[__01_] The increase is Good News.
An increase is good news.
We have just read from the second chapter of the Gospel Book of Luke, the account of the census – by the Roman Emperor, at the time at which our Blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph were expecting the birth of Jesus.
Our Lord and Savior, as one member of 3-person household with its genealogical and geographical origin in the little town of Bethlehem of Judea, was counted in this census.
The increase in the population was – and is – good news.
[___01.01__] In our country, in the United States, our government takes a census every decade – 1990, 2000, 2010 and there would be one scheduled for 2020.
Is the census always good news?
In any case, it is news, newsworthy. And, certainly, senators and state governors of the can find numbers – statistics – to celebrate ; others, to lament.
From a socioeconomic or political standpoint, the statistics of the census could be perceived – or presented - as either good news or bad news.
[__02__] In the Gospel, the census is good news.
In a reflection and Christmas sermon, St. Ambrose of Milan viewed the census as an example of the division between
- Heaven and Earth
- God and Caesar
That is, we are called to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God, the things which are God’s.
[__03__] In the first census, Caesar appears to display and command all authority. Joseph and Mary, at an inconvenient time, are forced to relocate for this population headcount.
[__04__] However, is there not a second spiritual census takeing place. The shepherds are being counted, well after dark – after the “official” counters have gone home – and their increase, each of them being counted …not just a head being counted, but a whole body and soul …their presence is Good News.
[__05__] In the census or the gathering – the communion – of believers, Jesus is counting us and also challenging us as individuals.
Was this not true of the shepherds – perhaps a small minority– whom Caesar might have missed.
God is also inviting us to be counted and, at times, to be part of the courageous, the brave, one or two or three to go ahead to Bethlehem, as the shepherds did, to go and adore him.
How can we participate in this journey and census enrollment?
Are there not some similarities between Caesar’s census and God’s census?
[__06-messengers__] I think we’ve all heard of episodes and groups of people unable or unwilling to respond to the U.S. Census counters.
The census workers are ignored, their paperwork discarded.
And, indeed, we may feel threatened or inconvenienced by a census, by a request for information about our backgrounds, history, countries of origin.
Even though we may answer anonymously, we also provide information to someone whom we do not know.
The census requires trust, confidence in a messenger, a delegate….
However, God also sends his messages, his word to us also through delegates. Shall we speak to them? Listen? Let them in the door? YES. In this way, we would encounter the Lord reflected in the image of others.
Yes, it is important that we speak to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit directly – directly through our own adoration [nocturnal and/or daytime] of Jesus – in the Holy Communion – whether in Eucharistic Adoration, in prayer in church before or after Mass, or at home. We are called to speak with – and listen to – him directly.
However, we are also called to listen to his word brought to us through our family, our loved ones …which may not come through the voice of an angel, but nevertheless be a call manifesting God’s love.
We can be counted by these delegates, by the people sent into our lives by God. Our count, our inclusion in the final statistics, our presence in the census, is Good news.
The census relies on honesty. We can only hope that the government would take our honest census answers and, thus, implement honest solutions, honest infrastructure, honest taxation and other programs.
The Lord’s census also asks for our honest repentance, our truthfulness. Just as he gave honest answers even to those who would ignore him – even crucify him – we are called to honesty, integrity and to avoid sinfulness.
In this we are enrolled, counted.
The increase is good news.
Does a census count – or population statistic – bring us together or drive us apart?
Certainly, the ideal calls for unity. This is true even in a material and earthly and political sense.
The census – with all its pie charts and statistics and numbers, percentages and percentiles - is also endeavoring to communicate that we are still one country, even with many differences.
Certainly in 2014, we see the importance of unity and solidarity, community and family.
Certainly, the danger exists that we could – at times – separate out the “healthy” versus the “sick” in an infectious disease crisis, in our country or in another country. In fact, we are one BODY. Each of us, being counted, and following Christ’s way of compassion, strengthens the one body.
Certainly, the danger exists that we would separate out the “law enforcer” from the “law abiding citizen” …. But this would cause a breakdown of public trust. We are all called to keep justice alive in our hearts, to protect one another …and also to support those who protect us. Each of us, being counted, and following God’s justice, strengthens the one body.
Certainly, the danger exists that we would separate ourselves by various ideologies. But it was as true on the Gettysburg battlefield as it is today in our country, our church, and our family that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
Jesus used this phrase to predict that evil would not triumph because, evil and injustice and dishonesty are – each of them – divided. Goodness will triumph, because choosing the good – even though painful or inconvenient – brings us closer, brings us life.
Each of us being counted – and choosing good over evil – strengthens the one body of Christ.
And, God’s spiritual census is also about our unity as one body, one communion.
And, cannot our spiritual examination – our examination of conscience – help us to grow in unity, solidarity, compassion, love for others so that we can recognize our responsibility to build up the one and only one Body of Christ, thus to avoid sinfulness, find salvation, help others to be counted there as well by our example in word and action and thus to be counted in God’s census.
The increase is good news. [__fin__]