with the Church, or misunderstandings of why we believe what we believe without taking the time to investigate in study and prayer…how much more arrogant does it get?
The Church always proposes the ideal of Christ. The foundation of the Christian conception of human life is a particular history – your life and my life; the Church is always proposing the ideal of the Christian life into your life and my life. Propositions intrigue us; they call on us. Once we accept a proposition as true, it binds us. But this acceptance must be constantly renewed.
We don’t live in the time when Jesus was born, we live now. We know how the life of Jesus begins and ends. Our particular history is unfolding now, not then.
We know that Jesus lives; we know that death is conquered and sin is forgiven; we know that all things are made new in him; we know that he is proposing to us an entirely new life, even now on this earth; we know that the fulfillment of all desire is in him. Why does this not convince us?
We are afraid of him. We are afraid of his power, of what accepting the proposition of Jesus and living a new kind of life might mean for us and for our fat, relentless egos. We are not afraid that God’s promises won’t come true, but that maybe they actually will. If God’s promises are fulfilled for me, it means that I must die. It means that I must change, that my selfishness and my sins and the way of life I’ve built and the god that I’ve created in my own image all must die.
We have to stop pretending like we’re all in while doing nothing about our doubts, questions, disagreements, and uncertainty toward things Jesus has taught and that the Church is proposing to us. Remember those words of St. Therese of Lisieux, “You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or not one at all.”
We know because we’ve been taught that Jesus is present in the Eucharist; then why do we receive him irreverently or in a state of sin? We know that in the confessional we are forgiven of every sin of our lives; then why aren’t we running to him in that sacrament? We know that we are made for greatness, that the human soul desires nothing less than union with God; then why do we fill our days with meaningless scrolling through instagram, vanity on snapchat, and comments-wars on Facebook?
I wish we could live in the time of the birth of Jesus, I wish I could be one of the Magi who could drop everything in search of the truth behind that star. I wish I lived in a time when the name of Jesus spoken in public did not bring with it 20 centuries of baggage, most of it exaggerated or untrue.
But my particular history, our particular history, is unfolding now, here in this church and in this time. Despite the baggage, the proposition remains the same: the longed-for Messiah has come, Jesus is Christ, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is lover, Jesus is the perfect friend; Our hearts are restless until they rest in him; sinning is boring, sainthood is exciting.
Today at the consecration when I elevate the host and cup, look at him and ask him, “is it you, Lord?” When you receive him today, ask him, “is it you, Lord?” When you return to your pew and kneel down, ask in the silence, “is it you, Lord?” When you feel the prick of your conscience this week and you’re faced with the choice to renew your acceptance of him, ask, “is it you, Lord?”
Jesus, send us your Spirit to convince us.
Here’s my heart, Lord; here’s my heart. Speak what is true.