I don’t know about you, but these days of Advent have just flown by. . . Usually when you are watching and waiting – time seems to go a little slower – and perhaps it does – just not in December of 2021.
We began our journey with the hope that by the time Christmas arrived – we could be both a little more joyful and triumphant!
We’ve tried to achieve that by turning our worries and fears over to the Lord --- and --- having the motivation to live a more simple life, so we can be more generous. . .
This last Sunday of Advent, gives us our final way of the season to come to Bethlehem, to come to Christ, joyful and triumphant:
Which is to get our focus, our attention, our energy – off of ourselves – and on to others – by valuing our relationships.
We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav-lers on the road; we are here to help each other / walk the mile and bear the load.
Mary, as soon as the angel Gabriel was finished telling her the good news of the son to be born to her – Mary was so overjoyed – she had to tell someone about it – and so she set out – and traveled to the hill country IN HASTE to a town of Judah to tell her cousin Elizabeth the news she had just received ----- only to find out that Elizabeth, herself, had some good news to share about the birth of her son who will be named John.
That’s what family and friends are for – to share our good news with, as well as to comfort each other through bad news, and to stick together no matter what. . .
The late actor, Robin Williams, once said that family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.
We are not on this journey of life alone – so if we value our relationships: with God, with family, with friends --- then we have to spend time nurturing those relationships.
Way back in 1990 – hard to believe that was 31 years ago – the first Mrs. Bush to live in the White House, Barbara --- gave a commencement speech at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts.
In that speech she spoke of three choices everyone should make in their lives:
First, to believe in something larger than oneself – which is a choice each of us has made in being followers of Jesus Christ and belonging to this parish of St. Patrick.
2nd – which is very appropriate for us this Advent season – is to make the choice to have JOY in your life – life, Mrs. Bush said, is supposed to be fun and meaningful --- so enjoy it.
The 3rd choice Mrs. Bush said one should make in their lives – is to cherish your human connections: your relationships with family and friends.
She told the graduates – that for several years, they have had impressed upon them the importance of their careers and dedication to hard work – which of course they should have.
But, she said, as important as your obligations as a doctor, lawyer, or business leader will be, you are a human being first – and those human connections – with spouses, with children, with friends – are the most important investments you will ever make.
At the end of your life, she said, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal.
You will regret time not spent with a husband, child, a friend, or a parent.
To be joyful and triumphant during this Advent, when we get to Christmas, and throughout our lives – we must value our relationships. And if we value them – we spend time nurturing them.
But it’s not just our relationships with family and friends. . .
Pope Francis reminds us many times in his homilies and public comments that “we will be judged for our relationship with the poor.”
Pope Francis said that the first question Jesus will ask at the final judgment will be: “how did you treat the poor? Did you feed them? Did you visit those in prison, in the hospital? >>
Did you help the widow and the orphan? Because that was me: you either reached out to me – or ignored me.”
The Pope continues by saying: “If you want to honor the body of Christ – do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments at Mass – and then leave the Church neglecting the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness.”
I want to thank you for your generosity shown to the poor and the needy through our giving tree this year. . .Your donations and gifts help families in our school and those in El Salvador.
You help support young mothers and their newborns through Mother’s Refuge. And you will help the parish reach out and help the poor throughout the year with your donations to our Nottingham Society.
But what Pope Francis thinks will affect us the most is not just donating our money – but having a personal encounter with someone who is in need – even if it is just acknowledging their presence by speaking to them and listening to their story, and calling them by name.
May we never forget how blessed most all of us are – and how we need to share with those who have less than we do.
Just having a sense of gratitude and a generous heart ---- will go a long way in helping us be more joyful and triumphant.
And as the Trappist Thomas Merton would once said: “A Christian is committed to the belief that Love and Mercy are the most powerful forces on earth.”
So if we practice love and mercy during these last days of Advent and into the Christmas season and the New Year --- we will be joyful and triumphant.
Let’s end our Advent journey as we began it. Please join me in singing: O come all he faithful, joyful and triumphant, o come ye, o come ye – to Bethlehem. Come and behold him, born the king of angels; O come let us adore Him. O come let us adore Him. O come let us adore Him: Christ, the Lord!
Moments in time...