With today’s writing I want to speak to an audience I don’t normally speak to. We “smart” Catholics like to look down on those who don’t do things the way we do. We look down on those who aren’t there with us every Sunday at Mass. This is the audience I’d like to speak to. You always see fresh faces at midnight mass or on Christmas morning. For those of you who are going to Church regularly, consider passing this to someone who doesn’t. Strike up a conversation.
What I always find fascinating about the Nativity narrative we read (from Luke 2 and Matthew 2) is the universality of the call God gives. He speaks to the wise men and the shepherds. He speaks to the rich and the poor, those wise in this world and those simple, those mighty and those meek, the intellectual and the laborer: His call goes to all of them. We don’t hear anything about their spiritual lives before this calling. For all we know, they weren’t devout religious people, merely those seeking God in their own way. They loved truth and justice, or maybe they didn’t. What we do know is that they responded to a call from God to come see something truly magical. They are called to a stable outside of an inn on the outskirts of town.
A lot of people interpret this fact as proof of their poverty. I think there’s something else we should consider. God calls everyone to a place outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. Yet he also drew the farmers away from their farm. He calls us away from the tyranny of everyday life. God will call us from all walks of life to find Him, but we have to go outside of what we know and are comfortable with. Though many around me do not believe the things about Christ I do, they share a heartfelt belief with me that this world as it stands does not offer much. They seek something better. God says if you want to find that something better, look where others aren’t. Think about that in relation to going to Church. It isn’t a country club for the spiritually righteous, it is a place where all of us are just like you, responding to God’s call to look for beauty beyond the present world we know and are comfortable with.
When you answer that call, I can’t guarantee you will find what you are looking for. All I can do is relate the story of Simeon. The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about Simeon. We only read that he was a just man, “seeking the consolation of Israel.” (Lk 2:25) He was just like all of us, in that he was seeking peace and comfort for everyone around him. Just as God called the Shepherds and the Magi, so He calls this good man into the temple, away from the things of this world. Upon arriving, he finds what he has spent his entire life seeking. In just one moment, he finds all of his desires fulfilled, and realizes that after that day, there was nothing left he had to do. He had finished his bucket list, because he found the comfort and consolation he had been seeking. He tells the child’s parents that this baby will be a light to the gentiles and the glory of Israel.
That is all I offer you who seek. I’m not saying you will like all the answers or view them as satisfactory. All I can say is that within this child born to us today, there are answers to our questions, and we have to seek them. Throughout history we have seen men seek Christ, and they were transformed completely. The greatest prophet of Israel, a man who kings and religious leaders feared, this same man saw Christ and bent the knee before him, and deliberately left the spotlight so Christ could have His moment. We see men from all walks of life abandon their previous ways to follow him, a following they frequently screwed up badly in. God’s response was not to cast them out, but to give them even more strength. God has visited people seeking throughout history and transformed them into saints who left an indelible mark on the world around them. They weren’t products of their environment, their environments were products of them.
Perhaps you have been turned away from seeking God by the heinous sins of religious leaders, or those who have profaned their calling to be good witnesses. That’s a rational decision, and believers like myself can never do enough penance and reparation for their acts, yet we are going to try. Perhaps in our abasement you will see that we are your friends. Christ and the Apostles suffered from the religious leaders of the day as well. Not because they were part of organized religion, but because they were leaders. They enjoyed being comfortable, and Christ threatened their comfort. When our Holy Father stirred the hearts of millions, he exhorted them to “make a mess” (in the original language raise hell!) to shake people from this comfort which seeks to wound anything which threatens complacency. The call of Christ is a call to overthrow the complacency of this age, and that movement starts with you. Be a saint, be converted to Christ, and in doing so convert us believers! This isn’t an esoteric game, I ask you to find fulfillment in Christ because you will spur me on to find that fulfillment in Christ.
I want to conclude by asking those of you who only go to Church occasionally (on nights such as the Christmas we are celebrating) to try and go more occasionally. I also want you to contact me. I don’t want you to contact me for a theological debate. (Unless you want one of course!) I want to talk to about the joy of parenting that you have and in which I’m about to partake as of February. We can talk about sabermetrics in baseball, about video games, about my love for Roman history, my love of old school hip hop, the history of professional wrestling, the joys and dangers of driving in roundabouts; we can talk about all of these things, or whatever you want to talk about. I’ve got plenty of time to answer your questions. After February the baby will be keeping me up all hours of the night, I might as well find something productive to do once she falls back asleep! While we talk about those things, maybe we can talk about the things I’ve mentioned tonight, and why Christ provided me freedom, and why he can provide freedom for you as well.
I can’t guarantee to have all the answers during our talks. You might even find my answers absurd. What I can promise you is that like the Magi, like the shepherds, and like Simeon, your life will never be the same after hearing the message I wish to give you. One way or another, your life will change after our discussion. I only ask that you consider having that discussion, and you consider Christ. That will be our job at Catholic Lane in 2014: finding ways to help all people, whether Catholic or not to consider Christ.