Sunday, November 28, 2010

Birth and Reconciliation

Entering Advent with a New Granddaughter

Earlier this week, November 23 at 10:15pm, to be exact, a little baby girl, weighing 7 pounds and 9 onces, was born in Foothills Hospital in Calgary, AB.  Here name is Charlotte. Of course, lots of babies were born this week, and some others even at Foothills.

There are a few things that make this event memorable for us.  First, she was also named after her maternal grandmother, My Dear Wife.  What is significant about that is that it means that her second name is Christina - "Follower of Christ".  So, we have a new granddaughter, a little sister for Sam and Emilia.  Charlotte is well and at home with her family, which of course, includes her mother Katie Rosso, and father Marco.  For the next 20 years or so, they will only be known as Charlotte's mother and father, or Emilia's or Sam's. 

But, as we enter into the Advent season, and prepare to welcome the Christ of whom Charlotte is a follower, we remember too the lead up to that birth, a time when Mary was pregnant with her child, as was her cousin Elizabeth with hers.

As a man, I have witnessed labour when my children were being born.  As a man, I have never experienced it.  From observing it, I can conclude that it is difficult, painful, and produces great joy in the end.  What I cannot know is what it feels like to go through a pregnancy and delivery as a mother.  In actual fact, I am very grateful for that.  As a proud father and grandfather, I can speak about it, but not really speak to it, if you get my meaning.

Being pregnant and giving birth to a child are things that can only be fully known by experiencing them.  If my step daughter Katie were to tell me about the pain and discomfort, and even the joy involved in the process of carrying Charlotte in her womb and then bringing her into the world, I could listen, and even empathise, but not from my own similar experience.  Now, My Dear Wife can listen to her as a mother, who in fact carried Katie to term, delivered her and then felt the joy at her arrival.  Yet, the birth of Charlotte is a unique experienc still, and My Dear Wife, as knowledgeable as she is, did not experience this particular birth.

And so, we are joyful at Charlotte's safe arrival, though we do not seem as excited as Sam and Emilia are at this moment.

But, this all brings to mind something more profound about our faith.  Readers of this blog and of Father Tim Moyle's Where the Rubber Hits the Road blog, might remember exchanges that occured here and there between us and a lapsed Catholic, Small Town Guy, who found Jesus and has taken up his relationship with him in the Reformed tradition.  He writes from his experiences as a Reformer, and like many fundamentalist Christians takes his turns at bashing the Catholic vision of Christ, and has taken particular delight in slamming essential beliefs of Catholicism, particularly relating to the sacraments.  He has postured on the Catholic belief about Reconciliation, a sacrament that Father Tim administers to the faithful, and one that I love to partake of when I can.

Although our friend, Small Town Guy, would have gone to Confession as a young child, and so has some experience with the sacrament, he spouts rhetoric about how there is no need for Confession/Reconciliation, and so on.  He quotes bible verses to support his position.  Essentially what you would expect from a fundy.

On many occasions, when I have gone to Confession, I have experienced a profound grace come over me, not merited by me, but given freely by God.  I have known that I am once again in His embrace.  On one occasion recently, I went to Confession to a retired priest, who seemed hurried, and so my experience was one of being rushed out the door, which does not diminish the power of the sacrament, just colours the experience.

As I cannot know the experience that Katie had giving birth to Charlotte, neither can Small Town Guy know the experience that I have had during Reconciliation.  As My Dear Wife, Christina, can have a better understanding of Katie's experience, she still did not have that exact same experience, and so would not diminish its uniqueness for Katie. 

So too, Father Tim Moyle, who has administered the sacrament countless times, can relate to my personal experience, and if I had had occasion to go to Confession to him, he might be in a better place to grasp it.  But, he still has never been in my shoes when I have received the sacrament.

And so, we come back to uniqueness, and the one of a kind relationship that each of us on the planet is called to have with Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

It saddens me to know that there are Christians who feel the need to disavow other professing Christians of the core beliefs of their profession, yet do so from rhetoric rather than having spent time in the shoes of those they choose to criticise, shoes they can never really walk in.  It saddens me to know that I am one of those that sadden me, and worst of all sadden Our Lord by our actions.

Jesus called us to be one, as He and the Father are One.  Yet, He knows us and loves us uniquely, according to our gifts, faults, trials and tribulations.

Little Charlotte is only 4 1/2 days old as I write this.  She is largely a blank slate on which will be written the story of her life and her faith.  She is loved by God perfectly at this moment, and will be at every moment in her life.  He will call her to Baptism into His Death and Resurrection, and she will respond as she does, and He will love her on her good days, and on her bad days, as only He is capable of.

If, as her parents raise her, they follow the traditions of the Catholic Church, and she partakes of the sacraments as they are offered to her, and draws closer in relationship to Jesus, who among us would like to answer to God for standing in her way?

And so too, should we stand in the way of another brother or sister who professes to know and love Christ, but does it differently than we do?

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