How do we celebrate Christmas when thousands of our brothers and sisters are still under evacuation and thousands more are afraid of the wildfires still burning throughout the region?
As we prepare for the Lord’s coming at Christmas, we need to continue to stay close in prayer to all the victims, the firefighters and emergency workers, and all those who are doing what they can to help.
I urge you to give generously to Catholic Charities, which is providing essential assistance throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. To donate to support the fire victims, please visit our webpage.
In my own prayer in these days, I keep coming back to the Virgin Mary. For me, Mary is the model and teacher of trust. And trust is what we all need more of, especially in these days of troubles and uncertainty.
The saints teach us that we need to trust God in every circumstance — and even more in times of suffering.
I was reading from the Catechism of the Catholic Church this week on trust and divine providence. And there is this beautiful prayer from St. Teresa of Ávila:
"Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you. Everything passes, God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God, wants for nothing. God alone is enough."
It is not easy. But the readings that we hear during these final days before Christmas remind us that trusting in God is the beginning of the journey of faith, a journey that will lead us to joy and peace.
Mary heard the angel’s words at the Annunciation and she was troubled, even afraid.
The realities of our life can be troubling, scary even. There is a reason that, in the Bible, God’s messengers announce themselves with the words, “Do not be afraid.”
Our Lord comes and he breaks into our routines. He disrupts our plans and challenges our expectations.
We can try to run away from God, but we never get very far. We can never really “escape” the reality of God’s loving presence and his care for us. The psalmist knew that:
"Where can I go... from your presence where can I flee? If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall guide me."
Though she was troubled and afraid, Mary did not run away from God. In that she gives us a model.
Mary pondered the angel’s words, she asked him questions: “How can this come about?”
This is what prayer is all about — listening and talking to God, questioning him. We need to keep praying. Even when we do not get the answers we want. Even when it seems that God is not listening. Because he always is.
Jesus told us we should not worry about the future — because God holds yesterday, today and tomorrow in his hands. He told us that God will provide all that we need.
Again, Mary is the model. Her response to the angel is the essence of trust:
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word."
These are words of surrender. Not in the sense of despair or giving up. But surrender in the sense of letting go and handing over our lives to God’s will, to God’s plans and purposes. Not my will, but Thy will be done!
And these are words of joy! Because our trust is grounded in the truth that God goes with us. We are never alone. We walk now with Jesus.
St. Mother Teresa said, “We are able to go through the most terrible places fearlessly, because Jesus in us is our love, our strength, our joy and our compassion.”
At Christmas we remember what the saints know — that God is our Father and he loves and cares for us as his children.
We need to lean more on God, with absolute confidence. Jesus comes as a child to teach us to trust as children. As Jesus taught us, we need to look to him as our Father, turn to him for all that is good and true and beautiful.
God gave us life. It is his greatest gift to us. And we find the meaning of our lives, our true happiness and peace, only when we give this gift back to him. Only when we say to him, as Mary did: “Let it happen to me as you have said.”
We need to stay close to Mary in these days before Christmas. She shows us the way, teaches us to keep going and to keep trusting. With joy. She reminds us what the angel told her: “Nothing is impossible for God.”
Pray for me in this beautiful and holy season, and I will be praying for you.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother to teach us the lessons of trust, that as she did, we might open a place for Jesus in our hearts and in our lives.
Merry Christmas to all of you and your families!