On Christmas Peace & Joy

My prayer for every person reading this is that at some point during this Christmas season, you will  ‘find yourself’ experiencing and resting in the joy and peace of Christmas…

Experiencing Christmas peace and joy is a grace that comes from and rests in God alone – there is nothing one can do to earn or acquire it…   It is a divine gift that may or may not be experienced each year, for any number of reasons…

Unfortunately, these ‘reasons’ are because the adages that life ‘happens and takes no prisoners’ are often true: unforeseeable realities do occur which can steal or seemingly make impossible realizing the promises of experiencing Christmas peace and joy in any given year…

Either way, whether graced with Christmas peace and joy or not, all are STILL called to praise and thank God, for He is the Reason for this season…

By God’s grace, I have received and am STILL tasting Christmas peace and joy in my life this year – And in a nuanced manner unlike ever received before…  I know I am not alone…

Overwhelmed by and in gratitude for this gift, my heart now prayerfully ponders – yet already knowing – how this graced peace and joy has come to us this year…

How?

I suspect, simply as a loving response from a God who simply refuses to be out loved by His children… Perhaps, for some each year who’ve accepted Advent’s invitation to somehow and in some way prepare for Christmas, God allows their reservoir of insights and reflections to gracefully build up and fermented during Advent…

Can it be that just sometimes, all the – interior work in love of heart & mind – devotional prayers, reflections, resting and being with His Presence, extra or well prayed rosaries and Masses, etc., may actually move God’s Infinite Heart to sometimes simply love us back?   If only and so as to show us that, God responds to and can not be out loved!!!  

Can it be that sometimes God pours His inebriating gift of fine divine wine into chosen souls as Christmas joy and peace, simply as a “I love you back” gift moment?

How?

I believe many simply have been pregnant with God’s peace and joy this whole year…  Think about your year of Angelic Annunciations and invitations to ‘bear and bring Christ to others’ that you have – sometimes agonizingly and reluctantly said ‘yes’ to by grace – since last Christmastime…  Each tiny ‘yes’ nurtured that timely and holy, natural and spiritual gift that was growing within all year… a gift that was finally born now, during this season…

Like the first Christmas which ended Mary’s nine month pregnancy with the birth of Jesus, for many parents with children Christmas day is the end to an exhaustive year long period of physical, economic, domestic, religious, emotional, academic, etc. preparation and work. Parents, students and children are among those for whom this imagery is especially apt.

Christmastime can give birth to graced periods of rest and peaceful joy to these and for all who have travelled the year long roads of faith, struggle and sacrifice to grow. For many, I believe receiving this anticipated Christmas Peace is simply the holy fruit of their year’s faith filled and obedient labor.

However we may come to prayerfully and in gratitude, come to ascertain why God gifted us with Christmas peace and joy this specific year, one thing is for certain: this gift is not for us to hoard but to share!!

We know from the scriptures, that all of God’s gifts are given for the good of the community…

We also know and see, as revealed in the actual Gospel story of the Annuciation – when the  Angel came to Mary and she accepted God’s invitation to bear Jesus – that when accepting God’s gifts, we are often given opportunities to bringshare and give them to others during the Christmas season.

In Luke’s Gospel, the angel also shared with Mary that her elderly Aunt Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. The Living Gift of Love in her womb, Jesus, prompted Mary by charity – who was in her first trimester – to travel almost 3 days to both spend three months caring for her elderly aunt and also to celebrate the birth of the coming Messiah, Jesus…  We, like Mary,  must also be attentive to opportunities this season to be and to  share our Christmas gifts with others…

In some cases, sharing God’s Christmas gift may mean actively proclaiming and celebrating it with others – as in forcing ourself to go to THAT GOOD holiday party (ha, ha)!!!  In other instances it can and will also mean slowing down to quietly share it peacefully with others…

These are the cases where or when we are called to patiently be with or listen to others who are still seeking or are without Christmas peace and joy this year.  In these instances, we have to learn how to be and bring peace to others in our person/persona/presence and actions, and not always by using our word if we are to truly give them, by grace, a sense of our gifted peace…

I am almost certain that there may be an instance or two, when the Gift of Christmas Peace and Joy will prompt you to an unexpected and unprecedented act of kindness and charity – whooa now, you say!!!! It’s okay, go on, give that homeless person that $5 or $10 dollar bill or step up and give that relative what they DON’T expect but really need and want!!!!

Don’t be surprised if Christmas peace and joy in your soul creates gospel opportunities, like at THAT aforementioned Christmas party, when UNEXPECTEDLY your heart prompts you to converse with, befriend and maybe even mend fences with/offer forgiveness to someone from the past… You may even be so very tempted, to actually accept that 10+ year standing-but-never-acted-on family member’s party invitation this season…

In short, if you have been gifted with God’s Peace and Joy this season, please, please, please pass it on! Share it NOW, with others, while you got it…

Only in this way can…

…Christmas truly become a season for  ALL in our communities…

…God be truly given the glory, as the gift will grow and spread to other’s lives….

…The holy intent of the gift really be met: which is for it to flow freely to and through others before returning back to God its source…

Only in this way, can we authentically proclaim God as our Savior, walking as witnesses and disciples who are testifying to the reality of His Peace & Joy…

Let all receiving Christmas peace and joy this year, step forward to proclaim in word and deed, “…how even in a year like this, when  (fill in the ____________) happened to me… God has still walked with, carried and granted me His Peace…”

And so once again, my prayer for every person reading this is that at some point during this Christmas season, you will  ‘find yourself’ experiencing and resting in the joy and peace of Christmas…  By grace, when and if you do, please don’t hoard it, but be proactive and pass it on!

 

Ash Wednesday: Returning Home to Peace and Grace

This weekend my 16 month old puppy, Jay, accidentally got out of the yard and was lost for over 36 hours. During this time my wife and daughter were emotionally upset and noticeably disturbed by his absence. After wandering off, Jay was picked up by a young man and kept overnight at his apartment. The next day he brought Jay outside and allowed him to lead the way back to our home (actually our neighbors house), which is how he was returned. In the immediate 24 – 36 hours after his return, Jay was not quite his “bounce-off-the-wall-with-energy” self…

…He walked and ate his food just a little bit slower and was generally less hi strung, even though still a 16 month old puppy. My wife commented how he did not pull/tug as normal on his walk and happily turned into the drive when returning from it. Initially I thought his lethargy was simply a response to his night away plus an unexpected four hour puppy play date he enjoyed with a neighbor’s dog on the day of his return, but on day two of his return as Jay returned to his normal self, I began to sense that it was not lethargy but something different.

I now believe what was initially thought to be lethargy was actually Jay’s way of slowly and gratefully relishing that peace of finding and returning home…

The deep peace found “in a return home” can be unexpected and surprising, especially if we have taken that peace for granted and left home anticipating greater joys by exercising our freedom abroad. Jay’s 36 hour excursion into the world probably tempered his urge to explore and run free as much as it also helped him appreciate the gifts already present here at home. Jay’s experience is not an isolated one; college students who return home and mature seniors returning to towns left decades ago are often surprised to experience that quiet joy and peace of “returning home.”

For some, this week’s distribution of Ashes and start of Lent will be a kind of “return home” to God, religion, church, faith, prayer, scripture, sacrifice and mortification, etc.. Unbeknownst to some returnees, they will find that it is also accompanied by an unexpected grace and deep peace in their hearts and souls. This gift of Divine peace and grace will often accompany the humble heart as repents and return home from its free willed (and often prodigal) wanderings abroad… For those now in this holy space, we at Strugglin’Catholic.com are inviting you to simply and prayerfully rest with and in this experience of peace and grace as long as you can…

…Try to remember, if ever, when and where you last felt God’s       presence, peace and grace…

… At meal times or at night, briefly examine how and what your mind dwelt on that day in this time of being showered with God’s grace and peace…

…Take note of the feelings that emerge from your heart and also the way that you engage your loved ones when God’s peace and grace is active and present to you.

…Knowing that this gift and experience has a message, receive it in prayer and experience God’s welcome, invitation and “thank you” for coming home to Love again.

 

May the Lord Bless, Keep & Guide us in our return home this Lent. Let us pray together for that day when we will always walk in the grace and peace of God with others.

                                                                                                                                    Amen.