"Behold I stand at the gate and knock," says the Lord in the Apocalypse.
An artist has painted this scene. In the picture Christ stands before a door and raises His hand to knock upon it. The artist's little son, looking at the painting, said: "Daddy, there is a mistake in the picture." "What mistake?" asked the father. The boy answered: "There isn't any latch on the door to let the man in." "Son," replied the father, "what seems to be a mistake here, really shows the truth. That man is the Lord God. the door opens into the human heart. They key is on the inside. The door must be opened from the inside before our Lord is able to enter."
This little episode is so true that it makes a simple yet great teaching. The latch on the inside is our free will. God could have made, if He wished, a different kind of world than He actually made. He could have chosen to come otherwise than as a little weak Babe. He could have come as a powerful king. But as a matter of fact He chose to give us free will whereby we ourselves play a part in the Redemption. We accept Him or refuse Him accordingly as we freely open or close the inside latch on the door of our heart.
Unto His own He comes this Christmas just as He came the first night when the angels' voices broke out in song over the hills of Bethlehem. Whether he finds a place in the inn of our beings or not remains our decision to make. We are the innkeepers to have and to hold, or to turn Him away and hear recorded once again those tragic, terrifying words, "And His own received Him not."
Walking down a prominent avenue in a great city during the Advent days just preceding Christmas, and enjoying the sights of the decorations, the holly and wreaths and festive cheer, a priest was looking particularly for scenes descriptive of the real spirit of the season. His eye was attracted to a beautiful Madonna and Child. It was set off by splendid a display of rich ornamentation. This was seen in a jewelry shop of Fifth Avenue in New York City, and before the Mother and Babe was a long golden chain and cross, evidently of very great value. Adjacent to this were many articles of shining brilliance. And then a card neatly drawn with these words: "Jewelry has always been considered the supreme gift."
It was a beautiful display magnificently appointed and quite dramatically arranged. Perhaps, that is the reason why it left the viewer in a mood for thought. The priest could not help but think quite at variance with the inscription "jewelry - supreme gift."
With all due regard to the creative mind of the artist who displayed his wares and so beautifully arranged the setting with Mother and Child, with proper acknowledgment, too, that we usually measure our affection by the priceless gift we present - yet, withal, the supreme gift is not to be found in silver or gold, nor indeed is it to be discovered in anything this world prizes. The supreme gift is Christ Himself - the Incarnate God, the Eucharistic Presence - "Greater love no man hath...." The supreme gift is the one God gave to us over 1900 years ago, and He continues to give to us today in His Eucharistic life upon our altars.
The "supreme gift" comes from above: "Pour out ye heavens the dew from above and let the clouds rain the just one." The supreme gift is love of God and neighbor. Upon this depend all other gifts. If I have the goods of earth I can purchase the jewels of time. But not all the world's money can purchase pure love where it does not exist. In this sense the God-fearing laborer is richer than the kings of earth with cold hearts - Mary and Joseph are richer than all the Herods and Pilates who wear uneasy crowns.
Do we ever stop to think how little pure love of God there is in the world.? By pure love of God we mean loving Him for His own sake! When we are motivated by fear of losing heaven and deserving hell, we are moved by selfish interests rather than divine love. This is love worthy of redemption, but it is not the highest type of love.
When we pray to Mary, Help of Christians and Mother of Christ, we are often flying to her patronage because we know she can help us from our difficulty. Were we to seek her company and intercessory aid even in time of joy and contentment, then, indeed we could count ourselves as true children of Mary and lovers of her Son.
Christmas is the season of contrast. God gives His all to us. We bargain with Him. Could we not hold on just a little to the jewels of earth, we ask? They seem so priceless, so supreme! These jewels may be silver or gold. They may be a thousand different things! But to all of us they represent the difference between accepting Christ or compromising Him. "Unto His own He came and" ... we are writing the remaining lines deep down in the secret recesses of our hearts. What are we writing? - How are we living? We know that St. John tells us, "His own received Him not!"
Christ knocks! The latch is on the inside! Only beings with free will, such as we, can open the door to the inn of our hearts - and if we do, our joy is hundredfold!
Jesus, Mary, Joseph, comes take rest in the Inn of my Heart.
Hewn out of the rock of my daily living, it offers but little shelter.
Kings and queens of earth would never find time for the monotony
of my thoughts, nor would they company themselves with such lowliness
as my heart offers.
Yet, You, all-holy three, are willing to dwell with me.
Joseph, humble man of carpentry, teach me to accept God's holy will.
Mary, mother of Christ, show yourself a mother to me.
Jesus, Babe of Bethlehem, come into my soul Eucharistically.
Do You, all-holy three, come, possess my heart, give peace on earth
good will to men!