25 December 2012 – Dawn Mass
Some years ago I was visiting my sister and she was very busy trying to cleanup after a party the night before and she hadn’t much time as she had to go out to her part-time job in the afternoon. We Irish have a reputation for hospitality. Just as we started to clean-up someone rang the doorbell and on opening the door we saw a family we knew but hadn’t seen for a long time with 3 small children. Of course we told them that they were very welcome and put out the best cups and saucers and gave them tea and biscuits with sweets for the small children. After 2 hours they decided to leave and said wasn’t it great we had nothing else to but entertain them. We just smiled and said nothing, though the temptation would have been to strangle them!!! As soon as they were gone we set about trying to do what we began to do, clean the place with 2 hours less available than before. Just to underline the importance of welcoming the unexpected guest who comes at the most unsuitable time God decided to give me a practical example.
As I was typing my homily this morning and trying to get it done in time, there was a ring on the bell at our front gate and when I went out I found an elderly man who wanted food and drink. I got the grace to see Jesus visiting me in him, gave him what he wanted and sat down next to him for as long as he ate the meal. Then off he went and I couldn’t laughing out loud and saying to God ‘You really were underlining the message just now weren’t you?
The totally unexpected guest can seem like a great disturber of our plans. We are up to our eyes in work and don’t have enough time for all we want to do. No matter how disorganised and easygoing we claim to be, which of us likes the unplanned and the unexpected? No one was ready for what happened at Bethlehem, from Herod to the High priest, to Joseph and Mary, they were all caught off-guard. The God of Surprises decided his time, his place and his way. Some like the prophet Isaiah had a very small idea but no one was certain.
The God of the promise became the God outside the walls, up in the hills, visited by the shepherds, warmed by animals, a child of frightened parents. Nobody could have predicted this, a powerless God-with-us. If we had known we would not have let this happen, we would have given them a bed at least. But it was God’s way and God’s time.
But then, when could we ever have a place ready for God-with-us? Where would we place him? Maybe it is better we don’t know. Can we allow him come when he will, where he will and let him decide the places that deserve God-with-us. Then we will allow God to be born where he wills.
So don’t hold your breath; be prepared to find him anywhere because Bethlehem can be any place. It can the office you hate, it can be the classroom that distresses you. It can be the bedroom ceiling you look at every day when you awake and wonder how you will pass the day. Your Bethlehem might be the corner of your heart that you consider unfit for God-with-us, it might be that dark memory that haunts you. It might even be the face you see every day and cannot love.
No matter where Jesus chooses to be born, it is not where we think he should be born. We will choose a 100 comfortable places for him and he will choose the one place that will disturb us, but this maybe the place where we need God-with-us, the place of our greatest discomfort may become the place where we are ultimately comforted. Let us ask God to reveal it to us.
“Lord Jesus, open our eyes and heart to see where YOU want to be born again in our lives. Let us realise above all that it is most probably the place where we are most uncomfortable. May we realise where it is and know that you are very happy to be born there since it is where we need you most. Lord, here is my heart, my life. Choose where you wish to be born and when and how, as I know that that is best for me. MARANATHA, COME LORD JESUS.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA