In several Gospel stories, one of my professors recently explained, while a distinction is made between what Jesus says to the crowds and what He says to the disciples, it is actually clear from the text that there is no physical barrier between the two groups during His preaching. Thus, what Jesus speaks to the disciples can be heard by the crowds as well. 

The difference between being a disciple and simply being “one of the crowd” is not some sort of secret program, but is rather a matter of the heart: Do you, from the depths of your being, adhere to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, or not? 

We are approaching the season in which we celebrate the coming of Christ, who reveals the Father to us. God has not hidden Himself from us, but has, in fact, so identified with us as to become one of us. And the God-man Jesus Christ longs to draw us into the relationship He has with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. There are no secret paths; God has not hidden from us the way to true and last happiness. The way is His Son, Jesus.

Do we allow the circumstances surrounding — or even imposed upon — us to keep us distanced from Him, as one of the “crowd”? Or rather, do we adhere to Him with single-hearted trust as disciples, knowing that what He permits, He will use for our good? Recognizing that He was born to die to save us (cf. John 18:37), let us take up our current cross of uncertainty and follow Him.

But sometimes in our practical, everyday life, the way does not seem clear. Throughout much of this year, for example, our world has felt upside down. Many have longed for the end of 2020, in the hope that 2021 will be different. But the current world crisis is continuing much longer than most of us could have foreseen. Although it is Christmas, many will be unable to visit with loved ones or even to attend Mass or church services this season. 

Where is Christ in all of this?

Do we allow the circumstances surrounding — or even imposed upon — us to keep us distanced from Him, as one of the “crowd”? Or rather, do we adhere to Him with single-hearted trust as disciples, knowing that what He permits, He will use for our good? Recognizing that He was born to die to save us (cf. John 18:37), let us take up our current cross of uncertainty and follow Him.

In the 1959 movie Ben Hur, the main character, Judah Ben Hur, stands beneath the foot of Christ’s Cross with an elderly Balthazar, one of the wise men who adored the Savior at His birth. Judah recounts to Balthazar that once this Man had given him “water and the heart to live,” and asks, “What has He done to merit this?” Balthazar explains that Jesus has taken our sins upon Himself, that this is why He was born “in that stable where I first saw Him.” “For this death?!” Judah asks. But Balthazar corrects him: “For this beginning.”

Our suffering in union with Christ’s also has the power to be a new beginning, a resurrection particularly of our relationship with Him. He says to us, “See I am doing something new. Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43: 19). What is the “new thing” He has been doing in your life this year? What is the “new thing” He wants to do in you this Christmas? Let Him show you the Way, and then adhering to Him alone, follow Him in simplicity of heart.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.