First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?
Christmas: ‘It Is Personal.
Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan

 

I guess I was ten years old, Christmas Eve, 1960. Dad asked me to go with him to deliver some Christmas gifts. At the time, I did not realize that he was on a “St. Vincent de Paul Society” call, since members did not talk about the nature of their work, but when we went up the hill to an area of town we all knew was “rough,” “scary,” with quite a few poor families there, I knew right away this was hardly a visit to one of my aunts. 

We went into the shack carrying boxes of food, clothing, and wrapped gifts. About four kids, all under six or so, hurried around us, happy at the delivery. The mom, obviously pregnant, seemed delighted. Only the dad, who had come in from the backyard carrying firewood, seemed somewhat confused, embarrassed, and nervous.

At the time, I couldn’t figure out why the father of that poor family seemed unhappy to see my dad and me. Now I sure know why! The father of that needy family did not want to “accept charity,” and was self-conscious that his wife and children might conclude that their husband and dad was unable to “provide” for them.

My dad, though, immediately sensed the father’s restlessness. Dad looked at his uncomfortable counterpart and remarked to him, “I was just down at the store, and the owner asked me if I would drop off all the groceries and presents you had ordered last week.”

I could sense the relief in the other dad’s face, as, for the first time, he smiled, and came over to dad and shook his hand. “Thanks for coming by. I was wondering how I’d have time to get down to the store and pick up our food and gifts in time for Christmas!”

He turned to his wife and said, “Why don’t you get some Christmas cookies for our two new friends.”

My dad had helped the other father “save face.” That other dad’s wife and family were beaming at their husband and dad, grateful that he had “come through” and “taken care” of them.

For the two dads, this was personal. For my dad, this was not just a “drop off.” For the other father, his personal reputation in front of his wife and kids had been, not only preserved, but enhanced.

Christmas shows us that God is personal. He is hardly a distant, aloof, unconcerned observer of things, delivering blessings in a businesslike way. God the Father, the first Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, sent His Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, as our Lord and Savior, true God and true man, born to Mary that first Christmas!

We sometimes use the phrase “It’s not personal” to assure someone that the transaction at hand is just business. God would never use that phrase. For Him, it’s very personal.

He personally and passionately loves us. In fact, the Bible tells us He loves us as a Father would His wife and children. That’s about as personal as you can get!

I remember my high school American history teacher telling the class that our “founding fathers,” while believers, were mostly Deists. When I asked him what that meant, he replied, “They believed in God, but a God who is distant, aloof, and impersonal, a God who considers creation, and creatures, as a clock, which He wound up at creation and just lets tick away, without much concern on His part.” For the God of the Deists, it is not personal.

Well, Christmas prompts us to seriously question that view of the Divine.

For God the Father, and His Son, Jesus, it is very personal.

God is as personal as a new baby. God is so personal He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. He has a name, Jesus.

Our God is not an idea, a concept, a theory, nor an abstract force.

No! Christmas tells us that our God is personal, incarnate, has a Mother, was conceived and born.

For God, it is very personal!

A blessed Christmas!

 

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