Monthly Archives: January 2019

When We Don’t Understand

Sometimes we are confronted with circumstances we do not understand, but have to live with or accept them on faith.

Mary and Joseph had that experience when they lost track of Jesus’ whereabouts as they were returning to Nazareth from Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.  Jesus, who was twelve years old, stayed behind in Jerusalem while Joseph and Mary thought he was in their company with other relatives.

They returned to Jerusalem, frantically looking for Jesus for three days.  They finally found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.  When Mary asked, “Son, why have you treated us like this,” noting that they had been searching for him, Jesus responded, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Luke reports, “They did not understand what he was saying to them.” (Luke 2:41-52)

We might ask why they didn’t understand what the boy Jesus was saying to them.  Both Mary and Joseph were told by angels that what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit, and Mary was told that the child would be called the Son of God.  Elizabeth asked, “Why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  The Shepherds told them that angels had said the child would be the Messiah.  They saw the Magi worship their baby and give him gifts.  They saw Simeon take the child in his arms and declare that he had now seen the salvation of the Lord.

Perhaps it was because it had been twelve years since all of these things had happened and Jesus had just become another normal young Jewish boy growing up in their midst.   

Last June I booked a cruise for my wife and me that would have begun this week.  Since our daughter Emily is disabled, one of our other daughters who live in North Carolina agreed to leave her family for two weeks and come to assist with Emily while we were gone.  After booking the cruise, I started to get an uneasy feeling about it.

About a month later, a couple of things happened that added to my uneasiness.  The cruise line changed our flight arrangements and advised that certain tours that we selected were no longer available.  I began to pray, asking the Lord whether we should continue with our plans.  I didn’t understand why I had these negative feelings, but after further prayer and discernment, I decided to cancel the cruise.

Last week the father-in-law of our daughter who was going to look after Emily died.  His burial is today.   Furthermore, her husband who was going to look after their children while our daughter was looking after Emily has to leave tomorrow for a business trip to London.  We might have been able to manage all of this, but it would have been very difficult for our daughter and her family.  It would have also created considerable anxiety for them and us.

My wife and I believe that the Holy Spirit was prompting me not to proceed with our planned cruise.  I didn’t understand the reasons, but I acted on the prompting, and my daughter, her husband and their family were able to celebrate the life of his father without an obligation to us hanging over their heads.  As an added bonus, I was able to fly to Colorado and attend the funeral of my son-in-law’s father – a man cherished and loved by his family and friends.

A New Year’s Hope

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

We have just celebrated God becoming one of us in the birth of Jesus, one of the greatest acts of humility and love in all of history.

Yet in the world around us one year comes to a close and a new one begins full of conflict and strife, much like they have for centuries.  Wars continue in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.  Incidents of terror and mass shootings take place in our own country and abroad.  The church is rocked with a sexual abuse scandal.  Identity politics and political agendas are tearing apart the very fabric of our nation’s traditions and moral values.

The first chapter of John’s Gospel offers both a realistic context for what we have just celebrated and a hope that can carry us through the new year.  We will not read about it in the news media.  Speaking of Jesus, John says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”  Not a single governmental or spiritual leader in Israel took note of Jesus’ birth.  Only a few lowly shepherds were his herald.  In fact Israel’s king actually wanted to kill Jesus, not unlike some authoritarian regimes in our day.

“He came unto his own, but his own did not receive him.”  Even before Jesus was born, he was rejected by the innkeeper who had no room for him.  As Jesus later revealed his presence and identity, the religious leaders of his day also rejected him and even sought his death.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

This is our hope for the coming year!  When we open the door of our heart to Jesus and invite him in, he says, “Remain in me and I will remain in you.”  “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 15: 4; John 14:6, 23)

When we let Jesus and the Father make their home in us, we experience the world around us with a different perspective.  An inner peace is possible even though there is a lack of peace externally.  Jesus says:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” (John 14:27)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Mt. 11:28-29)

“In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

A blessed New Year to all!