Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Setting Out with the Shepherds to Find the Savior

Annunciation to the Shepherds
Christmas this year will be very different for me.  One of the highlights each year for me was carrying the Christ Child down the aisle of a magnificent church at Midnight Mass to the enormous sound of the pipe organ playing "Adeste Fideles."  As I would place him in the manger, I would stay for a bit and pray for my people and for a host of intentions. I entrusted so much to Jesus in those brief moments at Midnight!  In truth, I felt like I could have stayed praying there for hours.  But, eventually Mass had to begin!

This year, I don't have a Midnight Mass.  I don't have a beautiful church.  I don't have a manger.  I don't even have a congregation!  Since I am a college chaplain, my congregation is gone home for the Christmas Break.  I will definitely miss the gold vestments, the plumes of incense, greeting thousands of parishioners and wishing them a "Merry Christmas," and listening to the best choir in the Archdiocese of Boston giving the angels of Bethlehem a pretty good run for their money.

It is a strange occurrence in my life-- not having a congregation on Christmas.  As I was thinking about it, the thought occurred to me that perhaps there is somewhere that doesn't have a priest on Christmas.  So, as it turns out, I will have two Masses on Christmas morning at a local jail.  I am really grateful for this opportunity.  As a parish priest, I wouldn't have had an opportunity to do this.  In these days, parish priests are straight out exhausted with a million details and swarms of people.  Of course, I loved all of that, but I 
am so very happy that I will be able to spend Christmas offering Masses in a jail.  I hope that I will be able to write about it afterwards, but my thought in advance is this: Jesus came to illuminate those who sit in darkness and in the land of gloom.  I am really so very grateful that this year I will be a minister of that light to those who sit in the darkness of prison.  Who am I that I should have this privilege?

I'm not sure that I would have ever thought about trying to say Mass in a jail on Christmas Day were it not for Pope Francis.  He keeps me on my toes and encourages me to grow in charity.  I have to admit that I get annoyed when people talk about Pope Francis as though the way he lives as pope is a condemnation of all other popes.  Honestly, when I look at Pope Francis, I don't see him as a challenge to his predecessors.  I see him as a challenge to me.  It is I who need to grow in charity.

I am so looking forward to spending Christmas morning with these people whom Jesus loves.  I feel like the shepherds who first heard the proclamation of the angels.  Having heard the good news themselves, they made haste to the manger to find Christ. I am looking forward to making haste to the jail on Christmas Day.  I expect to find things just as the angels had said.  I expect to find Him, the Savior and Lord.

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