December 17, 2010

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Grace: The best Christmas present we could ever receive

Sean GallagherThere’s something that we can learn about our life of faith by comparing the way in which many animals come to maturity after they are born with the way this happens among humans.

In the case of many animals and most insects, their parents don’t care for them at all after they come into this world. They may be quite vulnerable to the attack of predators, but their innate instincts are often quite strong and help them to survive and mature.

Even animals who receive their parents’ care for a period of time usually don’t enjoy it for very long. It might be for a few days, months or a year or two.

No newborn seems to need as much care for as long a time as a human baby, who doesn’t come to true maturity for more than a decade.

In that light, it is amazing to realize just how defenseless our almighty Lord chose to become when he took on our human flesh in the womb of our Blessed Mother and was born in a stable in Bethlehem.

He, through whom the entire universe was created, was dependent in every way upon his parents.

Given the difficult circumstances into which he was born and would live as a young child—having to be hustled away to safety in Egypt as an infant—I am glad that our heavenly Father chose the saintly Mary and Joseph to care for him.

Looking back on the challenges during my nearly nine years as a father, I know that I would have been a poor substitute for Joseph.

Our heavenly Father gave Mary and Joseph a special grace to help them carry out their mission of caring for the infant Savior placed in their care.

That grace is the same in kind, if not in degree, that each of us received at our baptism, and has been renewed in us in our subsequent celebration of the sacraments, the Eucharist and reconciliation, in particular.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches that grace is nothing less than a “participation in the life of God” (#1997). It truly makes us adopted children of our heavenly Father.

He is a Father who far outshines even St. Joseph. For centuries, he cared for every need of the people of Israel, his chosen people, even though, like us, they were constantly unfaithful to him.

In the years that I have been a father, my sons have been quite needy in a manner befitting their age.

But I would be lying if I told you that I was patient all of the time with their constant requests. And since I work out of the home four days a week at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis, they don’t try my patience nearly as much as they do my wife, Cindy.

Knowing how challenging it is for me to become the father that God has called me to be helps me be all the more aware of just how loving and patient that he is.

And that awareness makes it all the more amazing that he has empowered me with his grace—his very life—to become more and more like him in my life with my four young sons.

In the stable in Bethlehem, Jesus wasn’t the only one who revealed God to the shepherds and the wise men. Mary and Joseph did that, too, in their grace-inspired loving and patient care for their child.

We parents can do the same in our daily lives with our families. Our heavenly Father has given us the grace—the best Christmas present we could ever receive—to make it happen. †

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