Blog # 419 A Living Faith
This blog will be an almost verbatim copy of an essay in the parish bulletin of the
church where I was Pastor back on the 1st Sunday of Advent 1995. It reminded me of and renewed for me a special grace I had received the day before and I thought it might be helpful to you as we prepare for the gift of Christmas 2014.
Yesterday afternoon I went over to Toomsboro to anoint Inez. It was a special privilege for me. You could tell from the number of cars and pick-up trucks parked around the house there was something going on that was of special importance to the family.
Inez lay on the couch in the front living room. One of her grandsons was cradling her head on his lap and her son from Savannah was kneeling by her side. Her older sister, in from Arizona,
announced the priest had arrived. Though I had not met any of them in person, I felt I knew them all well from their pictures there in the living room and the descriptions and stories Inez had given me of them on the regular occasions when I brought her Holy Communion. I knew she loved them deeply. Now I was witnessing some of their deep love for her.
It is about twenty miles from here to her house, and about the same distance to the nearest Catholic churches in Dublin and Milledgeville. As far as I know, Inez is the only Catholic in the whole town of Toomsboro. What a difference it is from the experience of being Catholic in Chicago,
where she used to live, with St. Peter's church on one corner and St. Paul's just a few blocks away, with St. Symphorosa a few blocks in the other direction.
The distance between churches and the number of Catholic friends and neighbors may be
different, but the content of her faith is the same. The faith she learned and loved as a girl is the same faith she knew and loved yesterday afternoon. She had learned, as all of us who attended parochial schools in our youth, there were seven Sacraments or holy signs of God's special love for those who believed. One of the special signs is for those who are sick and in danger of death. It was hers yesterday, not just as one on the list of seven she had memorized for religion class, but as an experience.
It was the experience of a special personal here and now love of God the Father of Jesus and her Father. There was real oil and a real sign of the Cross on her forehead and hands. Jesus was not just a memory handed down from age to age through nearly two thousand years of history, but a real person, with a real message and a tangible expression of God's love, with real power over death, taking away its sting and giving it meaning and value by transforming it by faith into love. On the way home I thought of what a great privilege it was to be used by God to deliver this grace, and what a joy it was to believe.
I began to tie in the experience yesterday afternoon with our liturgical celebration of the first Sunday of Advent today. Earlier in the week I had been thinking of ways we might more effectively gather the graces that are offered by the celebration of the season of Advent. All around us stores, homes, TV, and radio are appearing and sounding as though Christmas was already here. Money rather than faith seems to be the major ingredient in creating a merry Christmas.
Then an interesting thing happened when I was walking over to the track by the high school this morning. It was still dark, and the light on the pole by the entrance to the track was casting a strong shadow of myself on the pavement in front of me. It does this every morning, but this morning it made a special impression. It reminded me of the image I shared with you last Spring with regard to illustrating how God and we work together to produce God's plan for us on earth. The sun, our bodies, and the pavement all work together to produce an obedient shadow. So it is with God's love, shining on us and producing an obedient effect on the world around us.
The artificial light this morning did a similar thing without the sun. I thought of this in relationship to the celebration of Christmas. Music, dancing, sounds and experiences of great joy can be produced at Christmas on the calendar without explicit reference to Jesus. But the time will come when we need more than music and dancing and all the earth can offer to make a happy life or a genuine merry Christmas. We need something or someone to tie it all together, to give meaning and value to it all, from beginning to end, and especially the end.
This is where Jesus comes in.. Advent is our invitation to discover the reality and power of His coming this year, in our life. It should not be just another Christmas, one more added to the many as though they were stones piled in a heap, but rather joined to all the rest we have enjoyed as one whole, the story of God's love in our life, creating in Jesus our eternal name. Inez' anointing yesterday afternoon was related to her anointing at her Baptism. Jesus makes this possible.
Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, John, Jesus, you, and I are all in a row, part of God's eternal plan for all of creation. Come, Lord Jesus ! Teach us your plan. Help us love you. one another, and the world around us more and more. Amen! Inez, pray for us.