December 21, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I have heard this refrain repeatedly: “It just doesn’t seem like Christmas.” We all wonder what God is teaching us through this time of difficulty. Anytime our normal schedule is broken because of personal illness, necessary travel or the untimely death of a loved one, our Christmas season is challenged, to say the least, and cannot be celebrated in a normal manner. Rarely in my experience, however, does this happen to everyone at the same time.
How many unbroken traditions of family or friend get-togethers during the Christmas season are now unfulfilled? The visitations and drop-ins that are so much a part of our social-networking are now, for the sake of health and safety, put off until next year with the hope of some normalization. Even Christmas caroling and Christmas choirs are suppressed, acknowledging the observance of social-distancing.
What is God teaching us this Christmas? I remember Francis Cardinal George, who ordained me a bishop and, without a doubt, was the intellectual leader of the USCCB, would boldly declare: “It’s not about you, and it’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus Christ.” Sometimes, we can get caught up in focusing on ourselves. Remember, St. Peter successfully walked on the Sea of Galilee until he took his eyes off Jesus and worried about the wind and the waves.
Lesson one: Keep your eyes on Jesus. His birth is a statement that God loves us and will never abandon us.
Being separated from family and friends is challenging. Oh, I know that Zoom is available. But, I have never experienced satisfaction from a Zoom hug and kiss. We really need to be physically present to experience the joyful face of a family member or friend when they open the thoughtful gifts we have given. We have deep feelings for our family and friends, and rightfully so, because they have shared life with us. Jesus also had deep feelings for His family and friends.
We hear little of St. Joseph, His foster father, but I can imagine that Joseph’s death emotionally touched Jesus. I know Jesus was consoled by the fact that Joseph had joined God the Father after fulfilling his responsibility here on earth. There are three words in John’s Gospel that causes me to shiver: “And Jesus wept.” Jesus did not even cry during scourges or His crucifixion, but there at the tomb of Lazarus, His friend, Jesus wept.
This Christmas may mean separation from our family and friends, but God is teaching us how important these relationships are.
Lesson Two: Express your love for family and friends. Time is short, and life is fragile, but love lasts forever.
We might complain that we cannot celebrate Christmas the way we want. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not as I will, but as you will.” We often forget how blessed we are to be able to exercise our faith and witness to Christ amid the difficulties and confusion that surrounds this pandemic. Jesus tells us, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We have an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of our faith by our lives. We declare our confidence in Jesus, even during these trying times, to assist others to see the Way.
Lesson Three: Our prayer: “I trust in God. I trust in His word.” A sense of peace is present in the lives of those who seek to do the will of God.
A Blessed Christmas to all of my LOA readers, as we view the Christ Child in the manger. We know that He comes to declare the Love of God for us – and, our gift to Him is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee