Year A

May We share His Life Completely

Father Georges was an oblate missionary priest assigned to the missions of the Canadian Northwest. Perhaps the fact that early winters near the Arctic guarantee a "White Christmas", his native congregation thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the rites of that great festival. One Advent, the pastor and his flock had made the usual preparations for the nativity. The little church was decorated with evergreens, the crib was set up, and all was ready for the Midnight Mass.

Unfortunately, on December 24th, the weather turned bad. A blinding blizzard whipped down from the Arctic Ocean and the drifts were soon so deep that the whole mission parish was snowbound. Obviously, the Christmas liturgies could not take place. In fact, the missionary himself could not even get out and reach the church next door to celebrate Mass privately.

Cabined, cribbed and confined, Fr. Georges was disconsolate. What a way to pass Christmas! He loved the Mass, and had always made a practice of offering it daily except when seriously impeded. He had never before been prevented from saying Mass on Christmas. Alone in the gloom, he had only the gloomiest of thoughts. But as he ruminated in self-pity, he suddenly recalled what a retreat master had once told him: "Remember, the chief lesson of Christmas: do the will of God!"

Yes, thought Georges, reflecting on the words of the psalmist: "To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart" (Ps. 409). That thought put a new complexion on his situation. "God wants it this way," he concluded. And strange as it seems, he later looked back upon this snowbound Christmas as one of the sweetest and best in his life.

Not all of us will have a "Merry Christmas" this year in the usual sense. Sickness, disability, unemployment, family troubles, loneliness - these may dull the edge of our own holiday joy. Christmas trials can actually be beneficial in bringing us closer still to the chill poverty of the stable where Christ was born. Then we can pray with deep personal feeling the prayer of Midnight Mass: "May we share His life completely by living as He has taught!"

-Fr. Robert F. McNamara