Saturday, January 28, 2012


It had been an unsettling kind of Advent.

Specifically, I think of the events in Newton, Connecticut--tragic, frightening, heart-wrenching, absolutely perplexing.

Then, a week ago, the world was supposed to end.  As you may recall, the weather seemed very appropriate for such a day, at least around these parts.  The sky was ominous and the wind blew with an alacrity rarely seen.  Our power threatened to turn off several times throughout the day.

It seems all out of place, amidst the presents, the cookies, the trees and lights.  This is the season of JOY!  Tragedy belongs to another season, not to Advent and Christmas.

I remember as a child feeling a bit of trepidation as Christmas neared.  I wanted the day to be as perfect as possible and the idea someone might fall ill or a blizzard might prevent the beloved family party from occurring was depressing.  

Holy Mother Church is very wise and she teaches us, her children, well...if we but listen and observe.

December 25 is the joyous celebration of Our Lord's birth.  But what follows?  It wasn't until a few years ago, when I began to attend daily Mass, that I realized December 26 honors the first martyr, St. Stephen.  

So, just a day after we remember Our Lord's birthday, we remember the first man to die witnessing to Our Lord.  

Then today--still within the Christmas season--we remember the Holy Innocents: the innocent children slaughtered by King Herod, as he sought to kill the newborn king.  As I reflected on the Holy Innocents today, I immediately called to mind those innocent children killed in Newton.  

It seems then that the very first Christmas, while joyful, was in many ways tragic, too.  

Our Lady and St. Joseph had no Christmas feast, no spectacular home decked out with holly and lights.  They made do with a lowly manger.  

Not long could they marvel at the shepherd's adoration of their Child or the gifts of the Magi.  Soon they had to flee to protect the life of the newborn babe.

From the very beginning, joy was intermingled with the Cross.  

The mystery of suffering surrounds us.  It's not something for which we should seek escape, as I longed for the "perfect Christmas" as a child.  But it is something we should try to understand and, even more so, to sanctify.

For the parents of the Holy Innocents, the death of their little children must have seemed utterly unnecessary, cruel, and confounding.  But, upon their passing from this world, they would have discovered that their children gave up their lives for...God!  Their lives were given to preserve the life of Christ.  Their glory in heaven must indeed be very great.

Their suffering on earth would, in heaven, become their greatest joy.

We should rejoice in times of joy, especially during this beautiful Christmas season!  And when our Christmas is marked with suffering, we should still say with St. Paul: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him" (Romans 5:28).

Last Friday, the day the world was to end, was by observation, quite terrifying.  I was driving in my car, the wind howling like a great fiend all around, the black clouds filling the sky.  

And then, as the hour of remembrance for the victims at Sandy Hook neared, I happened to look toward the west and there was the most magnificent, perfect rainbow, stretching from one end of the sky to the other.

So I rejoiced because God is truly our Emmanuel: God-with-us...especially in our suffering.

Merry Christmas!

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