CNS photo/Paul Haring

With His coming, Jesus asks so little of us

  • December 18, 2014

They came by the thousands. Young and old, men and women, Francophone and English, the able-bodied and the infirm, they came despite the driving, biting snow and blustery wind to a church in Montreal in mid-December to bid farewell to hockey legend Jean Beliveau.

“Oh captain, my captain,” said longtime teammate Yvan Cournoyer in eulogizing the man who helped the Montreal Canadiens win 10 Stanley Cups during an illustrious National Hockey League playing career, five of those Cups as captain of the Habs.

Beliveau’s athletic prowess inflamed the imaginations of a hockey loving public throughout the province of Quebec and beyond. But Beliveau was also remembered for many other things. He was considered by most a true gentleman, a man of humility and shyness and a man who loved his wife and family. Beliveau had an abiding pride in his province, his country and the hockey team that he as captain felt an obligation to proudly represent in dealings with management, fans, opposing players and officials.

And Beliveau was an adherent to his Catholic faith and a humanitarian.

Lydia Leiffer told a news agency what she and probably many people remember most about Beliveau was how he conducted himself outside the arena.

“He was a beautiful man,” she said. “My brother Charles had cerebral palsy, and he lived in a special home in Longueuil. Jean Beliveau had a pool constructed there, and donated money, and then he came and visited everyone there. It touched me to my soul.”

Beliveau, it seemed, touched many, many souls.

Many came to the funeral because they had seen what he could do on the ice. Others had not seen but they came anyway, because they believed.

Still, despite his accomplishments as a player, a humanitarian and a great Canadian, it seems almost incongruous that this humble ambassador of his team, his game and his country drew so many people out for a stormy-day farewell when so few of us can take the time to spend a few minutes with our real saviour, Jesus Christ.

We have the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at our church every Thursday. A few people come to pray and pay homage throughout the day, but a schedule is required to assure that someone is there at all times during the seven- to eight-hour period.

While I took my place in one of the seats before the Blessed Sacrament, I often wondered what people were so busy doing when they couldn’t drop in for a few minutes to visit with their Saviour. Then, I had a change of hours and duties at work and now find myself rarely making the time for a short visitation.

But this is the humble Jesus revealing Himself to us in a hidden, obscure form. This Jesus, who lived His mortal life on Earth with little fanfare, born in an undistinguished stable, raised by humble parents through 30 non-descript years, this Jesus finds Himself often ignored in our churches every day.

The author of An Hour With Jesus, a book designed to aid those who spend time with the Lord exposed in the Blessed Sacrament, writes, “Shouldn’t all come in praise and adoration? You are their Saviour. How can we praise you enough, Lord?”

The author muses about how we’d act if it were a president, a movie star or a professional athlete who was actually here. “Would crowds jam the building? Would the media be here, cameras rolling? Applause? Would they bow if it were the Queen of England who was present here? And yet — those are only people. You are the Saviour, our Lord. And only a few come. Why?”

Those might be legitimate Christmas questions as we move away from the waiting of Advent into the coming of Christ with His birth.

It is a time of tremendous preparation, but preparing for what. There are gifts to buy, people to see, parties to attend. It truly is the busiest time of year.

And often lost in the hustle and bustle is time for prayer, church-going, Scripture reading, the sacrament of Reconciliation, the time to do good and generous works and to live by example with family and others in social gatherings.

It’s Jesus’ birthday, His coming again, but He doesn’t seem to ask much of us. Some acknowledgement for what He’s done for us, some gratitude and recognition. And to treat others, especially family, but all whom we encounter, with respect and love.

That’s how we find the reason for the season.

Oh captain, my captain.

Better still, my Lord and my God.

(Campbell is an editor at the Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax, N.S.)

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