Be for something



By Father Joseph Breighner

‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house,


Everything was stirring, including the mouse.


Stockings by the chimney were nowhere to be found,


And wrappings and bows were but trash on the ground.


Christmas, it seems, like a phantom in flight,

Had stolen away some time in the night.


I quote those few sentences from a longer poem I wrote years ago.

By the time you read this column, the Christmas season will be mostly over. It officially ends, not with the Feast of the Epiphany, but with the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist. We see the babe in Bethlehem now grown to adulthood in Judea.

The challenge for us is to grow up in our faith as well. How do we do that?

Well, I attended Lessons and Carols for Advent at Ascension Lutheran Church. Some parishioners from St. Mary in Govans invited me to hear the combined choirs of the two churches, and to be part of this wonderful hour of power.

At the end of the service was this wonderful prayer. Allow me to quote each line, and offer my own commentary. Put simply, to grow up in our faith is to grow in our awareness of God in our lives.

Here is the prayer:

“Our world stumbles blindly toward chaos – come, source of wisdom, and reveal yourself to us.”

We have seen too many tragedies in recent times. Our human minds don’t seem to have consistently good answers. Can we invite again the God who brought the world to life out of the original chaos, to recreate our world and us in his image and likeness?

“What we imagine to be strength is really weakness – come, mighty Lord, and fill us with your true strength.”

We humans like to use force to get our way. Yet, every effort to be “against” results in more of what we don’t want. We passed laws against alcohol, and we got more alcohol than ever. We have laws against speeding, and we have more speeders than ever. We have a war on drugs, and we have more drugs than ever. We have a war on terror, and we have more terrorists than ever.

What we are against empowers what we are against.

Be for something!

Be for love. Love was the only power Jesus had, and it worked. The sick were healed. The dead were raised. Sinners repented. The world loves force. Jesus used power – the power of love.

“We long for a standard to look up to – come, Root of Jesse, claim us as your own.”

A holy priest, Father Fred Cwiekowski, put it best years ago when he noted that if Jesus is not Lord of your life, “something else will be.”

“We languish in prisons of mind and spirit – come, Key of David, and set us free.”

We know the atrocities that some mentally ill people have inflicted recently. Yet, many psychologists and psychiatrists complain that insurance companies won’t reimburse them. So even people with insurance are not getting help. On the other hand, why do many professional therapists insist on $150 an hour per client? How much money do we need to live on? Many of our minds and hearts are in unexamined prisons. Have we forgotten the words of Jesus? “What you do to the least person, you do to me.”

“The darkness grows thick around us – come, Light of light, and dawn upon us.”

The time after Christmas – especially January and February – seem especially dark. Taxes are due. Christmas lights are gone. The cold and snow are here. Can we invite Christ moment by moment to be our light?

“We are scattered, lacking a sure leader – come, Prince of Peace, and lead us.”

What passes as leadership is too often partisanship. Robert Kennedy gave my favorite definition of leadership: “A leader is someone who brings out the best in others.”

“We need to know that God is with us – come, Emmanuel, and dwell in our
hearts. Amen.”

The irony is that God does always live in our hearts. We need to learn in this new year to constantly look inward to where God lives. God isn’t coming from somewhere else. As G.K. Chesterton put it, “God was man in Palestine, and lives today in bread and wine.” We become what we eat. We feed on God. We become that presence.

Copyright (c) Jan. 10, 2013 

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.