There is an interesting legend of how a mother was cleaning the house in preparation for Christmas.
Not a speck of dust was left and even all the spiders were banished from their cozy homes in the ceiling.
It was Christmas eve and the Christmas Tree and the Crib was also decorated.
But, at the farthest end of the attic, the spiders, after having been chased away and taken refuge in that corner, were feeling miserable.
>> They too wished to see the Christmas Tree and especially have an encounter with Baby Jesus.
>> But they were afraid, since the mother of the house would chase them away.
The oldest spider among them, however came up with a proposal, that they could perhaps peep across the side door and have a glimpse of Baby Jesus.
So, the spiders, silently crept out of the attic, down the stairs, across the floor and waited in the crack in the side door.
But suddenly the door opened was opened by someone, and the spiders, in fear, ran to the room.
But all them still desired to see the Christmas Tree from close.
>> So they decided to make a bold attempt…
… They quietly crept over the whole Christmas tree.. over every branch and twig, till their desire to see its beauty was fulfilled.
But to their dismay, each of them had left their webs behind.
When Child Jesus saw the Christmas Tree marred by the spider webs, He was in a dilemma.
On one side, he was impressed by the simple desire of the spiders…
… on the other side, he did not want the mother of the house to be offended.
So He touched the spider webs, and they all turned to sparkling and shimmering, silver and gold!
(This is probably the origin of hanging colourful tinsels on our Christmas Trees, and sometimes even including a spider!)
One of the important dimension seen in this legendary story is the intense desire of the spiders and their willingness to take the chance…
… to be bold in their attempts and even be ready to risk their lives to have their Divine longing fulfilled.
Such is to be the readiness of every Christian…
>> Having an intense desire
>> Being willing to take chances
>> Being bold
>> Ready to even risk their lives
… in defence of faith and in growing to be a Disciple – in the likeness of Christ.
This is reflected in the words that Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent are taking it by force” (Mt 11: 12)
This verse is one of the most mysterious and thought-provoking in the entire Bible
What was this violence that Jesus was referring to?
The Greek word for the word “violence” is “biazo”.
This word “biazo” is described as “using power to forcibly seize” i.e. “laying hold of something with a POSITIVE aggressiveness”.
In the context of the Kingdom of God, it refers to the fact that ” the share in the heavenly Kingdom is to be sought for, with the most ardent zeal and the most intent exertion”.
>> Historically, the “violence” refers to the manner in which the Kingdom was rejected by the Jews – the chosen race, and the Gentiles gained access.
>> In our own times, the “violence” refers to the manner in which the entry to the Kingdom causes the people to suffer, undergo hardships and even bear hostility.
That’s why Jesus would say in the Sermon of the Mount, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Mt 5: 10)
St Ambrose beautifully describes the meaning of this violence:
“We do violence to the Lord…
> not by compelling Him but by weeping before Him
> not by provoking by injuries, but by entreating with tears
> not by blaspheming through pride, but by sorrowing through humility.
We attack him, not with swords, nor staves, nor stones…
… but with meekness, good works, chastity.
These are the weapons of our faith, by which we strive in our contest.
But in order that we may be able to make use of these arms in doing violence…
>> let us first use a certain violence to our own bodies
>> let us carry by storm the vices of our members
…that we may obtain the rewards of valour.
For to seize the Saviour’s Kingdom we must first reign in ourselves!”
St Francis de Sales speaks of a similar “violence” when, filled with a deep zeal to conquer back Geneva from the clutches of Protestantism, he says:
“We will breach the walls of Geneva with our ardent prayers and storm the city with mutual charity”
This then is the zeal and the passion – the fire – that we need to carry in our hearts…
>> A powerful zeal that makes no compromise in the values of the Kingdom…
… and makes it willing to suffer any hardship or difficulty for the sake of the Lord!
>> An aggressive passion that is willing to let go of any attachment or sinful desire…
… that comes in the way of being worthy of the Kingdom!
>> A blazing fire that rages across every wicked and evil action..
… and seeks to restore holiness and sanctity of life!
Yes, Christian Life is a warfare…
… against the forces of evil
… against our own worldly desires!
That is why the Church on earth who are living – who struggle against sin and devil and “the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12) is called as the “Church Militant” (“Ecclesia Militans”)
May our Blessed Lord ignite our “often tired, dreary and weary” lives with a blazing passion and a fiery enthusiasm…
… so that we may energetically prepare for His coming into our lives!
The Lord will surely bless our every attempt and every desire to seek Him
This will cause us to leave behind…
… our webs of vain desires
… our webs of sinful pleasures
… our webs of undue attachments
But our Master will touch all those webs and turn them to sparkling and shimmering blessings and graces!
God Bless! Live Jesus!
Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Be what you are and be at its best!”