Finding God in Our Midst
The Shrine of Greccio
BY FR. JEFF SCHEELER, OFM
So much of Jesus’ life was spent in simplicity and poverty. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem it was in the animals’ stable and he was first revealed to poor shepherds, who probably smelled like the sheep! At his birth, he and his family were homeless; there was no room for them in the inn. Later to flee the wrath of Herod, they became refugees in Egypt. As he traveled about, he had nowhere to lay his head.
Jesus wasn’t the glamorous military Messiah that some were looking for; he didn’t lead a violent overthrow of the occupying Roman forces; he came as a suffering servant. He said he came to serve, not be served, and described himself as gentle and humble of heart. He wept over Jerusalem and endured great human suffering. He was a King, but his throne was a cross and his crown was made of thorns. Even after the resurrection Mary Magdalen thought he was a gardener, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize him until their eyes were opened during the breaking of the bread.
So often we look for God in extraordinary events, in miracles, in the supernatural. I think one of the things that Christmas tells us is that if we do this, we might be looking in the wrong places! The Incarnation proclaims that the Word has become flesh, or in a translation I like, God has “pitched his tent” among us. God has loved us so much that He has become one of us; the divine has become human; in Jesus, the divine nature is joined with a human nature. And that tells us something very important about where God is to be encountered. If we want to look for God, perhaps we should look in the simple, the ordinary, in the poor.
Yes, God can be and sometimes is found in the miraculous and the extraordinary, but it seems He has a preference for the humble, the ordinary, even simple bread and wine. This Christmas, as we look for God, we might look in our ordinary human relationships, in our families, our neighbors, those gathered around the table, even in the poor and downtrodden. There is a provocative line in a song from Les Miserables that I like: “to love another person is to see the face of God.” Look into a loved one’s face; you might be led deeper into the mystery of God. We friars wish you a very blessed Christmas!
(Fr. Jeff is pastor of Transfiguration Parish in Southfield, Mich.)