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Pastor's Letter 20221218 - 18 December 2021 - Faith

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December 18th, 2022

Fourth Sunday of Advent


A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  “Faith”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

(Isaiah 7:10-14)  As part of the process of redemption, God promised not merely to “visit,” but to “be with” us.  There is no greater evidence of His concern for creation than the Incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Isaiah wished king Ahaz to share his confidence in the Lord’s sovereignty over all the events of history.  His words in today’s First Reading point to a future Messiah, to be born into the Davidic line; but to his listeners, (ca. 730-710 B.C.,) they were taken to mean a contemporary savior.  As Ahaz’s reign did not bring the expected security, but led to the Babylonian Captivity, the people reinterpreted the verses in a future context.


(Romans 1:1-7)  That promise, fulfilled in the Incarnation of Jesus, has forever dispelled the sadness and separation born of sin.  Through His Davidic ancestry, Jesus was “royal;” but by virtue of his divine origin, He became Redeemer and Lord.

Paul’s opening verses of the letter to the Romans attempts to acquaint Christians with his vision of the Gospel, and to justify its orthodoxy.  The Gospel of Jesus realized the hopes and prophecies of the Old Testament and also gave the Good News of Salvation its universal scope.  Paul’s claim to the title “apostle” was challenged, since he had not personally known the earthly Jesus.  He explained to the nations that his service was the full realization of the universal salvation promised to the people from the Son of God in the Psalms.  We are gratified that our belief in the Church and the Mystical Body of Christ is reinforced by history.


(Matthew 1:18-24)  All who rejoice in the fact of Jesus as “God with us,” are called to translate their joy into tangible service and concrete acts of love.  The “why” of Jesus’ birth is far more important than the “how.”  

Jesus’ nativity was not the result of purely human evolution, but due to the loving intervention of God in human history.  The infancy narratives and the birth announcements are highly theological affirmations of the faith of the early Church.  Immediately preceding today’s Gospel Reading, Matthew traced Jesus’ genealogy, intended to confirm that He truly was a Son of David.  His birth announcement was an expression of belief in Him as the Son of God, for the early Church, and for us, as well.  Matthew stresses that Jesus’ Incarnation is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

“Fear” at Christmas

Some people actually fear—perhaps, even, “dread,”—the approach of Christmas!  Not that the “holiday” causes it, but the extra work, the “hassle” and the “splurge” of the season puts a strain on overstretched finances, not to mention the interpersonal conflicts which arise during annual family gatherings.  Some trepidation stems from painful memories—of a death or tragedy that occurred at this time.  

For those who have suffered a loss, it may be felt again, at Christmas.  Intense feelings of loneliness can result from seeing others surrounded by loved ones, reopening old wounds, that may have begun to heal.  Others may be apprehensive of their advancing age, increasing infirmities or a more palpable sense of mortality.  

But those who fear the approach of Christmas can take heart and hope from the story of the first Christmas—there was plenty of anxiety present then, too.  In fact, all the main characters were frightened at one time or another.  Consider…

Mary was afraid, to be sure, on awakening to the greeting from the angel Gabriel:  “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have won great favor with God” (Luke 1:28-31.)  She listened, amazed, as the angel told her she would conceive and bear a Son, and His name would be called Jesus.  Mary trusted God, overcame her fear, and said “Yes” (her “fiat,”) to what He was asking her to do.

Joseph was afraid when he found Mary to be pregnant, even though they hadn’t yet lived together as man and wife.  (Custom had it that in such cases, a man was entitled to divorce an unfaithful wife, and have her “banished” from society.)  But Joseph  also heard an angel say: “Do not be afraid to take Mary home, as your wife, because she has conceived a son…by the power of the Holy Spirit!” (Matthew 1:20.)  Joseph was a just man and trusted in God, so  he overcame his fear, and did what was in Mary’s best interest.  

…It’s not surprising to believe that the shepherds were fearful, when they experienced the nighttime appearance of angels of the Lord in their fields.  The Gospel tells us when the angels appeared, the “Glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But, they also trusted God, went to Bethlehem, saw the Christ Child, and “returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God” (Luke 2:8-20.)  

All of us are touched by fears, but we must not allow them to cripple us.  We have to move from fear…to faith.  Christmas can be a great help, urging us to trust that which enables us.  Somehow, it’s easier to trust in God at Christmas than any other time, because we feel He is very close and very loving to us.  In Jesus, God came in the form of a human Child, and surely, no one can be fearful of a baby….

Christmas challenges us to enter into an intimate relationship with God, trusting we will receive love…and always more love….  We all must do what we can to minimize our fears, and then ask God to…”grant [us] the serenity to accept the things [we] cannot change; to change the things [we] can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” (Serenity Prayer.)  

Loneliness can also be seen as avenue to grace.  If we feel lonely at Christmas, we should not be alarmed.  Remember that the human soul is always longing for something more (or for someone else)—that is our nature.  Christmas awakens our deepest longings that only God can fulfill.  Let’s not allow our fears to prevent us from opening our hearts to the “great joy” announced to the shepherds.  Even when we are “alone,” we must remember the space in our soul reserved for a special guest…Our Blessed Lord, Jesus.  

The Christmas Debate

Some people believe that the modern Christmas has nothing to do with the birth of Christ, and therefore, should be abandoned.  Meanwhile, others uphold the opposite position.  

It has been said that Christmas is merely “one big spending spree.”  When one thinks of all the gifts, decorations, food, drink and so on, that we all buy, it might seem that the ultimate recipients of any reward are the merchants!  

But remember, no one is forced to “buy” anything—and most of the things that are purchased are “gifts” to be presented to others….  If one cherishes the “true meaning of Christmas,” it can be disturbing to witness abuses.  Yet, we know that in all human endeavors, abuses can be found.  Not everyone chooses to act responsibly.  Always consider, if you open a window for fresh air, it’s possible for flies and mosquitoes to enter as well…

It's not unusual for excessive indulging in food, drink and merriment to occur during this season, with all the holiday parties and such.  But, again, “free will” has been given to each of us by our Creator, and people will act accordingly, irrespective of the “season.”  

We must concentrate our attention on the joy in the celebrations that accompany Christmas.  A vivid example is the seasonal music that starts to pervade our soundwaves and media beginning well in advance of Christmas.  Judging by its inclusion of songs—some written and first performed decades, and sometimes centuries ago—there is hardly any more cherished music to be found.

If we concentrate our “investigation of Christmas habits” on any subgroup of people in the world, the poor and the lonely certainly would merit our attention.  Their plight is seemingly more common a topic for discussion at Christmas.  However, there also are many more charitable events, (i.e. food drives, coat drives, etc.,) and just plain “giving” for their benefit, during Christmas, too.

As regards expectations, those who pin their hopes on the “worldly side” of Christmas will more often be disappointed.  But if we concentrate on the “spiritual side” of the season, we never will be.  Christmas precipitates an inordinate amount of goodwill.  No one can deny that “barriers” do crumble, and a good deal of “togetherness” results.  We see neighbors reaching across fences, forgotten people being remembered and scattered families reunited.  Even if it doesn’t last long, it shows the way we ought to go.  Surely, it’s getter to glimpse the light, than to live in perpetual darkness!  

Our world seems to be drowning in bad news, and the omnipresent media tends to proffer “headlines that bleed.”  (By contrast, I readily enjoy the many “happy” videos and stories I see and read daily in so many places.  How can anyone be made unhappy by “pet videos,” or lovely “homecoming” stories?)

When all is said and done, we should focus our attention on the most anticipated, and arguably, the greatest event in human history: namely, the Incarnation—when God’s Son came to earth to confer upon all of us the dignity of being Children of God!

May God Richly Bless You!


Technical difficulties today…no Mass recording was possible.  


Recollection of Joy.docx

Edited by Father Michael
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