of community activity with food. Moreover, sprinkled throughout the liturgical year, there should be well organized parish family life activities that provide an opportunity for the entire community to come together.
Life is difficult and it is not getting any easier. Our secular world makes every attempt to eradicate every visible reminder of the transcendent. Moreover, most of us live very busy lives, exercising multiple tasks throughout a very intense day. Formal moments of total silence and deep contemplative prayer are necessary for anyone who wants to be a true Christian in the modern world. Fr. Karl Rahner once wrote, "The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing."
If we do not develop a serious life of contemplative prayer and Eucharistic life, the ever-increasing difficulties around us will crush us. Rather than experiencing the joy which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we will be overwhelmed by profound anxiety and sadness.
Life has different seasons. Sometimes our existence moves forward like a sunny summer day. We feel the closeness of God and our days unfold effortlessly. But then the harshness of winter comes along. We become overwhelmed by the apparent absence of God's presence. Prayer becomes tedious. People seem to bother us. Perhaps the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, sickness, or the disloyalty of a friend brings us into the harshness and darkness of a winter day. Nevertheless, even in these moments we can experience Christian joy.
Fr. Jean Vanier, the French founder of L'Arche, has had continual experience with suffering through his work with the mentally disabled. In his writings, he maintains that darkness is important. "We must learn to be strong and peaceful in darkness, not fighting it, but waiting. We must learn to accept this winter as a gift from God, and we will discover that the snow will melt and the flowers come up."
Blessed Pope John Paul II constantly spoke about the great spring time of the Church. Spring time means that there is still frost, mud and snow on the ground. Trees begin to blossom, but they are not in full bloom. Both the Church and the world are going through upheaval and transformation. Within all of the trials and tribulations that surround us, let us be patient and be filled with hope. The dark night of purification will bring about something beautiful and pure.
"As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations" (Isaiah 61: 11).
My dear friends, let us make this Christmas the best Christmas ever by making a firm decision today to rid ourselves from every behavior that causes us to be self-centered. "Rejoice always" (Thessalonians 5: 16).
A few years ago, a young, attractive, successful woman noticed a small lump behind her ear as she was brushing her hair. As the days went on, she noticed that the lump was getting larger, so she decided to see her doctor. Her worst fears were confirmed. The doctor told her that the lump was a large tumor that would require immediate surgery.
When she awoke following the surgery, she found her entire head wrapped like a mummy. She could see herself in a mirror only through two tiny holes cut into the wrapping. Desiring to see what she looked like, she unwound the large bandage from her head and was shocked to see that her once attractive features had become disfigured by a paralysis caused perhaps by damage to facial nerves during the removal of the tumor.
Standing before the mirror, she told herself that she had one choice to make: to laugh or to cry. She decided to laugh. Sadly, the various therapies tried were unsuccessful in alleviating the facial paralysis. However, that decision made to laugh in the face of adversity has allowed this woman to carry on with her life with joy.
"I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul." (Isaiah 61: 10).
Visit Father James on the web at http://www.fatherjames.org and purchase his new book Get Serious! A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. Click here for the audio podcast of this homily.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Gaudete, Joy, Rejoice, Happiness, Freedom, living faith, Fr James Farfaglia
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