The Christmas Season is always bittersweet for me. It all started in December 1977. Members of my family were back and forth to the doctor due to the flu or upper respiratory infections. On Saturday evening, December 10 my mother experienced an episode and went to the ER the next morning with my dad. All was well. She did not experience a heart attack – rather a reaction to newly prescribed medications.
That Sunday night my dad headed to the 5:30 Mass only to return within 30 minutes complaining of nausea and other symptoms. The assumed culprit was the flu. In reality, it was a heart attack. My dad was admitted to the hospital and by all accounts was doing well until he wasn’t. On Saturday, December 17 we returned home from the Funeral Mass of a close family friend in the parish only to get a call to come immediately to the hospital. It was a long day. I remember praying in the St. John’s Hospital Chapel, “God, please let my dad live.” By 7:00pm that evening my dad, age 47, passed into the arms of God. On December 27th my mother turned 46. In a matter of days my mom lost her best friend, Joanie and the love of her life, Jim. Me, I was numb.
It was the outreach of close family, friends, neighbors and the parish community that saw us through. And isn’t that what Christmas is about – community and outreach to one another so that we are reminded of the joy of the season – that God chose to understand our reality by becoming one of us.
Death is a part of our human reality, a very painful part that shapes our lives for better or worse. As we close this Year of St. Joseph I cannot help but wonder how old Jesus was when Joseph died? The last mention of Joseph in the New Testament occurs when Jesus is about 12 years old. I wonder who Mary turned to for community and financial support.
May we as the St. Paul’s Community look around our neighborhoods, parishes and workplaces and seek out those who mourn or are lonely during this festive time. In reality the Menorahs, Kwanza Kinara, with its seven candles and Christmas Trees and the house lights that shine brightly, are ways that religious and secular cultures keep the reality of darkness at bay.
Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world! Science tells us we are a walking energy field! Let’s radiate God’s love and compassion this Christmas Season! Let us be beacons of hope for those who experience oppression. Let’s keep the darkness at bay. At this moment I hear strains of, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine….let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!” How about you?