Recently, I re-watched the 2006 film “The Nativity Story,” which I used in my Video Divina series on “Meeting Jesus at the movies” two years ago. I enjoyed the way in which the film manages to communicate with grace (and occasional flashes of humour!) the profound humanity of the characters in the “greatest story ever told”. It fleshes out the personalities of Mary and Joseph, and the inner conflicts they experienced, without in any way undermining belief in Jesus’ divine origins. It also portrays realistically the harsh socio-political context into which Jesus was born.
Growing up in a family of ten children, the expression “all hell is breaking loose” was frequently applicable to our chaotic household! In particular, the one day not to cross my mother was Christmas Eve: between last-minute shopping, gift-wrapping, réveillon and Christmas dinner to prepare, and most of us kids either serving Mass or singing in the choir, Christmas Eve was always stressful. The miracle is that each year, we all managed to survive intact! Today, I treasure fond memories of coming home after Midnight Mass, still singing the carols, opening gifts, enjoying our family time together. There was still Christmas dinner to prepare, but we were reassured that my mother’s sanity had been preserved for at least another year. (Thankfully, Mum is 86 now, and still quite sane!)
You may have noticed the banner placed in the church last Sunday, with a single word to help us focus our meditation. Last week’s call to “VIGILANCE” is succeeded this week by an invitation to “HOPE”. Hope is much more than optimism. Hope is the conviction that even when the night seems dark and cold, the dawn is near. Hope means we are not alone: God will never abandon us. God hears and answers us.
As we begin a new liturgical year, we hear St. Paul encouraging the people of Corinth to remain firm in hope, trusting in the faithfulness of God. After journeying in Paul’s footsteps this past October, visiting the places where the communities to whom he wrote once lived and prayed, it led me to wonder: if St. Paul were to write a letter to our parish, what might he want to say to us?
As we come to the end of another liturgical year, the Church celebrates the “kingship” of Christ. But just what kind of king is Jesus, exactly? Today’s Gospel speaks of Jesus as both Shepherd and King. Today, we meet not the comforting Good Shepherd, gathering the lost lamb close to his heart; rather, it is the more sobering figure of the King “separating” the sheep from the goats, calling each to account for their choices.