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Advent and Christmas are the time of year when we count our blessings and think about the needs of others.

In this holy season, we remember how much God loves us and how much he has given to us. We reflect on God coming to us as a newborn baby — to be with us, to redeem us, to make our lives happy in the knowledge of his love.

When we reflect on this, our hearts grow in gratitude. We want to thank God for the blessings and gifts of his love. We want to thank him by sharing his love with others, by making life better for others.

In that spirit of Christmas joy and giving, I had the blessing this weekend of taking part in our Cathedral parish’s annual Christmas “Adopt-a-Family” program.

Once again this year, through the work of so many volunteers, we were able to visit and help about 450 families and 1,800 children. We brought them food and Christmas presents for their families. And what a joy for us to see the smiles on the children’s faces as they received these gifts in the name of the baby Jesus!

It was a beautiful moment of grace for all of us! And it made me think about how much our Catholic Church gives to our neighborhoods and communities. Not only through our many parish programs and Archdiocesan institutions, but through all the quiet gifts that are given by our Catholic people.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis has been calling Catholics to go out into the “peripheries” of our society — to bring Christ’s love to the poor, the lonely, the vulnerable and the outcast.   

We are doing that every day here. In our Together in Mission program, our Catholic schools and Catholic Charities; through our hospitals and clinics, all the many ministries sponsored by our religious congregations and parishes.

We don’t measure our love in the amount of dollars we give or in the number of hours we volunteer. But everything we do to make life better for others is a work of love. Love for God and love for those he loves, who are our brothers and sisters.

As Catholics, we don’t help others because it makes us feel good. We help others because Jesus calls us to do it. Because Jesus himself did it. He showed us the way. By washing the feet of others. By feeding the hungry and healing the sick. By bringing hope to those whom our society forgets.

Jesus said to all of us: “For I have given you an example — that you also should do as I have done to you.”So our love for Jesus impels us.

The reality is that all around us in our society, many of our brothers and sisters are struggling. Let us try to do more to pick up those who have fallen. To heal their wounds. To bridge the gaps between those who have enough and those who do not. Let’s try to do more to strengthen the ties that bind us together as one human family.

Christmas teaches us that love is an exchange of gifts.

In his love, God gave his only Son as a gift. And because he has given us Jesus, we can dare to love — as he has loved. With the same total self-giving.

Because of the gift of Jesus, we can dare to give of ourselves — our time, our money, our talent. Everything we have comes from God. And in giving from God’s gifts, we find our true happiness and joy. When our soul is happy, we want to spread our happiness to others.

So as we count our blessings during these final days of Advent on the way to Christmas, let’s keep praying for one another. Pray for me in my ministry. And know that I am praying always for all of you — in your families, in your work, in your ministries.

In this holy season, let’s pray that we will all try to be closer to Jesus. That’s what Christmas is all about — God coming to be near us, to be with us. God comes to us as a Son and a little child to make it easy for us to love him.

And let us continue to try to “go out” of ourselves to make life better for others, and to bring them closer to the love of God.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas! And I ask Our Blessed Mother Mary to watch over us and to guide us — so that we can rejoice with the angels and the shepherds and share the joy of Christ, the joy of the Gospel, with others.

Archbishop Gomez’s book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx). Follow him at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.