Bishop Douglas J. Lucia offers a blessing at the close of the Christmas Mass pre-recorded for television Dec. 15. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The year 2020 has been one we will not soon forget, although we may want to. It has certainly provided each one of us with challenges that test a person’s faith, hope, and charity. However, 2020 has also given believers greater insight into the challenges facing Mary and Joseph in their young life as a couple.
Without a doubt their faith was put to the test when God’s plan for their lives was revealed to them. As a couple engaged to be married, they had done their own planning for their life together when suddenly, they were invited to have faith in God and in each other in ways neither one could have possibly imagined. This challenge of faith is one we have also been facing for most of 2020.
None of us could have imagined practicing one’s faith and yet not being physically able to go to church for a period of Sundays to receive the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. This leads us then to look to Mary and Joseph and their own practice of faith, especially in moments of adversity. How isolated and alone they must have felt while seeking to obey God in their lives, while at the same time having to face public opinion in a small town? Forward ahead 2,000 years and apply this to our own situation, especially when handling the previously inconceivable ideas of social distancing, wearing masks in the presence of others, and limitations on gatherings. Certainly, these circumstances can be challenges to one’s faith; but in them, we find with Joseph and Mary an invitation to walk by and in faith.
Imagine too the uncertainty and insecurity of the moment when Joseph and Mary had no alternatives, but to go in person to register for the census that had been declared by Caesar Augustus. This wasn’t what they needed as they awaited the birth of their child. Yet, they went and dealt the best they could with what came along the way, including the arrival of the infant far from any comforts of home. Mary and Joseph’s own family situation in the real world is the herald of hope for the entire human family. In the words most likely used in their prayer at home, they would proclaim: “In God alone is my soul at rest, from him comes my hope and salvation” (Psalm 62). How then can you and I exhibit such hope today in the midst of our own trials and tribulations?
The foundation for the faith and hope we have spoken of is the LOVE that radiates from the Christmas story. Whether one focuses on the Infant Holy and Lowly born in the manger or on Mary and Joseph or on the Angelic messengers or on the Shepherds and Kings or on the common folk and animals who just happened to be there, ALL lead us to the PROMISE of God’s Word become flesh. In this indwelling of God among us, our faith, hope, and love can be re-kindled no matter what situation we may face in 2021 because “Christ the Babe was born for you (and me).” Please know of my prayers for you and your loved ones in this sacred season. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
In the Name of Jesus,
Most Reverend Douglas J. Lucia
Bishop of Syracuse