Merry Christmas!  It’s so good to be a part of this parish community has we celebrate the birth of our Savior, the coming of God as a human being, breaking into human history in order to save us from sin and death and lead us to eternal life.  Amid all of the hustle and bustle of this season, today we remember that what we truly celebrate during the Christmas season is the greatest gift ever given, God’s gift of Himself to each and every one of us.  I hope that this Gift brings true peace to your hearts today and always.

 

I’m sharing with you the Christmas message from our shepherd, Bishop Rhoades, from last year.  Please know of my prayers for each of you during this holiest of seasons.  Merry Christmas!

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

“Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

 

These words of the angel to the shepherds on the night of the Nativity are, as the angel said, “for all people,” including us. They bring us joy and hope. God entered our history. He became Emmanuel, God-with-us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He took our sins upon Himself as if they were His own. Out of love, God united Himself to us in order to communicate His life to us, to save us from sin and death. He opened for us the road to His heavenly Kingdom. The Son of God assumed our human nature so that we might share in His divine life.

 

The great gift of Christmas is Jesus. He is God’s gift to us: the gift of Himself. God gave Himself in His only-begotten Son. He took on our humanity to give His divinity to us. This is the most amazing truth of our faith. It was never imagined that God would become man. It was beyond anyone’s dreams that the almighty and eternal God would enter history as a newborn baby. The Incarnation was beyond any human expectation. When we contemplate the mystery of Christmas, we become like the shepherds and magi: All we can do is approach the mystery in adoration, with wonder and awe. We sing: “O come let us adore Him.” 

 

I hope you will spend time during these days to contemplate the mystery of Christmas, to meditate on the Nativity of Jesus. I like to do so at the side of Mary and Joseph, the privileged witnesses to the birth of the Son of God into the world. I imagine Mary wrapping the infant Jesus in the swaddling clothes and laying Him in the manger (which I imagine Joseph the carpenter prepared for the newborn baby). I think of the love of Mary and Joseph for their infant son, God’s Son. The child in the manger looked like other newborn infants, yet His identity as the Son of God, true God and true man, certainly filled Mary and Joseph with the greatest awe.

 

Pope Francis recently proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph.” I recommend meditating a bit on Joseph this Christmas. In faith, Joseph understood that the baby in the manger was the Son of God, yet he (Joseph) was called to be His earthly father, to be His guardian. What an amazing vocation! Pope Francis’ recent apostolic letter begins with these words: “With a father’s heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels refer to as ‘the son of Joseph’.”

 

Blessed Pope Pius IX, 150 years ago, declared St. Joseph the “Patron of the Catholic Church.” As St. Joseph guarded and protected Jesus and Mary, so we call upon him to guard and protect us and the universal Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

 

St. Joseph was a tender and loving father who shows us the tender love of God our Father. We ask him to intercede for us and for the Church, especially during this terrible pandemic. We ask him to protect us from the coronavirus and from the even more dangerous virus, the virus of sin, and to help us to live in God’s grace.

 

At Christmas, in prayerful adoration before the Christmas creche, let us contemplate with Mary and Joseph the infant in the manger, the Word made flesh, Jesus our Savior. May we thus experience the true joy of Christmas and transmit this joy with kind gestures, forgiveness and generosity to all those who are in need, who are suffering or hurting, or who are struggling, especially during this pandemic.

 

At Christmas Eve Mass in our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, I will be entrusting all of you, the faithful of our diocese, to St. Joseph. Before a beautiful statue of St. Joseph donated to the diocese by the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters in Huntington, I will commend our diocese to St. Joseph, imploring his protection and his intercession that we may follow his example of faith and love. I will include the following prayer written by Pope Francis for this Year of Saint Joseph:

 

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust;

with you Christ became man.

Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us to the path of life.

Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.

May God grant all of you a Blessed and Merry Christmas!