|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
Gospel of John 1:1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.
There’s a reason why parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends greet children of every age with “I can’t believe how big you’re getting!” The miracle of human life never ceases to astound. My first pregnancy I remember marveling that a person who recently never existed, now did, and would for all of eternity. It hit me that God had done a creating act of my child’s soul in my very womb. The intimate closeness of God’s activity, and the reality of this miracle which was now kicking inside of me exceeded my understanding and overwhelmed my heart. To this day, I look at my children and think, “You used to not exist, and now you do, and you are amazing.”
Holding my son for the first time, I finally experienced what it meant to be a contemplative. I had learned about contemplation and how Mary was the perfect example as she gazed on Jesus and loved Him. The catechism relates this description of contemplation from one of St. John Vianney’s parishioners:
|Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. CCC 2712|
Although I admired this kind of prayer and certainly desired it, I also felt it was unattainable for me. “How can I just sit and stare at Christ?”, I wondered. I would do my regular prayers then get on with serving Christ actively but had to leave contemplation to the advanced Christians, or so I thought. Then I held my newborn son for the first time. Exhausted from a difficult pregnancy and even more difficult birth full of complications, I nevertheless couldn’t stop staring at him, my heart overflowing with love. The nurse asked several times if I would like her to take him so I could get some rest. It was no use, I was wide awake and deep in contemplation. Moreover, this gaze of love changed the way I viewed everyone. From that moment forward, I understood the fierce love and compassion I have for my son is the same fierce love and compassion God has for each of His children. In consequence, I see people through the Father’s eyes instead of my own.
At Christmas, we encounter the astounding miracle of the Incarnation. God, Who was completely transcendent and beyond us, became man and lived intimately among us. He shares our human experience. He had a human mother, grandparents, cousins, an address. He grew out of his clothes and sandals like my children are constantly doing. Finally, whereas in the past God spoke through prophets, now He spoke directly to us. The Word of God literally resonated through the air and to the ears of listeners. It continues to resonate through the Church He endowed with His Holy Spirit and the Scriptures as well as in our own prayer through the indwelling of the Spirit as a gift of Baptism.
Contrary to popular cultural myth – God is not dead, not silent, not absent, and not remote. Today we celebrate His birth, His Word dwelling among us, closer than any Person can get.
During this Christmas season, let us seek Him. Contemplative prayer is possible for everyone. We seek sight of those we love – whether through physical presence, facetime on the phone, or photographs on our desk. It’s a movement of the heart. God became man, that we might be intimately close to Him. The catechism teaches:
|Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.” CCC 2709 and Song of Songs 1:7; cf 3:14|
Let us seek Christ spiritually in prayer and Scripture, physically in the Eucharist and Confession, and in each person we meet.
- When was a time you experienced the miracle of life? How did it make you feel closer to God?
- Reflect on how intimately Jesus walks with you. Consider how He shares your experiences – the joys and the pain.
- Imagine what it must have been like to be Jesus’ grandparents or extended family? Imagine what it was like for Mary and Joseph to love Jesus with a mother and foster-father’s love.
Make a Resolution:
- Spend 10 minutes a day reading and reflecting on a Gospel passage. Encounter Christ in His Word. (I recommend Matthew 5-7 if you don’t know where to start.)
- Spend 5 minutes in silent prayer. Set a timer, close your eyes, and try to simply gaze on Jesus in your heart. Don’t worry about distractions, just push them away and turn your gaze back if they pop up.
- Encounter Christ in others each day this week. Try to see them as God the Father does, and care for them as a physical opportunity to care for Christ.
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018
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