I did not think I would have time to write a post for Christmas, but I do.
Firstly, to all my friends, family, and readers, Merry Christmas.
Secondly, a few thoughts about shepherds taken from Pope Benedict XVI follow my meditation.
Almost daily, on the bus, I pass old shepherd’s dwelling, each called singly a gima,, built here hundreds of years ago. A shepherd’s hut here is only one room made out of the stone of Malta, no heating, no cooling in the hot summers.
For centuries, across the Middle East and in Europe, shepherds lived in the fields, not in the villages or towns. Most lived alone or with one or two in these miniscule houses. Most would fit into a modern American bedroom.
To these men, God revealed to the world His Son’s birth. Newer non-Biblical stories of midwives or supported innkeeper’s wives, stories which grew up in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, are myths.
The story of the shepherds is not a myth.
Basically isolates, smelly, villageless people were, as the Pope Emeritus wrote, the first “neighbors” to visit Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Later, the Pope Emeritus tells us, the rich and upper class Magi took a long and hard journey to find Christ.
The shepherd, led by the message of the Heavenly Host, ran over, “popped in” as the English say, to visit the Newborn King.
I love living in places where there are neighbors who pop over. I love old neighborhoods where one does not need a car to visit brothers and sisters in Christ.
Those shepherds, the Gospel tells us today, were the first evangelists, taking the message of the Gospel, the Good News of God With Us to all those villagers who did not get to see the angels.
As the Pope Emeritus notes, some people, the simple and the poor, find God, perhaps more easily than the Magi, who had to study and travel a long way.
It does not matter in the end whether our way to God is short or long. The goal is the same-life in and with Christ.
I also remember today that the children of Fatima were shepherds. God wanted us in 1917 to be reminded of shepherds at the Birth of His Son when He sent Mary to speak to all of us, again.
This past year, the Pope Emeritus addressed the shepherds of the Church. From here,
In his letter, the pope emeritus said the book reminded him of “the years of work together” and showed him once again that there are multiple dimensions in being a “shepherd of the Church.”
“Pastoral care does not just deal with the fact that we in the Church provide to the faithful the service of the sacraments and of the announcement of the Gospel,” Benedict XVI wrote.
Pastoral care, he explained, “definitely includes the intellectual dimension.”
“Only if we share the perspective and questions of our times we will be able to understand the word of God in present times,” he said.
Benedict XVI added that “only if we (shepherds) take part in the opportunity and needs of our times will the sacraments reach out to men with their actual strength.”
He reflected on the mutual collaboration between himself and Cardinal Bertone, saying this “could not be merely limited to concrete acts of governing.” Rather, their partnership went more deeply, “even to the commitment to serve today, in the right way, the Word of God, the Logos.”
One more note from one of the readings from Paul to Titus, the Second Reading for the Mass during the night.
“He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.”
If one phrase sums up my long themes of purification taken from the Doctors, the Fathers, and the great writers of our time, such as Garrigou-Lagrange, this the the sentence.
God only wants us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him. To be free from all wickedness, to allow Him to purify us, to have no desires but to do good, is our call as the Church.
May God through Mary today give us all these graces.