Do you know someone who finds something wrong with nearly every situation? Last summer, the temperature in our area consistently ranged between 70 and 80 degrees. Yet, people complained about the lack of rain. Then after several days of rain, people complained about not having enough sun. When it rained, people complained about having to mow their lawns more than usual. When it didn’t rain, people complained that their lawns were drying up. And after they mowed they’d water their lawn!
We often see this dynamic in the spiritual life. People don’t like this priest because he is too “rigid”, too traditional, or that priest because he is too charismatic, too “liberal”. We don’t like that Mass because it’s a circus, but we aren’t attracted to that Mass because it’s boring. Some people will never be happy. But let’s face it: those “some people” are us.
In today’s Gospel our Lord says that the people of His age were similar to us. Because John the Baptist fasted on wild honey and locusts, and lived in the desert, they believed him to be possessed by a demon; whereas Jesus ate and drank with sinners– therefore he was viewed as intemperate and lacking virtue. Even though John and our Lord were two of the greatest messengers of God’s love and mercy, people weren’t satisfied. Why?
Because to blame others for what we don’t like about them gives us an excuse to not receive what God is teaching us through them.
We often blame others for their shortcomings as a way to dismiss ourselves from receiving God’s message through them. When we do this, we believe ourselves to above another, rather than seeing God’s gifts and character in another –even someone with whom we don’t agree on every point.
And that’s the point. No one is God except God. You and I will always find shortcomings in others, and others will find shortcomings in us. But rather than looking for the characteristics in others that excuse us from listening to them, we ought to look for the living God who dwells in them.
Our Lord Jesus is very clear on this matter. To be perfect like our Father in heaven is to love like Him, who allows the rain to fall on the bad and the good; and the sun to shine on the just and the unjust.
We are obliged to love others by finding God who loves them living in them. This is perfection.
This Christmas we will be tempted to be dissatisfied with this gift, that relative, or not having a “White Christmas.” Let us be like Mary and Joseph, who after being denied a suitable place to give birth to the Son of God, found a cave among animals for the sacred birth. Scripture recounts that the shepherds found the infant, his Mother, and St. Joseph all lying down resting with one another. Mary and Joseph rather than being dissatisfied, were able to snuggle warmly with one another, adoring the child Jesus, and doing so they were truly happy. This Christmas, may we rest in our Lord, adoring Him, knowing that He is the only gift that can satisfy our hungry hearts.
Devin Schadt is the executive director of the Fathers of St. Joseph, an apostolate that labors for the restoration, redemption and revitalization of fatherhood. Devin has spoken and written extensively on the topics of fatherhood and St. Joseph, and is the author of Joseph’s Way: 80 Days To Unlocking Your Power as a Father; Show Us the Father: 7 Secrets to Become a Father on Earth like the Father in Heaven; and is the creator of the video-devotional system LEAD: The Four Marks of Fatherly Greatness. Devin lives with his wife and five daughters in the Midwest.