God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. ...
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” Mark 6
These are marvelous readings for us in this season. Christmas offers us good news of God's love for us - the power of the incarnation and nativity of Jesus to bring us joy and peace. However, if we are honest with ourselves, our celebrating Christmas might not have fully freed us from our anxieties or our conflicts, wounds or our judgments. In fact, just this short number of days after Christmas, we might be pretty much the same person we were right before Christmas.
Sometimes, my Christmas might have even made it all worse. The expectations, the family issues, my primary relationship difficulties, my deeply embedded habits, and an incredibly busy schedule just might have conspired to cloud a deep religious experience on Christmas. Though there might have been a warm or beautiful moment here or there, the major impact of Christmas might not have been spiritually liberating.
That's why it is so wonderful that the readings keep revealing to us the depths of the mystery of God's love for us and how freeing that love can be for our hearts and our living.
There is a powerful invitation here. To let God's love not only touch us but to LIVE IN US. When God's love remains in us - makes its home there - then every day is different. The stuff that used to pre-occupy our hearts is replaced by this love of God. And, God's love occupying the center of our hearts begins to shape how we feel, how we react and respond to others. When we encounter the foolishness of others or even the cruelty of others, we respond the way God does. We feel sad that this person or these persons are broken somehow and we feel compassion and love for them - not because they have earned love, but because they need love. The instinct to defend ourselves or to strike back or to hold on to a hurt - often motivated by fear - is literally driven out by God's love in us.
The disciples of Jesus experienced the encounter between the human Jesus, they had come to know, and the power of God. Jesus didn't come to make sure that this lake would never have another storm on it, let alone that all bad weather would be taken away. Jesus came to offer us the confidence in him that would allow us to place our trust in God - as Jesus did.
From time to time, we have experiences which are incredibly "storm-like." We feel "at sea," far from the shore and it feels like our ship is taking on water and could capsize at any moment. The fundamental fear is that we are simply out of control of situations. Nothing we can do, no resource we have at our disposal, can make it better. We feel hopeless and at times the panic of it all takes over.
We need to let this story touch our hearts. When Jesus sees his disciples' terror, he gives them courage by reminding them that he is near and therefore, they have nothing to fear. The invitation to us is to place our trust in him - today and in every storm we encounter.
To be clear, Jesus doesn't promise that every burden will be lifted or that everyone in our life will be nice, all the time. He doesn't promise we or our loved ones won't experience terrible things, even death itself. His promise is that his love can drive out our fear - our sense of powerlessness, our sense that we are all alone in this.
And, when we barely believe we can trust so completely in his love, it usually means we have failed to understand the meaning of the miracle of the loaves for us today. Jesus is with us as food for our journey, as "Bread that gives life," as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Jesus' self-sacrificing love teaches us to surrender to the Father's redemption of all from the power of sin and death. The food we receive in his being broken and given for us is the gift of eternal life and gives us an example for and nourishment to love others as we have been loved.
The gift of Christmas keeps on giving this week - Glory to God!
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