Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
‘Christmas is the promise that we are not alone in the difficulties of life’
by Bishop Thomas Daly
(From the December 17, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
For 12 years prior to my appointment as auxiliary bishop, I served as the chaplain and pastor to St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael, Calif. Founded for the orphans of the Gold Rush over a 160 years ago, St. Vincent’s continues to provide a caring home for young men whose troubled lives were very different from most of the students I taught during the week at Marin Catholic High School.
I remember the first Christmas Eve Mass I celebrated there, nearly 15 years ago. There was a tradition that the altar servers stood on both sides of the priest at Communion time. A young mother with a small baby cradled in her arms came up to receive the Eucharist. Instinctively, the altar server put out his arms to hold the baby. The mom gently placed the infant in his arms. The server held the baby and then handed him back to his mother, whose eyes were filled with tears, along with many others who witnessed this tender expression of love. That experience was a powerful statement of just how children have a way of entering into the story of Christmas, because it is one with which they so easily identify.
At Christmas, we celebrate the Good News that God has become accessible, not just to children, but to all of us. God is now revealed in a human life, in a life that began as all our lives do: as a vulnerable and helpless infant. Newborn children are very accessible. They draw us towards themselves, and that may have been why the young server, whose home now was St. Vincent’s, wanted to hold that newborn baby for a while. No words were spoken, but what was communicated was so powerful and heartfelt.
Christmas is the promise that we are not alone in the difficulties of life. Our Lord did not remove himself from the burdens of life. From his birth in a manger, as one who was homeless, to his death on the cross, Jesus always identified with the spiritually, materially, and physically poor of this world. So often, we want God to reveal himself in the dramatic and spectacular, yet Christmas reminds us that God is to be found right before our eyes: in the individuals, family members, and day-to-day life experiences we take for granted. In our prayer each day, especially in this Year of Mercy, we must ask for the grace to help heal those family relationships that are strained – many times, over what really was a misunderstanding or about matters of little importance.
Every year, people remark just how much goes into the Christmas holiday preparation – and then it is over so quickly. If the birth of our Savior will have lasting meaning well into the New Year, we must welcome our Lord as he comes to us in the wonder of every human being – especially the poor, the weak, and forgotten. A reminder we all need to hear, and a lesson the young altar server unknowingly taught many on that cold Christmas Eve night.
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