“Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). We have finished the Advent journey with a great desire of being the best prepared we can be for this very day. Today. we celebrate the great feast of Christmas. Today, we commemorate the great historical event which took place in the little town of Bethlehem of Judea; God becoming a human being, born of a virgin. For the first time in history, God reveals himself in the form of a baby. And that is the mystery of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. As we recall, we began Advent filled with hopes. We hoped for an increase of faith. We hoped that Christ’s peace would come upon our family and community. We hoped that our sins would be forgiven and that our adversities would be vanished. I am optimistic that with the arrival of Christmas, all of our Advent hopes are now a reality. It does not seem like it was long ago that I came to St. Patrick Parish. And yet, this is the second Christmas that I celebrate with you. It has been a great blessing working and celebrating faith with you. I hope we can celebrate many more Christmas’ together. Today, I would like to say thank you all for your dedication to St. Patrick Parish; and for your time, prayers and generosity to your parish. As we celebrate God’s love at Christmas, may we come to greater love and care for one another. Merry Christmas!
Dear St. Patrick’s Family,
We are already in the fourth Sunday of Advent, just a few days from the celebration of Christmas. Since this is the last month of the year, we look back and see that there were many events or moments which directly affected us. It could be that we arrived at the end of the year with anger, frustration, and sadness accumulated in our spiritual and emotional life. The joyful celebration of Christmas should be, dear family, the antidote to all of that which has gradually diminished our smile. This Holy Season is indeed an opportunity for us to forget and forgive the unfortunate and to move on with renewed spirits. It is time to enter into the mystery of Christ’s Nativity. And who else than the first people who experience Christmas to help us move into the mode of celebration and wonder. There was the holy couple, Elizabeth and Zechariah, parents of John the Baptist, who despite their old age never lost faith in God and at the end, were blessed with a baby. There was Mary and Joseph who were deeply surprised by the message of the Angel Gabriel, not being able to fully grasp the meaning of the message, and were humble enough to render their lives to God’s will. Yes, it is true that Advent and Christmas is a busy time for me as your priest; however, I very much enjoy this busy time. I enjoy it because the liturgy for this Season is so beautiful. The celebrations of our mother Mary, the Immaculate Conception and our Lady of Guadalupe are most joyful. I know this season can be busy and stressful for you too, thinking about those who will visit you, getting your Christmas shopping done, gathering the ingredients for the family meals and so on. Friends, let us prioritize what is essential to the Mystery of Christmas. It is about giving one’s time to one’s family, friends and to Jesus. It is about forgiveness and pardon. The best gift that you can give to St. Patrick’s is that you come and celebrate with us.
God bless the people of St. Patrick Parish.
This past Tuesday, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis opened the Holy Year of Mercy 2016. During this year, we celebrate above all God’s infinite mercy toward us. We celebrate the great love and mercy God showed us by sending His Son into the world for our sake. We celebrate God’s act of mercy in giving us a spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. How can we celebrate this Year of Mercy on a personal level? We are aware of the infinite mercy we have received from God. With grateful hearts then, we should give back from what we have received. Our Holy Church constantly invites us to practice acts of mercy. She teaches us about corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. Among the corporal works of mercy, we are called to be attentive to the bodily needs of others such as feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and the imprisoned, and burying the dead. Through the spiritual works of mercy Mother Church invites us to be attentive to the spiritual needs of people. They are counseling the doubtful, instructing those seeking knowledge of their faith, practicing fraternal correction, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offenses, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead. Dear friends, let us think and pray about these corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Let us make an extra effort during this Holy Year of Mercy to reach out to others through acts of mercy. Have a blessed and joyful Advent Season.
We are already lighting the second candle of our Advent wreath.
In today’s Gospel of Luke, we come across names such as Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate and Herod; places such as Judea, Galilee and Ituraea. What point is the evangelist trying to make by naming people and places in the Gospel? Mark wants to tells us that the mystery which we are about to celebrate in Christmas is not a myth or a fable. The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world is history. It is the history of salvation. It is God’s plan to save humanity from the bondage of sin.
Speaking of history, I watched the movie “The Story of the Nativity, the Truth of Christmas,” and I learned that in the Book of Numbers there is prophesy told by Balaam, a wise man from the east. The prophesy reads, “I see him though not now; I behold him, though not near; a star shall advance from Jacob and a staff shall rise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17). The Prophesy continues by stating that after that king is born he will dispossess Moab and Edom.
The wise men from the east who will come into the scene at the end of Christmas most probably knew about Balaam’s prophesy. Following the star, they went to Jerusalem, the capital city, to search for the newborn King. When Herod heard that the wise men from the east were asking for the newborn King, he became very distressed. He had reason to be distressed, because he was not a Jew. In fact, he was from the town of Edom. This new King, therefore, will dispossess him from his throne. Herod’s immediate reaction was to kill the newborn King in order to protect his kingdom.
As we continue our spiritual journey to Christmas, let us make it relevant by learning something new about Jesus. I invite you to go to www.formed.org (you have free access as a parishioner of St. Patrick Parish) and watch “The Story of the Nativity, the Truth of Christmas.” You will be surprised as to what you can learn from the experts.
I wish you a blessed and joyful Advent Season.
Rev. Johnson Lopez
Father Lopez is Pastor of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Rochelle, IL.