Dec 14, 2016
Dear Friends in Christ
Once again the Gospel refers to John the Baptist as the one whose role is to prepare us for the One who is to come. Through the prophet Malachi, the Jews’ expectation of the return of Elijah, who will prepare the way for the promised Messiah, has grown. But they have come to view him as a figure of great power, someone who will sweep men away. So they fail to recognize Elijah’s presence in the person of John the Baptist, whose only power is that of the Spirit of God, calling all people to conversion of heart in order to receive the Christ. How many times in my life do I fail to recognize the presence of Christ in my life because I’m seeking something other than Christ’s promises to his followers? Christ doesn’t offer an easy path of comfort and consolations.
Why did Christ become a helpless baby at Bethlehem? Why did he take on a fragile human body? Precisely so he could suffer for us in order to redeem us. What does that mean for our lives as Christians? It means nothing less than the fact that suffering is a gift from God. It is the Father’s gentle caress, molding us into the image of his Son. The cross is the source of our fruitfulness, not only in our personal spiritual growth, but also in the mission to win graces for others, for all of the souls God has mysteriously entrusted to our care.
Christ’s desire to embrace suffering rose from his loving obedience to his Father’s plan, without condition or limit. This loving obedience is what gives suffering its redemptive value. From the moment of his birth at Bethlehem, Christ shows us what it means to obey with love. Bethlehem is a school of obedience. In Bethlehem, Christ teaches us that only a loving obedience frees, only loving obedience redeems and sanctifies, only loving obedience enriches. Loving obedience alone saves, loving obedience alone frees us from sin and loving obedience alone pleases God. Let us embrace the cross of obedience in the challenging circumstances of our daily lives, in the trials brought by the passing of years, in the sorrow that afflicts us when God calls our loved ones back to him. Loving obedience is the path to holiness, the way to the Father’s house.
Peace, Fr. Cory Rohlfing