By Fr. John Jasica

CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!

With the snow storm this past week, we now realize that Christmas is coming.  As we all know, this year, things are going to be very different.  Yet I truly believe it will be very special, powerful and life changing if we allow God into our lives.  Let’s not get distracted by the things we cannot do and see how God will work through us with the opportunities that we will be able to experience.  This Christmas we are truly reminded that hope never ever fades!!

A SEASON OF COMFORT

We hear in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah this weekend as he says,

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God…He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.”

These words are so powerful and needed in our own lives but also lived out for others during this season.  The Lord is our comfort as we survive during these most challenging and difficult times.  There are so many people who are sick, alone and depressed.  They need to be embraced by our words and actions of love.  We need to show people they are not alone and that we walk with them.  Our God never abandons us and so we never abandon one another.

The image of a shepherd is also a powerful sign of how God takes care of us and how we need to take care of one another.  This has been made real for us during the pandemic with our front line workers, doctors, nurses and health care professionals who are serving, caring and supporting all those in need.  Once again, we realize that humanity is all in this together, and that there is a responsibility we bear for one another that transcends our own personal preferences for the sake of the common good.  For true comfort and compassion to be offered, we need to sacrifice what we want and even what we need so that others, especially those in most need, have everything necessary to be healed.  Those in need must experience a hope fulfilled through each of us.  This becomes a true season of comfort.

PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT

In the gospel, we hear another messenger, St. John the Baptist, who prepares the way of the Lord.  We too need to heed his words in our lives today as we prepare to welcome the Lord this Christmas.  As we heard Jesus call us to stay awake and be alert in the First Sunday of Advent, we really need to let go of some things and embrace some new things for that pathway to be straight.  How can this happen for us this Advent and Christmas season?

(1) MAKE A LIST

One of the great things we can do is make a list of things we can do for others.  Often times we make our list of presents we want from Santa, but in order to be fully open to Jesus and his grace in this most sacred season, we need to see what we can do for others and open our hearts for God’s love that comes to us through service and sacrifice.  Our parish has amazing opportunities with our Christmas Outreach program in addition to the many other chances to give, volunteer and serve with programs throughout the city.  Sharing with others brings us humility, joy and love.

(2) STOP AND PRAY

One of the most important components of this season is to pray.  If we want Christ to sustain and strengthen us in this difficult time, we need to talk to him and listen to what he has to say.  Silence, quiet, stopping and really listening is at the heart of our prayer lives.  Just like exercise, prayer takes concentration and repetition to realize results.  Please remember to stop and pray during this season with gratitude for all the blessings we have received.

(3) MARKS OF THE SEASON

Please be sure to enjoy the marks of the season.  If you can, take a ride around at night to see the lights!!  It reminds us that Christ always shines beautifully even in the darkest night.  Also be sure to put up your Christmas tree, nativity set and try to continue your different family traditions as best you can during the pandemic so that the spirit of Christmas continues to dwell in our hearts.

THE LORD NEVER DISAPPOINTS US

As we journey through Advent and prepare for Christmas, we reflect on the graces that will come before us—they may not be the ones that we wanted and probably not even expected, but that is what I am looking forward to.  I am hoping to be surprised in a wonderful way by God this season.  I know for a fact that the Lord never disappoints us and always goes beyond our expectations.

Of course this Christmas will become what we make of it.  Let’s work together to make it exactly what we need not for ourselves, but those