Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jesus' Birthday Gift

Hello Ladies,

I have a feeling that this post will be a strange one even by my standards. The point of this blog is supposed to be documenting a journey that we as mothers take with our children to Christ. As a theologian I believe that if our beliefs do not manifest themselves in a practical way then they are pointless. For example, if your child is NOT the type to kneel in front of a crucifix every day and recite the rosary then maybe it would be better to find a different form of prayer. On the other hand, I have met mothers who make it a daily practice to do exactly that and they do it with a great deal of success.

Christmas is stereotypically stressful. There is a great deal of expectation. It almost doesn't matter what that expectation is. It could be to prepare a feast for a large family. It could be wrapping a zillion gifts. Whatever. So I got to wondering: what would a celebration look like where Jesus himself would feel welcome? This is his birthday party after all. What would He like me to give him for Christmas?

If you ladies have read any of my earlier posts (Legacy and New Life, Death, and Insanity), you know that things have been really crazy in my household. In short, an elder of our family who had a drinking problem recently died. She was mean and slanderous to the end but managed to charm people who did not know her very well. This woman had two sons. One son did everything for her (clean her yard and pool every week etc.). The other son is very good at making lots of money. The first son realized that she was turning him against his brother and vice versa. The other son was not wise enough to realize that she was also slandering him; he believed himself to be the better, more loved of the sons. Despairing of a normal relationship the first son finally severed ties with his brother and had very limited contact with his mother.

Now this mother is dead. Even though this woman was "such a nice lady" who "loved us and both her sons" nobody really wanted to be around her - especially at Christmas. This is the first Christmas in a long time that I have not been asked to take on the burden of her presence. I finally feel free. And the first son? Like he's been released from prison.

So what's the big deal? And how does this relate to Christmas?

Since her death I've felt called to pray for this woman. As a matter of fact, out of the blue a friend of mine told me that she had dreamed of this woman in purgatory. Her dream was almost identical in detail to a dream I had that exact night.

Praying for somebody who you believe to be in your debt is actually rather easy. She needs my mercy and forgiveness after all. (Again, read earlier posts.) I don't like this woman. I have every reason not to like her. I don't much like the second brother, either. But then he's also easy to pray for because he needs prayers so badly. Basically, I've been praying that peace enter the family. I've been trying really, really hard to be gracious and be an instrument of healing. I thought that getting these brothers in the same room without it resulting in extreme unpleasantness would be a miracle.

Then I felt a shift while I was praying. Instead of praying for this woman I felt that she was asking for me to pray with her. This makes me feel extremely uncomfortable because suddenly I feel we are on the same level and I'm really still very angry about the lies she's been telling for years. I also feel that she's asking me to pray that her sons will not only be in the same room but praying together on their knees before the Eucharist. The picture is quite clear in my mind. I guess my miracle is too small in scale.

Why do I believe these 'visions'?

The first reason is because God wants peace and unity for all of His children and especially peace within families. Peace is the point of Christianity.

The second reason is that it makes me very uncomfortable and somewhat angry. I much prefer the thought of praying for this woman. I like the idea of her "owing" me. Petty? You bet. Am I proud of it? No. But I feel forced to transcend my limitations. With the grace of God I can do this - even if I don't want to.

There is also a parable which relates to what I'm going through. It's the one about the master who forgives his servant his debts and the servant runs off and threatens another servant who owes money. (Okay, I should be citing this but my bible is in the room where the newborn is sleeping and I'm too tired to google it. If I'm not clear enough just ask and I'll humbly quote and cite the parable. If you have mercy on me though maybe you could just add it in a comment, please. I really need the sleep.) So here's the thing: Jesus has forgiven me my debts by dying on the cross. I owe everything to him. So how can I run back to this woman and say "you owe me"?

A "vision" (would "encounter" be a better word?) that is theologically grounded AND challenges me to transcend my own pride? I do not claim that it is the "truth" but it is compelling enough to take seriously.

Ok - I'm finally getting to how this relates to Christmas. For Christmas I want to tell Jesus that I've actually listened to what He has to say and I'm acting on it. I want him to have a party where people are having fun and celebrating and not fighting. I want him to know that I value him more than my inner dialogue.

It might not sound like much. It probably isn't very much. But I remember a quote from Mother Teresa which says that if you want peace in the world go home and love your family.

After the tragic deaths in Connecticut I really feel like hugging my children. I want them to be raised in a loving family. If that means that I swallow my pride and admit that Jesus died for this woman who constantly rejected his love - I will do it. If it means that God wants me to get down on my knees and pray with someone I really don't like for an event I don't think will ever happen, I will do it.

Because, Ladies, being a peacemaker takes practice. It is who and what we are called to be. And we need God's grace to do it. And our world, our children, need peacemakers so badly. We can no longer afford to wait for somebody else to do it for us. In the West we are told that faith should be in the home. They mean it as in insult. If they knew how powerful that statement is they wouldn't dare speak it.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Happy Birthday, Jesus! 

Good night, Ladies. May God continue to bless you and keep you in His peace.


Theology Mom said...

Hi Rob,
I accidently blocked your message. I'm terribly sorry. You said some very beautiful things. I only wanted to remove my name and the relationship with the elder in question to retain anonymity. Instead it blocked the entire message. :( Will try to retrieve it.

Theology Mom said...

Here is Rob's comment reinstated.

This is powerful, and profound. I pray that the peace you and she are praying for will come.

It seems like this might put a different light on praying for her, as well. Even as she invites you to pray with her, she of course still needs all the prayers she can get. It sounds like she's inviting you to see her as a mother, in spite of how poorly she filled that role, in praying together for her sons. Then she's also inviting you to pray for her as one mother to another, rather than as someone in your debt.

I hope this doesn't come across as telling you what to think; rather it's just me processing what you're saying, and trying to understand where it goes. Thank you for sharing this; it's made me think in new ways about praying for people who've wronged me, and about what it means to forgive. (It's even harder than it seems. Thank God for grace!)


Theology Mom said...

Here is a comment that a reader mistakenly put in an earlier post.

More later, probably in e-mail...

In the mean time, the reference you're looking for is Mt 18:23-35. (courtesy of )

full text (this leads to NIV, but Bible Gateway will let you choose a number of translations)