F the Mall

Gaudete! Rejoice! Evangelii gaudium. The joy of the Gospel. It “fills the hearts of all who encounter Jesus,” according to Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, Pope Francis. Even in dark times, even in the face of the gravest difficulties. Because we have “the personal certainty of being infinitely loved”—again, as Pope Francis puts it.

The joy of John the Baptist, the joy of all the people who recognized the moment, the moment of Christmas, the moment of Christ: God has acted out of infinite love for us.

This good news always comes fresh. We can never ‘wear out’ the Gospel of Christ. 2,000 years and counting, and nothing on tv comes close to the newness of Jesus. The internet is old news compared to the birth of Jesus. Amazon drone delivery to our front stoops. Exciting news? No. Boring and old, tedious beyond imagining–compared to the birth of Jesus.

Baby Jesus. That’s the news. Here’s what the Holy Father says we should turn to baby Jesus and say:

Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.

Pope Francis goes on:

I invite all Christians everywhere, at this very moment, to the renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter you. I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.

Simple. Jesus is God and our brother. We have sinned, and He has made it right. He lives, and He pours the Holy Spirit out of His own Heart–the human heart that holds infinite love.

time-person-of-the-year-cover-pope-francisHe loves! He gives the gift of faith, so that we can believe. We rejoice, repent, and start absolutely fresh.

Here’s the thing: This is Pope Francis’ message. This is the message of the Apostles. This is the message of Jesus. And it means we have to be poor. Not just that we have to give to the poor. We have to be the poor, who are rich in the things of God. To know the joy of Jesus means knowing the poverty of Jesus. Here we are, caught up in the hyper-intensity of Christmas commercialism-o-rama, and this is precisely what the Pope says we have to say No to. To quote the Pope:

The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose…The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile is defenseless before the interests of a deified market…Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of God…God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement.

Yes to Christ. Yes to Christ poor, to Christ Who gives joy to children without any expensive stuff, to Christ Who rewards purity and simplicity. Christ Who has nothing whatsoever to do with shopping malls or Cyber Mondays. Yes to Christ Who demands that we leap into the totally unknown darkness of God.

What if we simply said: We do not care about any electronic device! We do not care about any clothes! We do not care about fancy foods or drinks. We will play games that require only an open sky. We will wear old sweats and drink water. We do not care about makeup or the shininess of the car. We are not interested in looking better than anyone else, or being slicker than anyone else, or more powerful, or more popular. We don’t care! The only thing we care about is God and each other.

no santaWhat did they do—Jesus and His friends, the disciples and Apostles—what do we think they did on Jesus’ birthday? To celebrate. Did one of them say to Him: ‘Happy birthday! Let’s go see Santa! Let’s go shopping and then get a fancy-burger? Let’s go over to so-and-so’s house and show off our new stuff!’ Don’t think so.

I think they prayed and sang psalms. Cooked whatever fish they could scare up. Rejoiced in the beauty of the earth and the goofiness of people like Peter and Thomas. Then had a fig or two for desert, and looked at the stars.

What if we decided: That’s the way we want to be! What if we decided: I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ more than I believe in anything else. I want to accompany Jesus more than I want to do anything else. If we really decided that, we could have the unadulterated joy of Jesus right now and for the rest of our lives.

Christmas with a new pope. Christmas with the same Gospel that goes back to the Archangel Gabriel. Christmas with Jesus means Christmas with real hope. We can be better Christians in 2014 than we have been in 2013. We can hope with all the power of our hearts—with all the confidence we can muster, we can KNOW that the evils of the world will never overcome the generosity of God. We can rest assured that what the Lord has planned for us is better than anything we could ever imagine—and certainly better than anything we could ever buy.

There really is a God. Jesus really is His Son. All the Christmas cheer we need can be found in these simple facts. Faith is the only Christmas present we need. We say no to covetous consumerism. We say Yes to each other. We say it’s much more fun to have a Christian Christmas than to worry for one single second about whether or not I need a new phone.

3 thoughts on “F the Mall

  1. Father Mark,

    “It’s too good to be true — it can’t be true!” God help all the “smart” people in the world, the “intellectuals”, whose brains lure them into thinking that they can think their way out of the box, out of the human race, out of death.

    Simple Gifts Lyrics

    Joseph Brackett (1797–1882)
    Shaker dancing song

    ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
    ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
    And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
    ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

    When true simplicity is gain’d,
    To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
    To turn, turn will be our delight,
    Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
    Later, additional or alternative verses:

    ‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
    ‘Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
    And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
    Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say,

    ‘Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
    ‘Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
    And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
    Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.[
    Additional alternative verses:

    The Earth is our mother and the fullness thereof,
    Her streets, her slums, as well as stars above.
    Salvation is here where we laugh, where we cry,
    Where we seek and love, where we live and die.

    When true liberty is found,
    By fear and by hate we will no more be bound.
    In love and in light we will find our new birth
    And in peace and freedom, redeem the Earth.
    Yet another alternative verse:

    ‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be fair,
    ‘Tis a gift to wake and breathe the morning air.
    And each day we walk on the path that we choose,
    ‘Tis a gift we pray we never shall lose.

    Or, if you prefer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amcGIfMu0bw

    Where are they, the “simple folk” when we really need them. Why, they’re within — if we let them.

    In God we trust.



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