“Rather than seeking out the presents which we think are due to us, we’re meant to pour our lives out. We’re meant to serve others instead. And that is the essence of our lives as Christians, our lives as Catholics,” said Monsignor James Shea, President of the University of Mary. “We’re meant to be in this world so that we can give, and not just to give in a sort of empty, philanthropic sense. We’re meant to give because the world is a darkened place which needs the light of Christ.”
John Morales welcomed Monsignor Shea onto Morning Air to discuss how we can live selflessly this Christmas, especially in light of all the suffering, natural disasters, and struggles that are affecting so many right now.
Monsignor Shea began by explaining a common problem with the way we often look at Christmas these days. We might look at the world and see how incongruent it is with the Gospel and the coming of Christ. In the midst of all this darkness and suffering, where are we supposed to find room to welcome Jesus? But that’s not the message at all, said Monsignor Shea. Jesus was not born into a world that was doing just fine on its own. He was born into a world that was starving for God, a world that was rife with conflict, tension, disease, and sin.
That is a shockingly similar world to the one we live in and it’s not easy to have an optimistic outlook on the world these days. But, out of the darkness, Jesus will light the way. John brought up the tornadoes that recently devastated several states, but especially Kentucky. Looking at the images, he said it looked like the areas had just been hit by an atomic bomb. But nobody was wallowing in the pain or suffering. People lined the streets for candlelight prayer vigils. First Responders and volunteers searched for those who might be missing, injured, or dead. Companies donated relief funds and supplies to disaster relief organizations. People from out of town bought water and food into the disaster zones to hand out to the victims.
As Monsignor Shea said, the worst of the human experience is meant to be met by the best of the human experience. Those who have been dealt a tremendously difficult hand will often encounter the most generous of souls who can lighten the burden. They won’t eliminate the suffering altogether, nor should they, but they bring something even greater: hope and charity. As Christians and as Catholics, we are called to champion Christ’s cause. We can turn the tide of misfortune for others by sacrificing what we can, by offering up what we can, and by praying when we can. That is how we make room for Christ’s coming in this world of suffering and sin.
Monsignor Shea said he tells all of his students, “Your life is not about you.” It may be your life, but it’s only yours because God gave it to you. The only way to live a truly fulfilled life is to find ways to give of oneself totally and completely for the glory of God. Monsignor Shea likened this necessity for self-giving to the story of Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Scrooge had to be visited by three ghosts in order to get the picture. Our actions carry weight in this world and if we only live for ourselves, we are missing the bigger picture. We’ll never be fulfilled, we’ll never be happy, and we’ll never find eternity with God. But we don’t need those ghosts to take us on trips to show us our fate. We don’t need a supernatural example. God gave us the ultimate example of selflessness when He was born into poverty and was crucified for our sins.
Regardless of our profession or vocational call, whether it be to the single life, to marriage, or to the religious life, there is one thing we all have in common. We are all called to dedicate our lives to the knowledge, the service, and love for Our Lord. Our constant discernment about what we should be doing to advance on that goal will help us focus less on ourselves, and more on those in need this Christmas.
Listen to the full interview below:
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