I am mostly relieved and grateful upon the completion of my first in-camp training, though I am left with nine more to go. It looks like a yearly affair that I am stuck with. But the more pressing matters on my mind is that even though the advent wreath is all lighted, joy and peace seem to be missing from my life. I feel heavy and restless inside and I do not feel the Christmas spirit this year; something or myself has changed. Perhaps, I am tired and need to take things slowly.
In the lead up to Christmas which is next week, Mary, the mother of Jesus is the central focus in the gospel readings.“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb and Elizabeth,filled with the Holy Spirit, cries out in a loud voice and said,”Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”(Luke 1:39-45).
Despite all the inconveniences and trouble that Mary had on her mind as she had to say Yes in bringing Jesus into the world, she still went to see Elizabeth who was with child too. She went out of her way in visiting Elizabeth which ties in the connection of Christmas and its true meaning.
Christmas in the secular world means buying huge amounts of presents,receiving presents, feasting on food and attending parties. However, I feel that the true meaning of Christmas is not found in presents nor the food. The answer is that it is found in our presence and our actions, this being similar to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth’s home. Mary brought joy and peace to Elizabeth and Zechariah’s household and these are aspects that we should bring to others every Christmas and even everyday if we can.
People do spend too much on Christmas as it has become a mere shopping spree and gift exchange due to commercialization. Therefore, we should be spending more time and enjoy the company of people. Even if we have no gifts in tow, our presence will still be welcomed and would bring warm and happiness to our friends, family,loved ones and even strangers.
Word is going around and Catholic news agencies are reporting that Blessed Mother Teresa is going to be canonized to be a saint by Pope Francis next year.
This is a story that left me inspired and pondering over how it perfectly ties in with the Year of Mercy and the gospel readings. In a 1981 interview, Mother Teresa spoke about another champion of the poor: St. Francis of Assisi. In a famous story of a turning point in Francis’ life, he encounters a leper by the side of the road and passes him by. Then he realizes that if he is going to devote his life to the poor he must embrace the leper—he must welcome him into his life as a brother. Francis then runs to the leper’s aid. Mother Teresa commented, “The encounter with the leper made St. Francis.” So, too, it is Mother Teresa’s selfless encounter with the dying and poor that made Mother Teresa.
It is the calling of Christians to serve the poor, and to make room at the table for everyone. Francis came to see that. He reveled in the foolishness of God who has special love for those whom most of us would rather avoid. Teresa learned that, too, during mid-life. She will be named a saint because she cleared away life’s clutter and allowed God to work through her in a powerful way. We should imitate her.
We also enter into the Jubilee Year of Mercy (6 December 2015- 20 November 2016) as just like Mary’s example,we are called to give comfort and forgiveness to people we meet along our way in rediscovering and rendering God’s Mercy to others. Imperfect as the world is, we can bring God to others through our words and actions. Simple as it seems and hard to do would be to not turn one’s back when you know that help is needed.
The Works of Mercy are divided into two segments which are Corporal works of Mercy which focuses on physical needs and Spiritual works of Mercy which centers on spiritual and emotional needs.
Corporal Works of Mercy:
1) Feed the hungry
2) Give a drink to the thirsty
3) Clothe the naked
4) Shelter the homeless
5) Visit the sick
6) Visit those in prison
7) Bury the dead
Spiritual Works of Mercy:
1) Instruct the ignorant
2) Counsel the doubtful
3) Admonish the sinner
4) Comfort the sorrowful
5) Forgive injuries
6) Bear wrongs patiently
7) Pray for the living and the dead
The prayer intentions for December by Pope Francis is,“That all may experience the mercy of God,who never tires of forgiving.That families,especially those who suffer,may find in the birth of Jesus a sign of hope.”Also by our Archbishop William Goh which is,“For the renewal and ongoing conversion of all clergy and religious through a deeper encounter with the Lord; that they be united with the Archbishop in humble and selfless service for the good of the flock under their charge.”
As Christmas is just around the corner and the birth of Jesus is imminent, may we always ask Mary,our dear mother, to intercede with us and guide us through the ups and downs in life.“Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”God Bless!
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong