I have just had a grumble about superficial, secularized people who trot along to church from time to time, but really hold the values of the world. But allow me to wax prophetical a bit more because the absence of Jesus extends even more deeply to those of us who are more than superficially religious.
It seems to me that we also lose Jesus within all our religiosity. I’m not making an anti-religious “I’m spiritual but not religious” argument. However, I am looking at the amount of time we spend fussing over vestments or liturgy, or arguing about this which way of worship is best. I’m looking at the amount of time spent debating politics, worrying about church finances, clerical malfeasance, climate change, feeding the hungry, combating abortion or worrying about Muslims, homosexuals, feminists, liberals, conservatives, Mexicans, people who don’t use their turn signals properly or the poor quality of food at McDonalds’.
You get my point. We religious people are so tied up in our petty hates and petty causes that somehow or other Jesus seems to slip off the radar. Progressive Catholics and conservative Catholics both spend time getting bent out of shape over their particular causes while ignoring Jesus.
So here’s my Christmas present to Jesus. I’m going to do everything I can as his priest to focus on Jesus Christ. I want to get to know him better. I want to introduce others to him better. All the canon law, all the liturgy, all the devotions, all the worship, all the education and catechesis, all the evangelization, all the writing, all the prayer, all the work to help the hungry and homeless, all the work in prison, all the work in school, all that I am and do I want to be focused on him.
I thought of this as I took a moment to meditate on our manger scene in church. As is traditional, the manger is empty. Waiting for Christmas Eve and the birth of Christ the Lord.
That will be my prayer as I place the bambino in the manger: That in all things he might have the pre-eminence.
Or as Father Benedict says, “To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”