A fresh incarnation
Father Stephen Durkee is director of priestly vocations for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids.
One of my favorite prayers at Mass is probably one most of us never hear. It is one of those silent prayers that the priest or deacon prays at the offertory: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
The gift of Jesus’ incarnation is that it allows us to be closer to God than we can ever imagine. And further, God has come close to us. God has walked our walk, talked our talk, and experienced what we have experienced. Christ’s life, everything about it, shows us that there is nothing we can experience where we cannot find him. Christ is always with us, precisely because he shares in our humanity. As we prepare for Christmas, this is the beautiful message for each one of us: In Jesus Christ “God has visited his people.” (Lk 6:17)
When I was ordained a priest in June 2017, Bishop Walkowiak in his homily encouraged my brothers and I to live our lives in such a way that it is “a fresh incarnation.” He said of our hands, “The hands of the priest become Christ’s hands in order to heal.” Then he finished by saying, “Brothers, lay down your lives for the Lord who loves you.” I have never forgotten this. I use it sort of as an examination of conscience, a gut check if you will, for how well I am responding to God’s call to bring Christ’s healing love into the world.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the only reason it is possible for us to be “a fresh incarnation” is because Christ became one of us.
There have been a few moments when I truly believe I met Jesus in the flesh. One experience was through a young man suffering from cancer. This 30-year-old man was experiencing intense suffering, but he had unwavering trust that Jesus was with him in his sufferings. Even though he was in great pain, the only concern in his life was the wellness of others. He loved his wife and kids to the end. His faith was a powerful witness for me. He not only changed my life, but he changed the lives of those closest to him. I believe this young man brought his family closer to Jesus by the way he lived his life, trusting in God’s love until he passed. I believe I saw Jesus in him. This young man was indeed a fresh incarnation.
We can all ask ourselves: Who has been “a fresh incarnation” in our lives? As each of us prepares for Christmas again, I encourage us to reflect on the people who have brought Christ into our lives this year. Give God thanks for them, but above all, thank God for allowing Jesus to visit you through the love and friendship of others.
Finally, how are each of us becoming “a fresh incarnation” for others? This world desperately needs reminders of God’s love for all of humanity. This is why priestly vocations are so important. As Bishop Walkowiak mentioned in the ordination homily a few years back, priests become another experience of Jesus through ministry. But, here’s the thing: Christ expects all of us, every baptized person, to be a sacramental sign of his presence in the world. Christ expects us to make him present by our very lives. So, this Christmas, as we celebrate Christ’s incarnation, may we too become “a fresh incarnation of Christ” in our world.