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Catholic Voice
  December 15, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Birth of the Christ child proves love of God the Father

Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

Christmas is about Family and about Faith. I say family first, because we experience family before we experience faith.

We are born and hopefully grow up with a loving mother and father. Our parents then answer our questions about "Who am I? Who made the world? Where do we go when we die?" We believe because we trust our parents to tell us the truth.

When this works, it works very well. When it fails, it fails miserably.

A Marine once came to see me for counseling at a base in Europe. He had just become a father and wanted advice on how to be a good father. I advised him to follow the example of his own father.

He said that would not work because his father never cared for him — in fact, his father did not want him. The Marine went on to recount how he had always tried to please his father by earning good grades, doing well in sports, etc. But his dad never came to any of his games or praised his son for earning high marks.

The young man then thought, I know, I'll join the Marines and make my father proud of me. So when he graduated from high school he enlisted, went off to boot camp, did well and earned his Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

Three months later, on his first leave, he put on his best uniform, and traveled home — eager to show his father that he had become a man. He took the bus to his neighborhood, got off nearby, and walked the remaining few blocks to his home. As he approached the house, he noticed that his father had taken all his belongings from his room, boxed them up, and put them out on the front porch to be disposed of.

The message was clear, "There is no room for you here." He turned around, got on the bus, and went back to the base.

The young man asked me, "Chaplain, how do I avoid becoming a father like that?

Contrast that parent with another case. I knew an inmate at San Quentin State Prison. He was serving 25 years to life for murder. Over the years serving his sentence, he rediscovered his Catholic Faith, went to Confession, and was a regular altar server at Sunday Mass in the prison chapel.

When I met him, he had already spent 25 years behind bars — and in all that time his mother had visited him faithfully every week. In 25 years, she never missed a single Sunday visiting her son.

I think she loved her son into the Church. She loved her son into the confessional. She loved her son back to Holy Communion. She loved her son into a relationship with Jesus, who is love personified. That man is now out on parole, married, and finishing college.

St. Teresa of Avila said, "Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love."

At Christmas we celebrate the fact that "God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16).

So no one on this planet can ever say, "No one loves me!" The birth of the Christ child proves that, here on earth, where sin and death reigned, God the Father put Love.

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