There, I said it. And I will say it again.
These days when the world seems to always be in a hurry to go somewhere, get something, be someone … it’s important to remain steadfast in observing the true Christmas season.
Christmas did not “end” on December 25, despite what many told us on December 26. The season is not “over” simply because our merchants (in America, at least) conduct popular “after Christmas” sales and popular radio stations have already stopped playing Christmas music. We understand that on the contrary, Christmas “began” on December 25 (actually on the Eve of the 24th) and will continue until January 11, when we observe The Baptism of the Lord.
So we keep our trees decorated and lit. We continue to send traditional Christmas cards. We continue to gather with family and exchange gifts.
In other words … we “walk the walk” of a true Christian who knows the Season is not determined by the department stores eager to move on to the next holiday. Nor is it determined by many of our friends and neighbors eager to box their decorations and toss their trees into the recycling pile. And neither is it determined by the media, Facebook or Twitter.
We must “walk the walk” of liturgy. We are a liturgical people.
Interesting … that phrase “walk the walk.”
If you do some online searching, you will find most people use this expression as way to say that in order to be authentic, one must actually do what one preaches. The extended version of this phrase goes something like this: “If you talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.”
Today’s first reading is all about this notion of avoiding the label of a hypocrite.
John says this to the followers of Jesus in his letter:
“Whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.”
He goes on to explain that anyone who claims to be “in the light” of Jesus, but who also hates his brother, is in fact “still in the darkness.” One cannot preach love and forgiveness and then turn around and hate and refuse to forgive.
The Gospels are filled with examples of Jesus teaching against this. As Catholics and as Christians, we must “walk the walk” of our faith.
Perhaps, then, it is fitting that on this December 29, the Fifth Day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord, the Church also remembers St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr, who was brutally slain at the altar because he was more loyal to the Church than he was to King Henry II.
Becket, one of the most revered holy men in England and perhaps the most important martyr of the Middle Ages (he died December 29, 1170), was murdered while defending the ancient rights of the Church against the aggressive king. It was a bloody scene, not unlike the earthly demise of St. Stephen, whose martyrdom we remembered December 26. Or other martyrs who came before us and those yet to come.
How does such a persecuted faith survive against such bloodshed? How can we persevere in the face of such hatred? Many Christians around the globe are facing this challenge today. Tomorrow it could be me. It could be you.
Pray that we continue to “walk the walk” anyway.
As St. Thomas Becket wrote:
“In the midst of tribulation and bloodshed the Church from of old has increased and multiplied. It is the way the Church to win her victories when men are persecuting her, to arrive at understanding when men are refuting her, to gain strength when men are forsaking her.”