By David M. Carollo –
Imagine what Bethlehem was like on the first Christmas night. While the town was busy welcoming visitors arriving for the census, the most monumental event in human history was also taking place unbeknownst to most. While government officials and local merchants were about their business, something that was predicted since the fall of man – the promise of redemption – was happening in their midst.
Most people had no idea what was taking place in a cave where animals were housed. Some, however, who were of proper disposition were given a special grace to know the significance of this occurrence. The Blessed Mother knew that her time grew near, and being free from original sin, which kept her in union with God, she had a clear understanding of how history would be changed that night.
Oh, holy night! Those of good will would now understand that the redemption of the world made necessary by the sin of Adam and Eve, was at hand.
I recently watched the 1966 movie “The Bible.” In this great adaptation, the scene in the Garden of Eden seemed so real. Our first parents defied God by committing an act that seems so minimal to us, but in fact, broke the intimate bond intended between man and God. To truly understand the breach that was caused by this sin is difficult for us. Only those with proper disposition are open to the grace of understanding what occurred in the Garden and the need for redemption.
That is why original sin is something we need to contemplate. Adam and Eve needed no inspiration to believe in God; everything in their world was crystal-clear and they communicated directly with Him. What we lost due to original sin was that direct connection with Him. Our very nature was changed by this act of disobedience. What occurred in Bethlehem on that holy night was an act of mercy beyond comprehension. Salvation is not owed to us.
What drew the shepherds in the field to the stable in Bethlehem; what was the force that brought the kings of the Orient there? Certainly, they were all given a special gift of knowledge that this great occurrence had taken place, but that gift was only given them because they possessed an openness to accept it. If God comes to our door, we must open it to let Him in. He does not enter where He is not welcome. Without a willingness to follow inspiration, there is no faith. Without faith, there is no true understanding of the reality in front of us. Without a true understanding of what is in front of us, there is no direction to act accordingly.
Our belief in the Eucharist is the greatest example of faith awarded by inspiration. Why do we believe that bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ at each Mass? This belief contradicts our senses. Understanding things that cannot be understood by normal means is the sign of a believer. Supernatural grace leads us to act contrary to our corporal urges, a necessary ingredient to overcoming our fallen nature. Christ lost many followers when He revealed the reality of the Eucharist. The willingness to believe precedes the grace to believe. God works in open hearts. The three shepherd children of Fatima are examples of a willingness to believe.
“Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” These are the words of the pagan centurion who was disposed to accept the flood of grace that brought him to see and believe. Our Lord said in response: “I tell you; I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
The religious leaders of the time knew the prophecies and should have realized from the beginning that the Messiah was now among them, but they lacked the disposition to accept the grace of understanding. First, we must open our hearts to grace and accept what seems unacceptable. Then we can accept the grace to see the supernatural. The centurion, a pagan, accepted through inspiration what he did not understand – that Jesus was of God.
As we celebrate Christmas this week let us look inward and contemplate how open we are to divine inspiration. Belief in the truths taught by our Catholic Faith can only be a reality if our hearts are open. Like the shepherds, the three kings and the centurion, we must possess an open heart. We must always be open to the inspiration of God, unlike the leaders of the day, then and now, who reject the redemption laid before them. The simplicity of His birth magnifies the greatness of His being.
Have a blessed Christmas and a happy, holy and peaceful new year.
God bless you and Mary keep you in her Immaculate Heart.
David Carollo is the Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA and National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. He wrote this for his Voice of Fatima e-newsletter.
Thank you for your reflection this Christmas!!