We fulfill His promise

At Mass for Christmas Eve we will hear four little words from the Gospel of Matthew that sum up what the Christmas celebration is all about: “God is with us.” The announcement of the birth of the Lord brought great hope and joy to the people. They had been struggling in many ways. There were great economic difficulties, there was an occupying army and political oppression.  We heard the people a couple of weeks ago ask John the Baptist “what should we do,” suggesting a great Spiritual hunger that was within the people of the time.  

The coming of Christ into the world didn’t end the economic or political issues, but it provided a great Spiritual relief. In the years to come, Christ’s preaching would lead the people to a deeper love and understanding of God, not just as the Creator, but as the Heavenly Father Who desired that humanity live in union with Him.  This relationship would be the foundation that would prevent people from being swept away by the political and economic storms that occur in life. 

Through Christ’s preaching and living among us He taught us how to live as children of God and how to persevere in our relationship with Him regardless of what was happening in the world around us. He showed us how we could live in joy and peace. Throughout the centuries we have been gifted by the example and inspiration of so many, namely the saints, who have showed us practically how we can remain true to God in the ordinary circumstances of life. The Lord continues to reach out to us through the Church and the Sacraments to give us the graces we need to continue to grow in relationship with Him.

There is more than a Gospel reading at Mass though.  The first reading at the Christmas Eve Mass is from the prophet Isaiah and opens with the words “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch” (Is 62:1).

We who have been so blessed to be recipients of the Lord’s love and graces and who are able to live in joy with the knowledge God is with us are meant to share those graces and love with others.  The world needs to know that God is with us, even in the darkest times of our lives.  At our Baptism, our parents and godparents were given a lighted candle. They were told that it represented the light of Christ and that light was meant to be kept burning brightly in the heart of the newly baptized.  We are reminded as we grow in our relationship with the Lord that the light is also meant to be shared.  When we share the light of Christ with others it burns brighter.

So we look with the eyes of faith for those opportunities to share His love with others. We recognize when we need to point out His presence for others to see. It also means that when we discern a career and vocation in life we ask ourselves how we can best share the Good News that “God is with us.” As Catholics we bear that message in everything we do. 

This discernment involves identifying our gifts and talents, our interests and strengths. It involves personal reflection, but also conversation with family and friends, those who know us best.  Finally, it needs to include the One Who knows us better than anyone, including ourselves: God. When that light of Christ burns brightly, we are guided by the light and live the joy promised by God. 

Discernment is not just for those who are asking themselves what their vocation in life is.  It should be a lifelong process as well.  Within my vocation and my career, how can I give God glory? How can I let others know that God is with us? How can I best live according to my identity as a child of God?  This continuing identity requires that we spend time in prayer, participate in the Sacramental life of the Church and seek to grow in a deeper knowledge and understanding of God.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to discover that there is still a lot of darkness in our world. So many live in fear and anxiety, some even in despair.  Violence, addiction, poverty, hunger (physical and Spiritual) and homelessness are found everywhere, in every community, in every family. The Lord has promised us that He will never abandon His people. It is through us that He fulfills this promise.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts