Newsletter, December 12, 2019

Ever wonder what this season is all about?

It happened a few years ago at Mass on Christmas Eve. I had invited the children to join me up in the sanctuary and there must have been 50 little ones crowded into that space – sitting facing out into the full church. I asked the children about Christmas and soon got around to the question of “Why did Jesus come to be born among us?” I recall it was a little girl seated in the second row who offered this answer: “Because He loved us”.

The child spoke with such purity and clarity – implying that she knew, full well, that His love for us is exactly why The Son of God was born in Bethlehem. I repeated her answer to the full congregation and there was a audible intake! After appreciating the wisdom of this insight, I asked the children, “What do we do with all this love?” The children had a number of thoughts on that – and one very little girl on the other side of the altar answered in a tiny voice, “Give it away”. She was so tiny that I had to strain to hear her and after, I picked her up so that she could repeat her answer – right into my microphone. This time the congregation really gasped! I was amazed! I asked the little girl her name, she responded, “Faith”. Now the congregation loudly chuckled and applauded.

In the years before and since, I don’t recall a Christmas homily that so richly summed up the mystery of the Incarnation and the consequences of God’s action. Yet our lives are often so filed with busyness and distraction making it difficult grasp the breath and richness of God’s love for us. Maybe that is one of the gifts of this season – everything around us calls us to an awareness of the Christmas Spirit – that speaks of love, and kindness and generosity.

The message of Christ’s Birth uncovers an age old promise made by God to deliver
humankind from darkness. It is a message of hope, grounded in the truth that God is with us – EMMANUEL. The message of the angels to those poor shepherds on that first Christmas night was, “Do not be afraid – there is Good News – A Savior has been born to you …”. That is the same message we need to hear this Christmas, 2011.

The fear of these times – it whatever form it is evident in your life – at its very root – can be dismissed. God is present in our lives. You are called to an intimate relationship with this very God – in Jesus Christ in and through the Church. it is a relationship flowing from God’s love for you and the very wisest thing you can do once you grasp that, is to give it away!

Fr. Ronan

Prayer before Christmas Dinner: 

 God of all gifts, we thank you for the many ways you have blessed us this day. 
We are grateful each of those who are gathered around this table.
We ask you to bless us and our food and to bless those we love who are not with us today.
In our gratitude and love, we remember your humble birth into our lives and pray for those who are without enough to eat. 
We remember the stable in which you were born and pray for those who have no place to live. 
We remember your challenging message of caring and giving, and we pray for peace in families and nations throughout the world. 
We bless you and give you thanks in your Spirit who brings our hearts to life this Christmas Day and forever. Amen.

Prayer for those who have lost a loved one: 

God of compassion, there is such a hole in my heart!
Today should be a day of joy, but I feel only the emptiness and loss of someone so beloved.  While the world celebrates around me, I remember Christmas celebrations of the past and I long to have my loved one with me.  I bring my sorrows to you, Lord, like some odd gift of the magi and dump them at your feet. In my blind tears I wonder if anyone can possibly understand the depth of my sadness. Yes, you can.  You sent your son to  be with us in our deepest sorrows and I know that even though I might not feel it at this minute,  you are here with me, grieving with me, caring for me in my sadness and loving me.  Dearest lord, help me to turn to the one I miss so much today and speak.  Help me heal the loss of our parting and help me not to regret the things I didn’t say.  Sorrow tears at my heart, but today I ask that my loss soften my heart and make me more compassionate with everyone I meet.

A Christmas Blessing for All of Our Parishioners and Visitors, and Their Loved Ones:

May there be harmony in all your relationships. 
May sharp words, envious thoughts and hostile feelings be dissolved. 
May you give and receive love generously. 
May this love echo in your heart like the joy of church bells on a clear December day.
May each person who comes into your life be greeted as another Christ. 
May the honor given the Babe of Bethlehem be that which you extend to every guest who enters your presence. 
May the hope of this Sacred Season settle in your soul. 
May it be a foundation of courage for you when times of distress occupy your inner land.  May the wonder and awe that fills the eyes of children be awakened with you. 
May it lead you to renewed awareness and appreciation of whatever you too easily take
for granted. 
May the bonds of love for one another be strengthened as you gather with your family and friends around the table of festivity and nourishment. 
May you daily open the gift of your life and be grateful for the hidden treasures it contains.
May the coming year be one of good health for you. 
May you have energy and vitality. 
May you care well for your body, mind and spirit. 
May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day. 
May you go often to the Bethlehem of your heart and visit the One who offers you peace.  May you bring this peace into our world.
– Joyce Rupp

Reflections by Henri Nouwen

“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall
blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.” (Isaiah11:1-2).

Our salvation comes from something small, tender, and vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the Creator of the Universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness.

I find this a hopeful message. Somehow, I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God’s saving power; but over and over again I am reminded that spectacles, power plays, and big events are the ways of the world. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to
the “shoot that shall sprout from the stump.”

When I have no eyes for the small signs of God’s presence – the smile of a baby, the carefree play of children, the words of encouragement and gestures of love offered by friends – I will always remain tempted to despair.

The small child of Bethlehem, the unknown young man of Nazareth, the rejected preacher, the naked man on the cross, he asks for my full attention. The work of our salvation takes place in the midst of a world that continues to shout, scream, and overwhelm us with its claims and promises. But the promise is hidden in the shoot that sprouts from the stump, a shoot that hardly anyone notices.

Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn’t cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers  and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness” (see Matt. 5:3-11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace. 

Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness.
First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel
most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because
there our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden. 

Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected.”

Learn to listen to a voice that says, “You are the beloved and on you my favor rests.”… I want you to hear that voice. It is not a very loud voice because it is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle. I want you to gradually hear that voice. We both have to hear that voice and to claim for ourselves that that voice speaks the truth, our truth. It tells us who we are.