“O Holy Night”
It is five nights before Christmas, and all through the parish, we have volunteers stirring, to help those we cherish. A bit corny, I realize, but as I write this on Tuesday evening…I do want to take a moment to thank all the many active volunteers who have made the Christmas outreach and welcoming of our parish so effective. The Knights of Columbus, the Council of Catholic Women, our Staff Members, Religious Education instructors, the Simbang Gabi organizers, our Prayer Groups, the many active Parish Ministry participants, our Eucharistic Adoration Leader and her growing roster of committed Parishioner Adorers, and the on-going work of our Building Committee Chairman and his committee men and women.
Today, we are again providing a Christmas gift of an excellent Matthew Kelly book for every family. If a family member who is living away from here, is back home, visiting for the holidays, I want them to receive a copy of the book as well. The title…“Resisting Happiness” tends to beg the questions from all of us…”Does this really apply to me? Am I consciously resisting what I strive, each waking hour, to attain?” Our first impulse is normally, “of course not! Happiness is my constant quest!” Saint Augustine put it quite simply, when he wrote in his “Confessions”, speaking to God: “…for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” Restlessness robs us of our happiness, and restlessness will always persist when we turn (even the slightest bit) away from God. Happiness and peace go hand in hand. And our peace was the focus of the laudatory greeting given by the heralding Angels at our Saviors birth…” Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men of good will.” This quote from the Christmas Day Gospel of St. Luke should be our mental theme song for this special Christmas Octave we are about to enter. If we prioritize praising our gracious and merciful God, happiness will indeed be ours as we embrace lives of “good will”…living in accord with His will.
Any meandering from His Will; any straying off in quest of the ballyhooed promises of happiness claimed by material things, ignites our resistance. And…if we take a few quiet moments to assess how often we look elsewhere in our wide world for our happiness (at the expense of our continued communion with God) we become sadly disappointed. Bye, bye happiness…hello loneliness. Please consider my simplistic attempt at citing the poignancy of Matthew Kelly’s book; of how easily “resisting happiness” can slip into all of our lives, as a sincere recommendation that all of us, young and not so young, can benefit from the wisdom it contains. Keep in mind that the devil revel in his ability to move us to resting the good. I hope you enjoy and benefit from this book as much as I have.
You have come here today, hopefully to celebrate what this entire Holy Season is all about. I tend to wax nostalgic in this season of memories, old and new. And ringing in my ears are the lyrics of the hymn, “0 Holy Night”…as they so beautifully capture the picture of why we celebrate. What do you think? …
“O holy night…The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world ...in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth
The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder brings a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees...0 hear the angel voices
0 night divine…0 night when Christ was born
0 night divine…0 night, 0 night divine. “…. This followed by our singing…
“Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King.”
conveys the seriousness and the salvific joy that this Sacred Christmas event was meant to evoke, bringing with it an awareness that Christ’s “First Coming” was the necessary salvific precursor for His Messianic “Second Coming”. Traditional Nativity displays convey a humble scene that includes shepherds, angels, barnyard animals, and wise men. While I have never seer: it included, what is missing in this setting, is a roughly hewn wooden cross…on which…this precious infant (referred to in the bible as God in the flesh) will ultimately end His earthly life…for our redemption.
While this thought may seem out of place, just think. If it were not for the cross, there would really be no need to remember and celebrate the “First Christmas”, aka the “First Coming”. We have been urged to be preparing all during these 4 weeks of Advent, not so much for the imminence of our December 25th memorial celebration of Christmas day (although that is relevant) but we are more being urged by our liturgy to treat this time as a “Basic Training”, if you will, to engrain deeply in our persona, the traits and behaviors that will ensure our readiness and fitness, to joyfully meet the Lord at His inevitable (and promised) “Second Coming”.
Our fitness will come by striving to imitate our Dear Savior, who although God, humbly became “one of us”. Continuing that humility, He then modeled for us, servitude and service, which can only emanate from one who exudes great love, great mercy, and great forgiveness. And guess what? If we neglect these virtues, we are resisting happiness. He did not leave us clueless. He humbly provided us the “playbook” for happiness with the 10 Commandments of the Father, His 8 Beatitudes, His 7 Sacraments, the 5 Precepts of His Church and His synthesis of them all with the 2 Great Commandments.
On behalf of all the parish Staff and Volunteers, I wish you a most Blessed and Happy Christmas Octave,