This is a true story about some friends
when they were in college.
These two guys had an engineering test
the next day and were going to
study together the night before.
Well, what was planned to be a night of study
turned into something totally different.
Things kind of got out of control—
and the study session ended up
being an all-night party.
They were at one of their parent’s houses—
and when they awoke the next morning—
the mother of the house could tell what had
happened just by looking at them.
So they came clean.
The mother made a big breakfast
to try to liven them up a little bit—
and being an the ever faithful Catholic
gave the rather miserable boys this advice:
“Just pray to St. Jude—
the saint of hopeless causes and
everything will be fine.”
Well, the two boys dragged themselves into
the room to take the test—
in a state of despair concerning the big exam.
And right after they sat down in their seats—
the smartest girl in the class walked in
and set right in front of them—
in a seat where they could—
if the need arose—
peek over her shoulder.
The boys all of a sudden perked up and smiled—
and one said to the other—
“Looks like St. Jude just sat down!!!”
We’re interesting creatures aren’t we.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to
the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem—
the place where Jesus was born.
It’s an amazing place—
but it can also be a dangerous place.
This great church in Bethlehem
is shared by the Greek Orthodox Church—
the Armenian Church—
the Roman Catholic Church.
And each of these Christian Churches
lays claim to specific areas of the basilica—
each one responsible to take care of and
administer their parts of the Church.
It’s an annual tradition at the Church
that after the Christmas day masses—
the clerics from each of the Churches clean up the basilica—
getting ready for the next set of liturgies
in the busy Christmas season.
Well in 2011—
these clerics stationed at the
birthplace of our Lord made the headlines.
The headline read:
“Dozens of Christian Monks
Armed with Brooms
Brawl at the Sacred Site of Jesus’ Birth.”
You couldn’t make this up—could you?
A broom brawl—
at the birthplace of the Prince of Peace.
While Christian tourist were outside
in Manger Square singing
“Joy to the World,”—
the clerics on the inside
were going at it—
Some of the clerics got mad
when they thought the clerics from another Church
were cleaning up their part of the Basilica.
Shocked tourists looked on as this
scuffle started out as a shouting match—
then progressed into a full fledged
broom-swinging fight that
ended up involving 100 clerics.
Other priests and brothers came running to the scene—
not to break it up—
but to get in on the action.
Palestinian riot police had to storm
the Church and use batons and shields
to break up the fight between the
rival groups of Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics.
Two officials from the Palestinian Authority were injured.
“No one was arrested,” a Bethlehem Police Lt. said.
“because all of those involved were men of God.”
So, if you go to the Church of Nativity—
it’s not the hostilities between the
Arabs and the Jews that you have to be concerned about—
it’s the men of God who you have to look out for.
There are times—
There are many times—
when we Christians can really get it wrong!!!
But there are other times—
when we get it right—really right.
During parts of the second and third centuries,
if you were in Rome—
you would have smelled the stench of rotting flesh
and would have been stepping over piles of dead bodies.
There were two great epidemics that hit the Empire—
one around 165 AD and the other around 250 AD.
The first one was probably caused by small pox—
the other by the measles.
These epidemics were devastating—
between a quarter and a third of
the entire population died.
At the epidemic’s peak,
5000 people a day died in the city of Rome alone.
Can you imagine?
And many of the sick and the dying
had no one to take care of them.
What did the pagan priests do?
What did the wealthiest Roman families do?
What did the highest Roman civil authorities do?
What did the Roman Emperor—
the great Marcus Aurelius—
what did he do?
He fled too!!!
Everyone fled the city so they wouldn’t catch the plague—
Every person for themselves.
But surely not the physicians—
those dedicated to taking care of the sick?
What did the greatest of all Roman physicians—
the very icon of Roman medicine—
the great Galen—what did Galen and the other doctors do?
The doctors fled too!!!
But there was one group—
one group in Rome who did not flee.
One group stayed—
one group stayed to take care of
the sick and the dying.
It was the Christians.
This is from an eyewitness account
who recorded what was going on
in plague infested city of Rome:
Most Christians, [Most Christians]
the he writes,
showed unbounded love and loyalty,
never sparing themselves and
thinking of only one another.
Heedless of danger—they took
charge of the sick, attending to
their every need and ministering to them in Christ,
[and they] departed this life serenely happy;
for they were infected by others with the disease,
drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors
cheerfully [cheerfully] accepting their pains. (Stark, The Rise of Christianity, 82)
Sometimes—sometimes—we can get it really, really right.
And it’s the same with the apostles James and John.
Jesus tells the apostles that
He must give up their lives to follow Him—
and no sooner than Jesus gets
these sacred, truly life-giving words out of his mouth—
James and John ask Jesus if one of them can sit
on His right and the other one on His left
when He comes in glory.
They could not have been more wrong.
Jesus said to them,
“You don’t know what you’re asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink or
be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
James and John had no idea what real glory looks like.
Eventually, James and John did get it right!!!
John is the one Our Lord entrusted
Mary, His Blessed Mother to after the crucifixion.
And James was martyred because of
his love and loyalty to Christ.
If you do go to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem—
there’s something else you have you watch out for—
it’s your head.
To get into the cave area where
Jesus was born you have to duck your head—
you must bow down to enter.
The main entrance of the Church
is only about 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
It was built as a very small entrance in
ancient times to keep people from
driving their carts or riding their horses into the Church.
These days, the caretakers of the Church
don’t really have to worry about that.
However, the tiny doors still help to keep
something else from entering the
spot where Jesus was born:
our own pride and egos.
When we leave pride and ego behind—
That’s when we get it right—
whoever wishes to be great
among you will be your servant;
and whoever wishes to be first among you
will be the slave of all.
Holy Spirit 10/20-21/2018