Love does such things

How could God, who exists outside of time, enter into time and take on a human body? The great theologian Fr. Romano Guardini said he tried to intellectually understand this and failed. But a breakthrough happened for him when a friend made a remark that struck his heart.

At Christmas, we receive a gift that is at the same time mysterious and profound. And the fact that Jesus’ birth occurred 2,000 years ago adds to the mystery. If you went to Christmas Mass during the day you heard St. John describe the Son of God’s entrance into the world. “In the beginning was the Word,” he wrote, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.”

In his book “The Lord,” Fr. Guardini explains the Gospel passage by saying, “Let us consider carefully what this means: the everlasting, infinite Creator not only reigns over the world but, at a specific ‘moment,’ crossed an unimaginable borderline and personally entered into history – he the inaccessibly remote one!” It is easier to think of God as just “up there,” Fr. Guardini says, but instead he freely chose to enter into our imperfect reality.

That led him to write: “Before such an unheard of thought the intellect bogs down.” In our day, it’s difficult for most of us to see beyond the materialistic rituals that are marketed as Christmas, let alone contemplate the deeper truths of God’s entrance into the world.

Fr. Guardini was able to move beyond his intellectual impasse when a friend made a remark that we all should contemplate.  “But love does such things!” his friend said. The comment did not explain anything further to his intellect, but it aroused his heart and enabled it “to feel its way to the secrecy of God. The mystery is not understood, but it does move nearer …” (“The Lord,” p. 18).

We know that in order to understand a person or the world around us, we must ask what its purpose is. This holds true whether we are talking about water, sunlight, a tree, you, me, and even the Son of God. Jesus’ purpose in becoming a man was to make known the heart of the Father and carry out his will; it was to make love known. St. John confirms this truth in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

When we celebrate Christmas, we praise and adore God the Father for sending Jesus to us, for placing his divine love and power squarely in our midst. As we pray and think about how a child grew into a man who carried out this mission, seeking the will of the Father, each of us should reflect on what the mission is that God has given us and how we are carrying it out.

Every one of us has a God-given calling – a vocation that, if we faithfully fulfill it, brings his presence into the world and brings his kingdom nearer.  Before Jesus was born, St. John wrote, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him” (John 1:18). This was the mission that fulfilled through his ministry, and his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Now, each of us is commissioned through our Baptism with the joyful charge of making the love of the Father known to the world. In the fifth century, Pope St. Leo the Great preached in one of his Christmas homilies: “Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all.”

Pope Francis reinforced the relevance this teaching for our time when he opened the Holy Door at St. John Lateran and preached, “This third Sunday of Advent draws our gaze towards Christmas, which is now close. We cannot let ourselves be taken in by weariness; sadness in any form is not allowed, even though we have reason (for sadness), with many concerns and the many forms of violence which hurt our humanity. The coming of the Lord, however, must fill our hearts with joy.”

We have joy because, as Fr. Guardini reminds us, “love does such things.”

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I pray that you will know this same joy, which comes from opening yourself to the truth of who you are before the Father, receiving his inexhaustible mercy, and bringing it to others. May the tender love of the Trinity bless you and your families this Christmas Season!

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.