Fr. José María García. Advent – Christmas 2013
How nice it is to celebrate a feast when everything has been properly prepared and when the central reality is not the preparation as such, but meeting others. This is true even in the joy occasioned by gratitude to the one who has invited us, and the surprises and gifts that are generously exchanged, and that make us feel “richer, more blessed, better people”.
That is part of the mystery of the annual celebration of the birth of our Lord. In Advent we prepare ourselves, but the best bit comes when we gather around the Crib and are surprised by the Divine Child who is born for all of us in the originality of the new celebration, and generous and simple sharing. We become happy through others.
When I think of this Christmas I am repeatedly touched by the kindness of God the Father who has taken the initiative to prepare us very directly. He has prepared us so that his Son can be born again among us. The Lord wants to enter into our hearts, into the real lives of the people today who for one or the other reason have distanced themselves form HIM and his Good News, which he has entrusted in a special way to the Church. The celebration of Jesus’ birth renews us as people and as a Church. “Re-found us”, as our Father and Founder put it. People today urgently need God and his merciful love, and God urgently wants his Church to offer that merciful love, and give it courageously and credibly. Just think of what a year he has given us so that precisely this can come about!
That is why his Son has to be born, become present amongst us, his own people and strangers, as at that time, in the simplicity and austerity of Bethlehem. Everything else is of no avail. Brocade and gold leaf, prestige and recognition are of no use for the beginning, or for the gift he is sending us. His Son had to be born in the simplicity and austerity of Bethlehem surrounded by people who had the courage to show their poverty and neediness, yet with deep faith in God’s faithfulness. Nothing else! it seems that everything else is almost counterproductive. It separates us from HIM and from ourselves if we look at the results and where we are at the moment. The condition for the fruitfulness of the Church is humility, as our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said in these days. The proud are unfruitful, they are sterile (Sermon in Santa Marta, 19 December 2013).
Today we can say, really say, that as a Church we have become humbler, we have grown in simplicity, we have become stronger and more worthy than in the previous year, because we have a Holy Father who unmistakably and courageously testifies to it, no matter how it may come about. How beautiful and warm his words are, even when they are harsh as in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in his Wednesday Catechesis, in the simple and popular sermons at the Masses in Santa Marta, or his meditations at the Angelus. Without doubt it is a sign of the Holy Spirit when the power and theological force of the Gospel is expressed in simple words that everyone, absolutely everyone, can understand. And all this emphasised by his absolutely credible gestures.
The understanding and merciful Father has also prepared us as a Schoenstatt Family. Between the Year of the Shrine Current and that of the Missionary Current he surprised us with the gift of the Original Shrine. He counts upon the work to the Mother of his Son and his children in the shrines; she educates us to be her instruments, the “missionary disciples” of her Son, Jesus, and his Church for this all-embracing and evangelising renewal. I think it is a sign of the holiness of the Father if his children show by their lives how his charism can form men and women also today for this special hour of the Church.
“Let us resemble your image, and go through life exactly as you did – strong and dignified, simple and mild, spreading love, peace and joy. Go in us through our times, prepared them for Christ.” These are words of our Father taken from the Instrument’s Hymn. They can touch our souls more deeply today, because we can personally see them as a life’s plan for the Church, and not simply as an ascetically pious sentence.
We are celebrating this Christmas because we feel and know even more than before that we are the Church, we are more fully the children of the Blessed Mother, and more fully the children of our Father. We do so in serving God’s plans for us men and women in times of crises and meaninglessness, but with the longing for fullness, for truth, justice and peace, which this God tends in our souls. We do so by offering our lives in the covenant with Mary, in this Jubilee Year, to the Church and the Holy Father. We have nothing else, and no more will be asked of us, but also no less. In the light of the jubilee we can see so many pastoral, social and cultural initiatives and undertakings in our Schoenstatt Family all over the world as an expression, development and validation of a Covenant Culture, which speaks of this renewed and renewing Church. Nothing else is possible than to thank, and to continue to give ourselves trustingly and humbly.
Let us celebrate by talking with one another about how the Lord has surprised us this year, and how he has prepared us for this Christmas. In this joy and gratitude in and for one another Bethlehem will become a reality for our time, where Mary can show the Child who has been born, not the gods we imagine and seem better to us.
Let us rejoice! That is the Christmas he has prepared with us in the Bethlehem of his children. Let us cultivate the joy of this feast, so that we can go out like the shepherds always with this simplicity that hurts so many, in order to proclaim the Gospel to those on the periphery of society.
A blessed Christmas to all and my sincere thanks for all the testimonies of life in the covenant,
With my blessing in the Madrid shrine
Fr. José María