(LifeSiteNews) — If you lived in the time of Jesus and you were told that God Himself had just arrived— born to a poor family, in a cave of animals — would you have laughed, scoffed, or simply declared, “That’s impossible”?
Alive today, we can relish the fact that God works in radically unexpected ways. But if we were born into that time, I bet that most of us would have laughed at, or simply ruled out of hand, the possibility that the Son of God, the King of the Universe, would become incarnate as a member of a poor family, born in a shelter for animals, a place unfit for the birth of even a mere man.
God wanted to show us in a concrete, clear way, not just His deep humility and poverty, but that He was rejected or unrecognized from birth, even by His own parents’ kin. He was rejected repeatedly throughout His life, and finally rejected in the most heinous possible way at His death: by the religious authorities of His own people, who had Him violently scourged and crucified under the unspeakably blasphemous pretext of fidelity to God.
For the possibility that Christ Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God was so outrageous, from a worldly point of view, that religious authorities could declare Him a blasphemer and have Him punished as something even worse and get away with it.
While as sinful human beings, our own experiences of rejection cannot even come close to a comparison to the rejection of the most pure God Himself, we must still be consoled because our Lord has shown us that such rejection is not necessarily due to wrongdoing, and in fact it is often a hallmark of His own.
If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world… “ (John 15:18-19).
Our Lord wants us to take heart particularly if we are spurned or ridiculed for trying to remain faithful to Him and His unpopular teaching. Maybe we were disdained because we defend life from the womb to the tomb; or because we only recognize as marriage that which is in turn recognized by God; or because we refuse to deny reality by, for example, pretending that a man can be a woman. Maybe we’ve been fired or banned from public venues—even a church.
Even if we are rejected not for faithfulness to Christ per se, but due to a misunderstanding, or indifference, or maybe wrongdoing on our part that will not be forgiven — even then we are to take consolation in our Lord, who has shown during his earthly life that He especially tends to outcasts of all stripes with love.
If we find ourselves rejected in any way, it is a blessed opportunity to share in the suffering of Christ in small measure, and to forgive someone for whom we can thereby merit grace. It is also a reminder to love and console Christ to help repair for His continued rejection by His beloved creatures.
Christ’s birth as an outcast gives us yet another rich source of contemplation:
We shouldn’t be surprised if we find Christ in a place other than where we expect He “should” be — and particularly, we must not be scandalized to find Him on the fringes of what is generally considered to be acceptable society.
It is easy to give this idea lip service, and to acknowledge, at least, that for God to be born in a shelter for animals is about as “fringe” as it gets. But to recognize where this reality applies in our day and age is not always so easy.
Of course, rejection or minority status is not itself a mark that something is true or of God. Our main guidepost is our Lord’s revealed Truth, along with His hallmark of true charity.
But it is His very Truth which is today being despised not only by secular society, but by many of the most powerful Church clergy. And so, Catholics have a source of sorrow which is reaching a new intensity:
We have priests who are increasingly being ousted for faithfulness to Christ and His Church; We have many clergy, who, for all appearances, deny the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, or who promote sin, or who simply fail to defend the fullness of Christ’s teaching; And we have the Vatican itself attempting to quash the greatest treasure we have on earth: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself, as it has been passed on intact for centuries.
There are a few who are truly scandalized by this, even insisting that a loving God could not allow this to happen. How could God allow His divinely inspired rites, the very Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, His very Presence to be “banned,” outcast, ghettoized, and persecuted?
On the contrary, our Lord has taught from the moment of His birth that we should not be surprised or scandalized to find Him, or whoever truly follows Him, outcast even by the authorities of God’s own divinely instituted religion.
Indeed, fear of being banned from the synagogue prevented some who believed in Christ from professing their belief in Him:
However, many of the chief men also believed in him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, that they might not be cast out of the synagogue. For they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God (John 12:42-43).
Much less should we, in our time, avoid Christ where He is found on the fringes. Let us seek our Lord, and the fullness of His truth and grace, wherever we find Him.