On behalf of Fr. Mike, our deacons, and our entire staff at St. Andrew’s, I wish all of you a merry Christmas! It’s always great to celebrate Mass, but it’s especially great to celebrate Christmas masses with large crowds. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was like this every Sunday? Hey, the Redskins have a full house every week, why can’t we? And, we don’t even charge $40 for parking!
I understand why the Church is full today. I understand that it is a big event to celebrate: God coming into the world. People waited thousands of years to see God, and He comes into the world as a little baby. The Creator of the world as a little baby! Christmas celebrates that event where God is in the flesh, He is Emmanuel - God is with us.
We hear it said often, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if Christmas were every day’. Well, at the heart of this feast – that God is with us - there are reasons to believe that this happens year-round. There are many reasons to believe that God is with us, especially here at St. Andrew’s. God is with us and it is profound.
One parishioner, like so many of us, struggles with controlling her anger and temper. She had just resigned herself to that fact that she would always just say things in anger when someone annoyed her or losing her temper. She has been going to Confession much more in the past year, and she is starting to see changes! She has been buttoning her lip when she gets annoyed at others, and has been much more patient. She is the first one to say that this has been God. God is with us and it is profound.
When the Pope came in April, the Archdiocese had a food drive with a certain amount that each parish was to give. We blew that amount out of the water! Any of you who saw the huge amount of food in the Gathering Space those few weekends knows how large a quantity that was. I estimated that it was about a TON of food – literally, 2000 pounds. God is with us and it is profound.
A month ago at our high school Youth Group, the teens were in charge of organizing and boxing all of the food items that the parish donated for the Thanksgiving Food Drive. Again, another huge amount of food. We looked at the amount and thought that it would take all night to box and put the food into the cars to go to the shelter. And, normally, you have to ask teens several times to help. It took the thirty teens 15 minutes! We asked them once to help, and they jumped right in and had all of the food in the cars in no time. Then, they came into the Church for Adoration which we do once a month – Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There they were with their friends: 30 teens in virtual silence for 20-30 minutes, kneeling and praying to their God. Amazing! God is with us and it is profound.
This may not be the most important reason, but it is significant. If you have been following the weekly offertory amounts, you’ve seen the dramatic increase in the collection. In the past year, our collection has increased almost 30%! That is not just generosity, that is also faith. You could say that we spend our money on things that we believe in; this is a sign of faith in God and in the Church. God is with us and it is profound.
The final reason – there are many more but this is the last one I’ll mention – might be my favorite. We have seven young men who are seriously thinking about the priesthood. Seven high school and college guys who in the past year have gone to dinners and talked to priests about becoming priests. Amazing! The Archdiocese is starting to take notice of St Andrew’s with regard to vocations. I think in general the Archdiocese is taking notice that God is with us at St Andrew’s and it is profound.
Now, you hear all of this stuff, and think, ‘where is this coming from’? The Eucharist. Jesus promised this would happen. He said, ‘whoever remains in me and I in Him will bear much fruit’. The reasons I have just listed is not what we are doing for God, but what God is doing for us. It is the fruit of remaining close to Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is changing lives, bringing about tremendous generosity and service, even to the point of laying down one’s life. I’ve been in a lot of parishes; this parish is among the most devout and respectful of the Eucharist, and we are seeing the fruit.
Also, when it comes to the Eucharist, we see the Christmas event happen at every Mass. It’s like Christ is born at every Mass. Ok, so it’s an altar and not a manger. Instead of looking like a baby, he looks like bread and wine. But, it is the same Christ. It is God in the flesh who we can see and adore. The Eucharist is the most profound reason to believe that God is with us. And, not only for us to see and adore, but to receive. God is not only with us in the Eucharist, but He is within us.
So, if you want to be a regular part of all of this great stuff, and not just twice a year, you’re wondering, ‘what do I do?’ When people ask me that, I say that, specifically, stay close to the Eucharist and Confession. In general, stay open to God. We know in the story of Christ’s birth, the innkeeper said that he had no room…no room for Jesus. God wants us to be open…to make room for Him in our lives. When we are open, He comes pouring in and revealing His presence and power. And, it is profound. When we experience that God is with us, we experience happiness, joy, and peace.
May each of us be open to God and experience true joy and peace. May we experience this joy and peace this day and throughout the Christmas season.