Christmas trees are placed by the street for trash, or packed away until next year. Homes once brightly decorated in lights are dark. Gifts have been exchanged; some of the new toys are broken. There are no more Christmas carols on the radio, or in the stores. The high-spirited feelings of joy and peace are fading away. Many of the people who crowded our Church last week are missing today. Christmas is gone for another year. As Peggy Lee once sang: “Is that all there is?” Is that all?
We all have dreams and desires, wants and wishes, but there is nothing in this world that can satisfy us for very long. We get a new bike, the latest PS3, a new car or new house and before very long it becomes just another thing that we own. St. Augustine once said, "Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee."
That is God’s plan for us from all eternity. St. John tells us in his letter, “God is Love.” Love must be shared in order to be Love and God created the universe and particularly human beings to share His love with us. Adam and Eve spoiled that plan when they sinned by choosing evil over good: yet, even as God banished them from Eden, He promised to send a Redeemer to restore them and us to Himself. Throughout history, God has stepped in to renew us. He called Noah and his family, Abraham, Jacob, David and Mary to be part of His plan for the salvation of the human race.
When Christ was born, God Himself became one of us to show us the way to the Father and to share His love with us by His life, death and resurrection. That is the real beauty of Christmas and the reason for us to keep Christmas all through the year.
Nearly thirty years ago I heard a deacon candidate say that he keeps his Christmas tree up all year long- not in his house, but in his heart. You and I can do the same thing. Jesus came to share the Good News of Salvation and to build His church on Peter and the Apostles. He told us, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” Two thousand years ago, He gave us the wonderful gift of the Church and the Sacraments to share His divine life, sanctifying grace, with us. Many of us have forgotten the great gifts we have in our Catholic faith. I am proud to be Catholic.
When John baptized Him in the Jordan River, Christ cleansed us from sin and made us royal members of God’s family, King’s Kids, if you will. We are heirs to a heavenly kingdom.
As Christ healed people of their illness and infirmity, He often said, “Your sins are forgiven; your faith has saved you; go and sin no more.” He gave the apostles the power to forgive sins, saying, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven; whose sins you retain, they are retained.” The sacrament of Reconciliation restores us to God’s grace after we have strayed away from Him through sin.
Often in His life, Christ consoled those who lost loved ones, or healed those who were afflicted with illness or disease. He sometimes raised the dead to life. He gave the Church the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, once known as Extreme Unction, or Last Rites, to bring healing and grace to those who suffer today. When the priest prays with us and anoints us with holy oil we receive His grace and comfort .
In the Eucharist, Christ gives us Himself- body and blood, soul and divinity. He lives in us as He once lived for nine months in Mary’s body. We become living tabernacles for Him, brining Him wherever we go. His blood and life unites with ours. When we receive, we really should take the time to meditate on the wonderful gift we have just been given. Christ lives in us and wants to have a deeper relationship with Him. He wants to spend time with us. Some people go directly from receiving to the parking lot. Would you leave you host immediately after you’ve had dinner, or would you stay and share some conversation and time together?
On Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and filled them with wisdom and courage and the other gifts and fruit of the Spirit. Today He does the same with us when we receive the sacrament of Confirmation. We all have those gifts, but most of us don’t use them because we are unaware that we have them.
God created marriage when He created Eve from the side of Adam, and told them to go forth and multiply. Jesus raised it to the Sacrament when He performed His first miracle at the Marriage feast of Cana. Husband and wife are the ministers of the Sacrament and give themselves to one another every day. The priest or deacon who witnesses the ceremony is the Church’s official witness. Every act of selflessness is an image of the Trinity and gives life to the couple.
All of us who are baptized share in the priesthood of Christ, but there are men who have a special share in that priesthood. They are ordained and receive the Sacrament of Holy orders. They receive grace to serve God’s people through their ministry. There are three levels of Orders- Deacons, Priests and Bishops. Each serves at a different degree. Like married couples, these men share the love of God with those they serve.
the book, Rediscovering Catholicism is a wonderful book that reminds us of the great genius of our Catholic Faith. The author, Matthew Kelly, shows us how to become the best version of ourselves, or as Christ said, “To be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Take the time to read the book and allow the Spirit of Christmas to live in your heart every day.
May you have a happy, healthy and blessed New Year and may the Light of Christ shine through you this year.