December 23, 2009
The Holy Family (CNS/Debbie Hill)
Jesus Becomes a Brother to All Creatures
by Friar Jack Wintz, O.F.M.
Often during the Advent and Christmas season, the Church reminds us of two comings of Christ: his historical coming at Bethlehem and his coming at the end of time. Then he will welcome into his kingdom all those meant to be saved. The Incarnation is the central mystery of Christianity. It is very obvious that Jesus, the eternal Word of God, did not choose to stay aloof from the world he was coming to save, but literally entered the vast family of creation. He did this through his Incarnation, his conception in Mary and his birth at Bethlehem.
When the Word took on flesh in Christ, not only were human beings lifted up to a new and glorious dignity, but all other creatures were lifted up as well. This all happened simultaneously, as it were, at the moments of his Incarnation and birth. Of course, Jesus still had to grow up and—through his life, death and resurrection—bring salvation to all those open to his loving plan. This summarizes very briefly Jesus’ historical coming to this world and his mission as savior of the world.
‘I Stand at the Door and Knock’
Next we look at Jesus’ coming at the end of time. We can do this by way of the haunting image of Christ found in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. In Revelation 3:20 we read: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” The Book of Revelation is very much focused upon the Risen Jesus and his coming at the end of time, as the inspired writer John describes it in Revelation 1:7: “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him” (Revelation 1:7).
If we follow through with this image, we hear Christ knocking at the door at the end of time. We lovingly heed his voice and open the door to his glorious presence. He invites us into the heavenly banquet. Then Jesus, in union with his Father and Holy Spirit, will dine with us and we with him, forever and ever. We have a foretaste of this, moreover, in our present life, as we celebrate Christ’s coming at this time of year, especially in the Eucharists we celebrate. At any moment of our present life, especially during moments of prayer, we can let Christ into our hearts and contemplate our having an intimate meal together.
In closing, however, let’s go back to the heavenly banquet that takes place after Jesus’ final coming, a banquet that God shares with the whole family of saved humanity. As we Catholics believe in the redemption of all things, we can imagine other animals and creatures present in God’s kingdom as well. (For those wishing to sample that point of view, click on Friar Jack’s November musing, “Will All Creatures Praise God in Heaven?”)
Merry Christmas to You!
We would very much like to take this opportunity to wish our more than 50,000 readers around the world a most blessed Christmas and Happy New Year! Be assured that you and your loved ones are in our prayers. May our beloved savior, who has already come and will come again, enter into our hearts and share the bread of heaven with us.
Readers respond to Friar Jim Van Vurst's December E-spiration, Catechism Quiz: Peter: The Failure Jesus Could Only Love
Dear Nita and T.K: Isn't it good to know that Jesus chose ordinary wounded people to be his disciples? Just like us.
Dear G.: Peter never forgot his sin. But Jesus' love caused his failure help him to grow in self-knowledge and humility. Fr. Jim
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