During these uncertain times, it is especially important for Christian stewards to have a mindset that the greeting “Happy New Year” really should mean: “I hope and pray for you a joyous year ahead in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ!” If we are to interpret this cheery salutation in that way, should we not consider similar greetings throughout the year? “Happy New Day!” In the lyrics of the popular gospel song “Oh, Happy Day!” we are reminded that Jesus taught us “… how to live rejoicing every day.” Be grateful for each of God’s amazing days. “Happy New Week!” The motto of many is to Live for the Weekend. Why not live for the entire week? Even as we await a post-pandemic era to arrive, let’s resolve to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others in our homes, offices and schools each week of the year. “Happy New Month!” When we examine our monthly planners and budgets, we should ask ourselves: Have I left room for Jesus Christ this month? How can I be a good steward of God’s gifts in the coming month? What am I willing to do this month for the sake of the Gospel? As we turn over 2020 to the history books, let’s approach 2021 with renewed vigor. Let us see the days, weeks and months ahead for the God-given gifts they truly are: “Happy New Year!”
When Jesus is presented in the Temple, our Blessed Mother formally offers him to God’s service without reservation. It is a service that Simeon prophetically foretells: a service to God that will turn the old laws and cultural norms upside down. As we await the dawn of a new year, are we destined to hold on to old habits and customs tightly or like Jesus, are we willing to serve the Lord and proclaim the Gospel in new and creative ways?
In today’s Christmas Mass at dawn we have the Gospel reading that God has entered quietly into the world. Not into the great city of Jerusalem, but into a small village about five miles south. Not into a noble family, but to an outcast couple keeping the newborn in a manger. Not announced by royal edicts, but to common shepherds, the first human heralds of Christ’s birth. As Christian stewards we simply allow Christ to live in us no matter what our circumstances happen to be. We allow Christ to share his love with us and reflect that love out to others. We now are the heralds of Christ’s Incarnation. What an unimaginable gift from a generous Lord. Good stewards rejoice in this gift and give glory to God.
Please refer to our Events calendar for times of services.
In today’s Gospel reading we have the story of the Annunciation, when the angel of the Lord announced to Mary that she would give birth to Christ through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Mary allowed God’s messenger to speak to her. She was attentive, not afraid to enter into a dialogue, then unconditionally obedient. Mary’s acceptance of this mystery is a stewardship model for us. Good stewards remain open to the incursions of divine life into the normal course of their daily lives. How open are we to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our own lives? What might we do this last week of Advent to be more attentive to the Lord?
The wonderful joy we feel in December as we await the coming of the Christ child is not so joyful for the millions of children in the United States who will go hungry this Christmas. In every community in the United States where a county election commission announced the results of last month’s historic elections, children woke up hungry. They spent the day hungry. They went to bed hungry. In fact, more than 8 million children go to bed hungry every night. As many as 17 million children nationwide are affected by food insecurity, a phenomenon defined by experts as inconsistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. The consequences and costs of child hunger are severe. Research shows that lack of nutrition can permanently alter a child’s brain architecture, stunting intellectual capacity and a child’s ability to learn and interact with others. With hunger comes more frequent sickness and higher healthcare costs not to mention the resulting societal costs later on. Many children will not enjoy a bountiful meal on Christmas day, or any day, and for many, there may be no festivities, no tree, no gifts.
Christian stewards understand the obvious paradox as they celebrate the Incarnation of Christ as an innocent child. Finding comprehensive remedies to hunger in the United States and worldwide is complex, subject to debate, and transcends politics and ideologies. But what is not subject to debate in Catholic social teaching is that Catholics don’t let children go hungry.
Good stewards are motivated by the words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” Like the Good Samaritan, good stewards do not avert their eyes from the needs of the littlest ones who suffer in our own communities and neighborhoods. They know they are called to reach out. Saint Teresa of Calcutta also said: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
One way to keep Christ in Christmas is to Be Christ to a hungry child.
Sacred scripture teaches us that the prophet Isaiah was filled with God’s spirit when he proclaimed in the first reading of the Third Sunday of Advent that the Lord had sent him “… to bring glad tidings to the poor…” (Is. 61:1). It is that same spirit that keeps us mindful of the poor and suffering among us.
There are many things you can do during the Advent and Christmas seasons to assist efforts to bring glad tidings to the poor in your community. Where you can safely volunteer individually during this time of pandemic, as a family or as part of a group or parish, the possibilities for serving the poor do exist.
Consider following one or more of the seven suggestions below:
- Pray for the poor, and ask God to transform your own attitudes about those in need, realizing that all of us are poor in some way before God’s grace.
- Suggest that a petition be added to the Prayers of the Faithful asking that the members of the parish community open their hearts to the poor.
- Collect food items for our parish food pantry or one in our community.
- When it can be safely accomplished, volunteer to assist a pantry for a day of sorting, bagging or distributing.
- Participate, if only virtually, in the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day events on December 20, sponsored by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council
- Make your own generous financial gift to an organization that serves the poor. Every dollar that is donated to our “Poor of the Parish” fund stays here to help the local people in need.
- Think about ways to use your professional skills in a volunteer capacity at your chosen anti-hunger organization. There are many programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) screening and application assistance centers, food banks, and other anti-hunger organizations, that can use your help to make sure that all eligible people have access to nutrition assistance and anti-hunger programs.
You will find joy in fulfilling these stewardships tasks just as the prophet Isaiah found his gladness, causing him to exclaim: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul” (Is. 61:10).
In today’s second reading Paul concludes his letter to the Christian community at Thessalonica by providing it with actions to take as they wait for the return of the Lord. The first action is to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This does not sound easy in a time of pandemic. The two words that make this task difficult are “always” and “all.” This means giving thanks and rejoicing even when our circumstances are not always moments of joy and thanksgiving, or when we are confronted with a broken world. Prayerful stewards rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances, even during these uncertain and stressful times, because they are people of hope. A good reflection this week would be how the season of Advent can give you reason to hope.
On December 9, 1531 a poor Mexican Indian, Juan Diego, was walking by a hill near his village when he heard beautiful music. Suddenly there appeared a radiant cloud and within it a young Indian maiden dressed as an Aztec princess. The young maiden spoke to the 57-year-old widower in his native language and directed him to visit the Archbishop of Mexico with a request that a chapel be built where she stood. The archbishop demanded a sign of authenticity, and the maiden instructed Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of the hill where they met. Even though December was too late in the growing season for flowers to bloom, Juan Diego was surprised to find Castilian roses, not native to Mexico.
On December 12, Juan Diego opened his cloak before the archbishop, the roses fell to the floor, and in their place the image of the young virgin was miraculously imprinted on the fabric. News spread quickly, and shortly thereafter an estimated nine million Indians converted to Catholicism. Our Lady’s appearance to a poor, humble man is a compelling reminder that God’s loving embrace is all-inclusive; and that our Church’s preferential option for the poor is a Gospel imperative.
Please see our Events Calendar for information on the specifics of our parish celebration of this Feast Day.
For women in the ancient world, motherhood was prized and desired above almost all else. Sacred scripture tells of many women who pleaded with God to let them conceive. From Sarah, the mother of Isaac, to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, the Bible is replete with women who finally, in their old age, were granted the gift of motherhood for which they had begged God.
How marvelously significant it is, then, that in the town of Nazareth those many years ago, a young girl named Mary, unmarried and probably feeling altogether unready for motherhood, was visited by an angel who delivered God’s plea: would she give God a child? Mary’s response is a model par excellence for all those who aspire to be good stewards: “Behold, I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). And so the real mystery and beauty of Christmas is delivered: God turns the world upside down. In the words of the Magnificat, Mary proclaims the hope of every good steward: “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk. 1:46).
He has dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart, lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. Here is a new understanding of the God who desires not our begging and our pleas, but our ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to be active stewards in his plan of salvation. For the Christian steward, the consumerism, the gaudiness, the excesses of our cultural Christmas can be overcome by answering the call to live simpler lives, to use less, to feed the poor, to quiet ourselves in stillness rather than grow louder in frenzied activity.
In her book The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming, Professor Wendy Wright from Creighton University writes: “The ancient desert dwellers of our early Christian communities tell us that the surest way into the heart of God is to be still. In being still we learn to be attentive to the vast and hidden stillness that permeates all things.” In a world which prizes and desires wealth above so many things, the Christian steward finds in the stillness the true hope which lies at the heart of Christmas. Christ has come, and he comes again and again, and finally in the end, Christ comes. Once again, God implores us to receive this child in the stillness of our hearts, and respond to his call to transform the world’s values – to turn the world upside down.
Today’s second reading is about Christ’s coming again, “The day of the Lord,” Peter calls it, but that day isn’t December 25th. It’s that other day, that second-coming day about which Peter is concerned. He waits with great hope and anticipation for God to remake the earth into a place of perfect justice and peace. And he sets some demanding goals for the Christian community as it awaits that final day of accounting and reconciliation: strive to be at peace, without spot or blemish. Christian stewards work for peace. As we await the coming of Christmas, what can we do to promote peace in our homes, workplaces, community and world?