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New Bethlehem Heart
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"New Bethlehem Heart"

"He Came to Us at Night"

          One of my favorite Christmas carols is, "O Holy Night". It begins with the lyrics, "O holy night the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior's birth." This Christmas I have been drawn particularly to the idea of Jesus having been born at night. We are told in Luke's Gospel (see Luke 2:8,9) that the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds who were keeping the night watch over their flock to proclaim to them the good news of great joy of Jesus' birth. Jesus' parable of the ten virgins could have been placed on the lips of the angel to the shepherds: "At midnight, there was a cry, "Behold the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!" (Mt. 25:6).

          The reality of darkness and night has a prominent place in biblical salvation history. At the beginning of time God spoke light into darkness (Gen.1:3); the paschal lamb was slaughtered during the evening twilight (Ex. 12:6); the Lord slew the first born in the land of Egypt at midnight (Ex. 12:29); the Lord led the Israelites out of Egypt at night (Ex. 12:42); the Lord led them on their journey by means of a column of fire at night (Ex. 13:21). Jesus was betrayed by Judas at night (John 13:27) "on the night he was handed over" (1 Cr. 11:23); on Calvary, "from noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon" (Mt. 27:45); Jesus rose from the dead before dawn: Mary of Magdala discovered the empty tomb "early in the morning while it was still dark" (John 20:1). The resurrection of Jesus Christ, the crowning truth of our faith, announces the triumph of life and light over the darkness of night! This truth is our hope in every age...including our own.

          At this time there is a moral darkness--a 'dark night' of moral infidelity that is far from 'O holy night'--that is being exposed in the Catholic Church through the painful revelation of clergy sexual abuse. As difficult as the news of this has been in 2018 I sense that the news will be even more intense and disturbing in 2019 as "thick clouds cover the peoples" (Is. 60:2). If the faith of many Catholics has been shaken in 2018, I sense that it may be "rocked to the roots" in 2019 as much more revelation comes to light:

"For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light" (Mark 4:22).

          Jesus loves his Bride, the Church. He "handed himself over for her to sanctify her" (Eph. 5:25-26). She is his beloved Spouse born from his wounded side on Calvary. She is destined to be "the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). As the Psalm writer states it, "From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth" (Psalm 50:1). It is through the 'perfect beauty' of the Church's holiness that the light of God's presence is seen in the world: "If we fail to live in the light, we shall...be veiling over and obscuring by our infidelity the light men so desperately need" ("From a treatise on the Gospel of Saint Matthew by Saint Chromatius, bishop" in LH vol. III, p. 1464).  Therefore, there needs to be an essential purification within the Church at this time beginning with Her leadership. In the United States, state attorneys general and the secular media are currently two instruments through which clerical infidelity is being exposed. I sense that the Lord's words spoken through the Prophet, Ezekiel, are relevant right now:

"I will hand you over to them...they shall strip you of your garments and take away your splendid ornaments, leaving you stark naked...expose you naked for them to see" (Ezek. 16:39,37).

and,

"I am now handing you over to those whom you hate, to those who fill you with disgust. They shall deal with you in hatred, seizing all that you have worked for and leaving you stark naked, so that your indecent nakedness is exposed!" (Ezek. 23:28-29).

          Take courage. Jesus, the light of the world, entered into the world in the dark of night. Two thousand years ago he was born for us in the midst of the darkness--and specifically to save us from our moral darkness: "For when...the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful word from heaven's royal throne bounded, a fierce warrior..." (Wis. 18:14-15). There is need today for a 'new birth' of sanctity in the Church. In truth, through Jesus "we are not of the night or of darkness" (1 Thes. 5:5). Rather, "all of you are children of the light and children of the day" (1 Thes. 5:5). This is who we are. How imperative it is to be in a deep, personal relationship with the Trinity and Mary; for , from true relationship comes forth true identity! Take courage, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).

Questions:

1)    Has the revelation of clergy sexual abuse impacted my experience of the Advent and Christmas seasons this year?

2)   As an intercessor how am I praying into the current crisis within the Church?

Scriptures:

Any scripture from the text; Eph. 5:8-9; 1 John 1:5; 1 John 2:5-6

"TWO-ZERO-ONE-NINE, IN THE BREACH ON THE FIRING LINE"

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A BLESSED NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU!

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