Today we celebrate the wonderful feast of Christmas. And yet, dare I say for all of us, it will be the most unusual Christmas of our lives. None of us have escaped the impact that 10+ months of pandemic has made on our families, our parish, our nation, and our world. For many, loss of employment has created heavy financial strains. Others are dealing with the grief of having lost a loved one in some cases compounded by the reality that they were not allowed, due to COVID, to be physically present with that person at the very end. Others have walked the journey through being ill with this virus and then recovering, or have caught it recently and are still in the process of recovering. Children have had to learn how to adjust to an online classroom from a computer screen, and parents have had to shift work and life schedules and often adapt to having their children learning from home. All of us went through a period of months where there was no possibility of attending Mass, and many others due to their own physical condition are still unable to be present at Mass in person. It has been a difficult and disorienting year, in which all of us have carried the weight of the Cross in some form or another.In the midst of this experience, I wanted to share with you a portion of a Christmas homily delivered by Pope Saint Leo the Great in the mid5th century. It is one of the most famous homilies in the history of the Catholic Church, and it captures beautifully the meaning of the great celebration of Christ-mas. “Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birth-day of Life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to a new way of life. In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the dev-il, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind. And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?”As we are all so aware, as this difficult year of 2020 draws to a close, there is such a great need in our world for the peace, the joy, and the hope that Christmas brings. Christmas is a reminder of the in-credible love that God the Father has for each of us, and it brings the promise that, no matter what might be happening in the world, He never abandons us. For He is Emmanuel, “God with us.”Wishing the most profound graces and blessings upon all of you this Christmas season and through-out the upcoming year. May the darkness of 2020 give way to a bright dawn in 2021.
Kneeling with you at the manger,
Fr. John Paul