Happy New Year!
We had a lovely sunrise Mass this morning in our not-quite-completed parish center. We sat in folding chairs under a partial roof that let the starlight in. Dozens of candles flickered. A capella hymns reverberated through framed but mostly uncovered walls. Gratitude presided for a project long in coming but now well on its way to completion.
In the homily, acts of kindness were described as "birthing Christ." I love the tangibility of this idea - of seeing myself as depositing Christ in various places and bringing life into the world through my actions. And of course it's exponential - good will begets good will, and we never know when the "paying it forward" ripples will stop... if ever.
The problem is this: how does one remain in this state of good will when one is not treated in kind? What if there are people in your life who continually challenge your equilibrium? In that case, "birthing Christ" can take much hard labor.
When I don't feel I've responded well, I have to remind myself of this. When Christ carried his cross, it was against great odds - he was beaten, exhausted, mocked, betrayed, he was going to his doom. Yet he picked it up and kept going - as best he could - after falling. We can keep trying, too, even after failing greatly, whatever odds we face.
We may need help. The King of the Universe needed it; who are we to resist? Simon the Cyrene was enlisted to carry Christ's cross with him. God will provide us with our Simon. Be open to whatever form Simon may take, and be unafraid to ask for him when you think he's needed.
And remember this. There are times when remaining silent is the act of greatest charity. Controlling our mouth and our impulses in and of itself can be an act of great love.
And finally, know when it's time to walk away. There are times for this. Love at a distance is still love, and great acts of charity can be performed unseen, on our knees.
Just as our parish center was years in the making, so can labor, and good relationships, and even acts of charity, be. May glorious births be the result of all our labor pains.