Daily Reflection
December 30th, 2006

Daniel Patrick O'Reilly

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The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas
1 John 2:12-17
Psalm 96:7-8a, 8b-9, 10
Luke 2:36-40

Today’s scripture readings are an interesting mix. John speaks to children, young men and fathers about resisting the enticements of the world and remaining in the Father. The psalmist says to give glory and praise to the Lord. Luke tells the story of Anna, the prophetess, who proclaims the baby Jesus to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

Well, Advent is over. The celebration of Christ’s birth has come and gone. Mary and Joseph have returned to Nazareth. The families are dispersing. The gift wrapping is out with the trash, the Christmas tree is dry as a bone and all that remains of the cookies and candies is crumbs. Now what? The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke talks about Mary and Joseph and the child. The psalmist speaks of families of nations. And John talks about fathers, young men and children. In fact, John mentions the word father, either biological or heavenly, five times. It would seem this might be important.

I recently went on an Encounter with Christ retreat as an adult leader at the Creighton Retreat Center. Originally, I did not know what to expect and was unsure why I was asked to be a leader. As the retreat progressed, it became evident to me that I was chosen because I was a father. This is a three day retreat where students explore their relationship with God and others. To say it is intense is to put it mildly. I was blessed to see a side of the students that I don’t usually see. Students talked about their relationships with God and family and friends. It is an experience I will treasure the rest of my life.

One of the things that struck me during the retreat is that how our sons and daughters view their earthly, biological father influences how they view their heavenly Father. If the earthly father is a demanding, hard-driving, pushy perfectionist, how will the children view God, the ultimate perfectionist? Some of them view God as someone who has expectations they cannot possibly meet, so why try? Someone whose love they are not worthy of? Not to put any pressure on you moms and dads out there…. Okay, yes, I am. We all want our children to succeed and experience joy. Obviously, a healthy relationship with Christ is a big part of that. As a parent, it’s good for me to think about the effect I have on those around me. As I sit across the dinner table, contemplating the punishment for a bad grade in math, it’s a little unnerving to think that what I say may have eternal consequences to my child’s relationship with God. So, what are we to do?

I’m reading an author right now who started out by saying, think theologically, not practically. I almost tossed the book in the trash on that statement alone. However, as I read further I understood what he meant. The key thing to know is that we are a unique and beloved child of God. Created and loved by God. God lays out rules and a groundwork for a happy life. If we disobey these practical rules, our relationship with God suffers. However, the relationship is still there and that is the key. No one is worthy of God’s love and yet, it is there. In creation around us. In our own creation. In the birth and death of Christ. God loves us and pursues us forever. What a wonderful gift. My prayer is that, as the glow of Christmas fades, we will know that the intensity of God’s love for us will never fade.

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