Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Bishop Barnes

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Christmas is a time where we show generosity and good will by giving each other gifts and celebrating with family and friends. The “Christmas Spirit” of today still traces its origins to the hope and joy that was felt at the miraculous birth of Jesus, God’s promise of salvation made manifest in human form.

As we reflect on the closing year, many think of Pope Francis and the example of selflessness and hospitality that he gives us. What a gift we have received in him. Let us take his message to heart so together we can build the kingdom of God here on Earth. Let that spirit, that hope, be a seed that grows within us in 2014.

I offer you my deepest prayers and blessings for a joyous Christmas season. May the gift of hope that God gives us in the birth of his Son stay with you in this new year. May your family and friends enjoy good health and prosperity in the New Year. And may God bless you in your journey of faith.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Challenge of Holiday Sensory Overload

By Deacon John DeGano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

The holidays are upon us. The stores are chock full of electronics, perfume and handbags. Music and festive light displays fight for our limited attention span as our senses are slammed with sensory overload.

And in many parts of our country there is a chill in the air, the chill of winter and shorter daylight hours. Soon people will stay nestled around their fireplaces wrapped in blankets and sipping hot beverages remembering what the weather was like just a few short months before.

The Season of Advent welcomes us to a new year in the liturgical (or church) calendar. It is a season of expectation as we await the second coming of Jesus and reflect upon his incarnation – or first arrival as a baby in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger and surrounded by the sounds and smells of animals kept confined in a makeshift stall in a cave.

No glitz. No glamour. Just the bare necessities associated with pilgrims and/or strangers in a strange land.

And yet, this humble abode and its tenants 2,000 years ago give us an opportunity to reconnect with our Creator by pausing from our hectic goings and comings and retell the stories of the real meaning of the season.

And as we do, we are reminded of the question Jesus put to those who said they believed in God but whose actions betrayed their words.

“What did you come to see?” (MT 11)
  • A star hovering over a sleepy village?
  • An Archangel announcing God’s bold plan to an inquisitive girl, who subsequently scandalized the neighborhood as a virgin with child?
  • Or the dutiful husband/step father who accepted them both into his care?
  • Or an angel announcing the good news to shepherds in the fields?
  • Or an elderly cousin blessed by the visit of the mother of her Lord?
  • Or her son, living in the wilderness as one of the prophets, baptizing and proclaiming ‘repentance’ for the forgiveness of sin?
  • Or the huge crowds who hungered for love and forgiveness, gathering around the son of the carpenter of Nazareth?
  • Or a miracle worker? A healer? A rabbi?
  • Or even the promised Messiah?
  • Or a man called, Emmanuel, meaning ‘God is with us’?
This is the question Jesus asks each of us today.

As we celebrate the holidays let us not allow ourselves to get so caught up in all the commercial hoopla of black Friday sales (or standing in long lines for a chance to purchase the latest gismo when our current one suffices quite nicely) that we forget the true message of the manger.

Our Lord had ‘no place to rest his head’ and invites us to join in the celebration of our humanity with humility by serving the least among us – especially the widows and orphans, the poor and the stranger at our door. This is the one perfect gift we can give to the ‘birthday boy’ whose day we celebrate on December 25.

When we do this, our faith is put into action and proclaims loudly our unequivocal response to the question, “What did you come to see?”

“God’s Unconditional Love.”