Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Fulton Sheen on Bethlehem and Christmas
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
The little town of Bethlehem is taken from two Hebrew words which mean "House of Bread." He Who called Himself "the Living Bread descended from Heaven" was born in the "House of Bread" and was laid in the place of food, the manger. The first temptation Christ had in the beginning of His public life was to become a bread King, and to win men by supplying them with food. On one occasion when they attempted to make Him King after multiplying the bread, He fled into the mountains. Rome once rang with the cry: "Bread and circuses." But the Bread that was brought at Bethlehem was an entirely different kind: "Not by bread alone does man live."
The body has its bread. Shall not the soul have its food too? Those who have nourished themselves solely on the bread of the stomach and ignored the Bread of the soul have cried out with some of the bitter disappointment of the Lord Chesterfield: "I have seen the silly rounds of business and pleasure, and have done with them all. I have enjoyed all the pleasures of the world and consequently know their futility, and do not regret their loss. Their real value is very low; but those who have not experienced them always over-rate them. For myself, I by no means desire to repeat the nauseous dose."
We say a person has a "sense of humor" if he can "see through things"... God made the world with a "sense of humor," in the sense that we were to see Him through His creation: to see His Power in the mountains, His Beauty in the sunset, His Wisdom in a snowflake, His Love in the human heart. Poets have inherited this sense of humor for, like Thompson, they can look at the sun and see in it the Host that is raised in Benediction over the world, and at night set in the Flaming Monstrance of the west. Saints must have a sense of humor, so as to be able to see a resurrection through the trials and sorrows of life.
Man loses his sense of humor through sin. He begins to take money seriously, flesh seriously, business seriously, food seriously. These have no other purpose than just to satisfy him. Now Christmas Day was the restoration of humor, and those who displayed it most were the shepherds and the wise men. They came to this little Babe and "saw through Him" - God Himself. His Flesh was the Sacrament of His Divinity. When the Babe grew, He taught parables in or with a sense of Divine Humor. Salt and camels, sheep and goats, patches on old clothing, wine in old bottles, businessmen, traders, were not to be taken seriously. All were telltale of something else.
Christmas then is a romance and a joy only to those who have a sense of humor, whose vision is not opaque when they look at a Babe, but can see through Him all the problems of life answered in the vision of God Who appeared as a Man. They who pass through this life with that sense of humor, which is faith, will one day be rewarded by the one thing that will make heaven Heaven - His Smile.
- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen