Christmas and Holy Day Insights from Etobicoke

Message of the Provincial 12.23.21

Dear Confreres,

I had the privilege of visiting our community in Etobicoke this past week. It was great to see how our confreres and colleagues are still serving the young and their families, even during the pandemic. I asked some of the confreres from this community to share brief reflections on the holy days during the Christmas season. I hope you enjoy their wise insights as much as I have.

Christmas (Fr. Frank Kelly). What do we really need this Christmas? Do we need store-bought presents for everyone? Do we need matching napkins for the table? Do we need lights on every side of the house? Do we need plum pudding, fruitcake, and six different kinds of cookies? Do we need to keep ourselves busy with decorating and baking? As generous and creative as it is to use our hands to make things, the question remains: are the things we are so lovingly making or buying really needed? Or do we have a greater need to sit and reflect on the meaning of God made manifest in Jesus? Do we have a greater need to spend less time fretting about what we need to do and have more time to visit with family and friends; to give Christmas gifts that do not need wrapping, like a smile, a kind word, a call, a conversation; to give the gift of ourselves; to stop and breathe and let the Spirit rise up in our hearts and souls and minds, as Mary of Nazareth did; to really wish everyone we meet a Merry Christmas? We all need to create space in our lives to welcome God, who come in surprising ways. We all need to be like Mary of Bethany, who listened attentively to the Master, and to keep the busy Martha in check. Will you have a Martha or a Mary Christmas? We may be busy with so many things, but just one thing is needed.

Holy Family (Fr. John Louis Mariapragasam) Just as angel of the Lord said to St. Joseph, "Son of David, do not be afraid!" (Mt. 1:20), so he says to each of us, "Do not be afraid!" We need to set aside all anger and disappointment and to embrace God’s plan, even when it is not what we expected, not with mere resignation, but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground. The words of God to Joseph echo once more for us today, "Do not be afraid!" Fear, stress, and confusion are all normal to the human condition. God doesn't ask us to erase these feelings from our lives, but to give them to Him. He calls us to abandon ourselves to His Loving Providence and not become imprisoned by these emotions. St. Joseph may have feared for his family’s safety and well-being, but he was not consumed by fear or paralyzed by doubt. Pope Francis calls him, "creatively courageous." He writes, "In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it." Joseph engaged—let us ask St. Joseph to teach us to abandon ourselves to God. We ask God to strengthen our families and communities, make a home of us, and help us to be true signs and bearers of His Love. Despite the difficulties we face, this can be achieved through love, forgiveness, and trust in Divine Providence. May St. Joseph continue to motivate us all, so we can inspire every family and community to become a home where we abide in peace with Jesus and Mary.

The Epiphany (Fr. Joseph Ho) We are familiar with the refrain of the Christmas carol, "We Three Kings;" "Oh! star of wonder, star of might, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading still proceeding, guide us to the perfect light." Jesus is that perfect light. God is so generous and loves us so much that he sends us his own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The three Magi are grateful for this wonderful gift. They come from the East to bring their own gifts to Jesus and desire to show their own love and gratitude to God. They are overwhelmed with joy to encounter God with us, God’s love for us incarnate. These Wise Men represent us all. By the light of faith, we recognize Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us; come, let us adore him.

The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God (Fr. Enzo Trigatti) Jesus is the head of the great family, the Church, which St. Paul compares with a body. We all become members of this mystical Body of Christ through our Baptism. The Church teaches us that, if the Blessed Virgin has given birth to Jesus, the head of this Body, of course she has the mission to also give spiritual life to his members, to all the faithful people. Otherwise, she gave birth to the head without his members. Rightly, Pope Leo the Great says, "The birth of the Head is also the birth of his members." Moreover, Jesus himself confirmed this truth when, dying on the Cross, he "said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother.'" (Jn. 19:26-27) As we know, the Beloved Disciple in that moment symbolized all the disciples of Jesus. At the ended of Vatican Council II, Pope Paul VI proclaimed Mary "Mother of the Church," that is, Mother of us all. This new year, may we live as worthy children of so noble a mother.

During these holy days, as always, you are in my prayers. Wishing you all a blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Fr. Tim Zak

December 23, 2021 - 8:00am

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