Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
Christmas reflections
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By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
December 25, 2015


Christmas begins and ends on Easter with the Resurrection of the Son of Man from death fulfilling Jesus' purpose being born man. While many in the world celebrate Christmas for lesser values – time for family, exchange of gifts and good cheer – Jesus' birth set him on a journey confronting death, rising from the dead and gloriously transforming himself from our adopted mortality into his immortality. Jesus earned our passage to eternal life because he and his Father created man in God's own image. But fallen from grace we were then offered a pathway back to innocence following Jesus' way who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life," back to God's good graces, and "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me," John 14:6, Luke 9:23 . And so the Christmas story waits for us in this hymn sung in the early church:
    "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens.

    God chose us in him before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight.

    He predestined us to be his adopted sons through Jesus Christ, such was his will and pleasure, that all might praise the glorious favor he has bestowed on us in his beloved.

    In him and through his blood, we have been redeemed, and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God's favor to us.

    God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the plan he was pleased to decree in Christ.

    A plan to be carried out in Christ, in the fulness of time,

    to bring all things into one in him, in the heavens and on earth," Ephesians 1:3-10.


Humble and Good

"I'm good." Many if not all of us have said one time or the other, "I'm good" when asked, "How are you" or "Can I help."

Many if not most people are intent on being good but the word signifies more than what we say. I think of the passage in the Gospel when a young man approaches Jesus and asks, "Good master, what must I do to gain eternal life?", and then to our surprise Jesus asks in return, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone," and Jesus continues to recite the commandments and advise the young man that he lacked one thing, his attachment to wealth which he should give to the poor and then follow him.

( Mark 10: 17-18 ).

Notice in the story how Jesus walks-back being called good himself not that he was not good but that his goodness, he knew, originates with God as with all of us and everything else, to tell the truth. Saint Paul made this clear when he asked his followers, "Name anything you have which you have not received" which truly is everything, life, talent, relationships and everything we think we call our own which depends on others. ( 1 Corinthians 4:7 ). We know, too, that our Blessed Mother knew that all that she had was a gift from God and although honored with being the Mother of Jesus she did not attribute her privileged relationship with Jesus due to her own merits but declared to her cousin, Elizabeth, and no one else, that her "soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord," not herself, and that her "spirit rejoices in God my Savior," not her son, but her Savior, and finally, "for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant," yes, his "lowly" servant.

Mary then spent the next six months "being with child" ( whose name means Savior ) as his "lowly" humble servant. Is this not the ideal we should all emulate on Christmas Day, humble and deferential to all we meet on Christmas Day and throughout our lives? The lowly young Mother of God had no social standing and chose to serve the Lord in all humility. This simple girl, barely a woman, knew as did her son that God alone is the source of all that is good, and what good we may have He shares with us.

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

 

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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at FatherTomSays@gmail.com. (Fr. Bartolomeo passed away on September 18, 2018. His obituary can be found here.)

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