As I write, I remember the sad loss of our Bishop, Bishop William Wright, who recently succumbed to illness. It was tragic not only for her family, but for our Church.
Bishop Bill has been the Shepherd of this Diocese for ten years and has guided our Catholic community through challenges that most of us may not have been fully aware of. He did so with a strength of character and a dignity that was a light not only for this Catholic Church, but for many others in the community at large. He will be sorely missed and will be fondly remembered.
His message this year may well have sprung from the challenge of his illness and the quiet acceptance of God’s plan as it unfolded, even though the end or purpose was hidden from his sight. “It is difficult to die, even for a good man” (Romans 5: 7), the words of Saint Paul remind us. Bill died with great grace and dignity and a strength that faith gives.
It feels like we’ve been waiting for Christmas this year for a very long time. I want to say that it looks like the Christmas decorations started showing up shortly after Easter, a slight exaggeration perhaps. Perhaps it was the feeling that this year is, was or has been “stinky”. And while I was very optimistic last year that 2020 was going to give us a “clear” vision and a bright future with many opportunities, COVID has come and changed our world forever.
I was not so optimistic this year. Perhaps the early anticipation of Christmas was a reflection of the fact that I was not alone. Even with a year full of challenges, the Christmas trees that stand in October, and the garlands and glitter already there, may have been a bit premature, even for a community feeling the effects of a “dark” year. .
I was recently reminded that COVID has happened as a result of floods, fires and droughts – 2019 has not been such a good year. This year, our communities were once again called to dig deep and accept “big” challenges. Resilience is sometimes hard to come by, especially when faced with multiple obstacles. We did it and we are celebrating Christmas again.
I can’t forget the footage that came out of Afghanistan this year as the Taliban again captured Kabul. Tragic is a word that immediately springs to mind. I feel sorry for those left behind, but I am grateful to the wider global community who responded with such generosity. The response of many nations saving thousands of people, causing them to wait with open arms that welcomed, comforted and made room for those seeking safety.
In recent days, talks with young Afghan footballers, teachers, medical staff and others who have been denied the freedom to be all of these things have been heartwarming. I also hear in them a sadness that these necessary skills will be denied to the Nation of Afghanistan, their homeland.
This good news fills us with hope in the midst of sorrow as the most vulnerable women, girls and children find refuge everywhere. There is mostly something in the human condition that just wants to help and save. We are inherently good, so created by a God who loves us and who sent his own Son to save us. It’s the heart of Christmas isn’t it.
Jesus was a refugee. Soon after his birth, he and his family were forced to flee oppression and violence and settle in a neighboring country. We have great examples of what “making a home” looks like for those seeking refuge.
The child who is born to us reminds a world with its broken parts that there is inherently good in each of us and somehow some deserve to be saved. Finally, this Son, the good “man” of Paul’s letter to the Romans, will give his life for us. It is the hope of Christmas.
For now, we are gathering in our churches and homes to celebrate the birth with great joy. The tree, the garlands and the sequins, the presents, the Christmas effort are all built in anticipation of this time when salvation enters our world.
This year has been a year of containment and isolation, but I feel more connected to these people and these events than ever before. I am amazed at how many people have gone out of their way to establish more regular contact than ever before with a neighbor, ward member, co-worker, friend, and member of their own family. I was reminded of what is really important in my life. It is the joy of Christmas.
How has containment made us more connected? Have more conversations? Be more aware of those who live alone or are more vulnerable to loneliness and loneliness? It’s a modern day miracle! I never thought I would be so grateful for technology, which had been the bane of my life until two years ago. While I can’t say I’m grateful for COVID, it reminded me of what my priorities should be.
This year has been marked by many challenges, no doubt, but also by amazing graces and blessings. When you sit around your tree this year with your family and friends, don’t forget to give thanks for the blessings they bring to your heart and to your home. At the heart of everything is Jesus, the Savior who was born to us and who in his unconditional love reminds us to be what we were created for, intrinsically good!
Have a wonderful, safe and joyful Christmas. May 2022 be COVID-free!