To enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one must stoop down and go through a very low door. The practical reason for such a small entrance was to prevent people on horseback from riding right into the church. But when I was there on a pilgrimage, our guide gave a beautiful spiritual reflection on the significance of the door, explaining how it symbolizes the humility and poverty of the Incarnation, God stooping down to enter into our human condition.
As we celebrate Christmas, can we ever tire of pondering the divine condescension of God? In the birth of Christ, divinity embraces humanity, supernatural power becomes vulnerable, the almighty God becomes a powerless infant, heavenly glory kisses human poverty.
Unbidden and almost unnoticed, the Lord breaks into the world of time and the limitations of the human condition, in order to forgive, love, heal and redeem us from the ancient power of sin and death. As much as the prophets of the Jewish people longed for God to reveal himself, send the Messiah and establish an eternal reign of peace and goodness, no one would have thought that the fullness of God himself would visit us in the fullness of our own humanity.
Celebrating Christmas softens the human heart, dissolves conflicts, increases mercy and makes people more generous. And how could it not?
When we think of the enormity of the gift offered to us in the person of Jesus Christ, how can we not respond to love with love, to sacrifice with sacrifice, to pardon with forgiveness, to the divine largesse with generosity of our own?
As we strive to move ever more deeply into the Heart of Christ, we experience the remarkable radiance of God’s love for us, even if that light is so bright, that it may appear to our human senses as absence and darkness.
This column will be my last Herald of Hope. I have been blessed to write for the Catholic Herald for the last 10 years, seven offering Scripture Reflections and three as the auxiliary bishop. I love to write and what better things to reflect on than the mysteries of our faith and our experiences of God?
I am grateful for the precious opportunity I have been given to share my tiny, limited (and hopefully deepening) view of the Lord, the church, the Gospel and the workings of grace with all of you. Thank you for reading.
I offer praise and thanks to God for the gift of my life, my priestly vocation, my family and friends and my varied and rich opportunities to serve here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Through your love, prayer, good example and faith, I have been formed, inspired and deeply blessed.
The archdiocese and its beautiful people will always be a treasure in my heart. You have helped and carried me in ways that you will never know this side of heaven.
Many thanks to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki for ordaining me a bishop, showing me the ropes and mentoring me in the ways of episcopal service. His unfailing kindness, gentle patience and unconditional support have sustained me through the whirlwind of the last three years and I will always be grateful.
Archbishop, know always of my love, support and gratitude. I have learned much from you and drawn strength from your persevering fidelity.
Many thanks to Bishop Richard J. Sklba whose own example fidelity to the task at hand, love for the Word of God and the church and generous service to the archdiocese for so many years stands as a signpost for me to follow.
Thank you, Bishop Sklba, for your friendship, support and wisdom through the years. Continue to enjoy your much-deserved retirement.
I will offer my Christmas Mass for all of you and your intentions, trusting that the Lord will complete in all of us the great work that he has started. Know of my love, gratitude and prayer as I leave this beloved hometown to take up ministry in Gary. I am only 2.5 hours away, so don’t be a stranger!