Even a hermit has to leave the silent hiddenness of the hermitage from time to time for necessities such as groceries.
Always when I do so I pray for everyone I meet, or whom I see even without any direct interactions, especially that everyone will come to know Jesus, know they are beloved and follow Him.
Rarely, if someone speaks with me, am I asked if I am Christian.
However the other day, waiting for the bus near a mosque, a man approached and after an exchange about when the next bus was expected he spoke about the world situation, assuring me he was not like those who claim to be of Islam but betray the faith with their hatred and violence.
You could see in his eyes a mixture of fear, confusion, and the weight of it all.
After I assured him no right thinking person would ever confuse the actions of someone claiming to be of a faith, actions totally against the tenets of the faith – for example people claiming to be Catholic yet supporting the murder of the as yet unborn children – with the authentic faith.
He then asked if I was Christian and upon my saying yes said: “We believe in the Koran in Jesus too and the Virgin birth, but not that He is God.”
I simply smiled and said we are all children of the same Father.
He smiled in return, my bus arrived, I shook his hand, blessing him in my heart and we parted as he was waiting for another bus.
Speaking about an image of the Child Jesus hanging in his community’s chapel, in his book, CIRCLING THE SUN, Fr. Robert Pelton writes about how he venerates the image and adds: The smile of the Infant holds the secret of everlasting life.
I love that image, and I never leave the chapel without kissing it and asking Christ to share His secret with me. But sometimes when I look at this Infant, I remember a story I read long ago. A certain captured Crusader and his Muslim jailer had learned enough of the other’s language to speak together of their lives and of those deep differences that had so ironically brought them together. One day as they talked, the Muslim said, “But who is your God that you speak of the place where he was born and the place where he died?”
Shyly, the Crusader said, “I’ll show you.” He reached under his tunic and brought out a small wooden image of Christ held in the arms of His Mother. The Crusader point to the Infant and said, “There. That is God!” [op.cit.pp.25/26]
When the notion of God is imprisoned in such as allows human beings to slaughter others while shouting that God is great, or the notion of God is imprisoned in phrases such as assuring one another that He is on OUR side, hence a notion of a god who prefers one set of people to another; when our understanding of god[s] is like that of the Ancient Greeks or Romans then we are confronted with a deity [or deities] made in our own image, hobbled by our own morality, hatreds, impulsiveness.
To embrace that truth of: “There. That is God!” means to embrace the truth the Father so loves us He sent His only begotten Son to become one like us in all things, which is the vulnerability of life in the womb, of infancy, of growing and maturing and all that entails, ultimately embracing, by choosing to lay down His life for our redemption, the stark reality of end of earthly life: death!
Fr. Pelton refers to the reality that God is Child as ‘the scandal of the Gospel’.
But the Incarnation and Birth of Jesus the Holy Child is a scandal that permeates and upsets human history, virtually every disorder we accept in modern life from abortion to sexual disorder to the dishonouring of the sacredness of marriage between one man and one woman, to inaction in the face of poverty, hatred, etc., etc.
Soon we will enter the Holy Season of Advent, the journey to Christmas, the birth of the Child.
The airwaves will be saturated with advertisements for the must haves presents; news media will report ad nauseam about Christians battling to have crèches in public places or the media will drag out the usual assortment of anti-Christian, especially anti-Catholic talking heads or documentaries to dispute the truth about Jesus.
Yes, the scandal of the Gospel continues.