Christmas Day 2014

I had an interesting brief conversation after mass this past Sunday.  I was talking with a family I knew and their daughter’s friend was introduced to me. This young adult was visiting from another state and disclosed that she was a teacher of Christology in a Catholic High School.  Almost immediately on finding out that I was a deacon; she asked me if I had heard of a book titled “Zealot: The life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.” When I said no she proceeded to tell me that it is a story of Jesus “before the Christians got a hold of him.”   Continuing she said that according to the author there is no proof that Jesus was the Messiah; qualifying her statements that she necessarily did not agree with the author. However, it became apparent as she continued to speak that she did indeed buy into his thesis and that she was questioning all she ever learned about Christ.  She added how she was taught the “standard theology of Christ and absorbed it all” before she ever heard anything different about Christ. Now I must admit that I have not read this book but I did go home and read several internet book reviews.  I knew from her comments that it was another one of those books about the historical Jesus.  A Jesus we can prove existed from the writings of Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius and the Jewish historian Josephus.  So another book or movie about his humanity is nothing new, for even the scriptures tell us he was human. However, this book presents Jesus as a revolutionary communist and a zealous nationalist in the vein of Lenin, Marx, and Che Guevara.  The author stresses the fact that Jesus never says he is the Messiah. The question we all must come to grips with is not if he existed as a man.  The question for us as we gather to celebrate his birth is was Jesus uniquely the Son of God, born of a virgin, sent to redeem us from our sins and reconcile us to God.  This is what the scriptures center on as they present to us the most reliable account of who Jesus is and was.  But people like the author of that book will tell you that the scriptures are the most unreliable source.  They would claim the scriptures were written by the very people “that took hold of Jesus” and presented him as the Messiah.  Yet the science of studying the written word, textural criticism, tells us that the more the manuscripts on a particular topic; then the more reliable is the concept they present.  Since we have over more than 5,000 Greek manuscripts we can believe what they present is absolute truth. We also have the writings of the early church fathers, the apologetics, who converted to Christianity at a time when Christians were being slaughtered.  These men of culture and learning speak directly to his being the Messiah and their writings are presented to a skeptical public. But it seems that this is ignored in the presentation of not only this author but those who seek a different god.  Why would this beautiful, articulate young woman begin to have doubts?  I truly can understand this questioning.  Even John the Baptist sitting in Herod’s prison, sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he was the one.   John who leapt in his mother’s womb at the approach of the pregnant Mary; who pointed to Jesus as he passed by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God” needed to know.  We have this same need to know and this causes us to live in a way that is trying to please God instead of living a sure and certain faith with God’s love filling us daily. This kind of absolute belief and discipleship living comes from experiencing the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We see this in the disciple’s life after the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost.  We see this in Paul of Tarsus as he changed from persecutor to evangelist after the Holy Spirit gave the clarity of vision to proclaim Jesus as Messiah. So here we are celebrating the birth of Christ and I find that those who need to hear the message of what this all means are not here and most are missing the point.  Let us once again hear the message of salvation proclaimed this day. Let us as the shepherds did come and place ourselves in his presence knowing this day changed everything for us. Then as this day turns into another day and another day, let us seek him as the wise med did; let us hear what the scriptures say about him.  Then let us say, as the Centurion did at the foot of the cross, this truly was the Son of God.

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