It's a Boy!
By Fr. Matthew Eickhoff
Director, Office for Evangelization
Chairman, Diocesan Evangelization Committee
We all recognize the standard
societal way of announcing the arrival of a new child into our midst. We
declare the gender of the baby on balloons, cigars, candy bars and, more
recently, e-mail subject lines. And it just wouldn’t look at all right
without the exclamation point!
We Christians are putting an exclamation point on
the Advent season with the most anticipated arrival of a new baby in the
history of humanity—namely, the arrival of Jesus.
His first entry into our midst was forecast by
prophets as the world’s long-awaited source of hope and declared by angels
as humanity’s much-anticipated cause for joy. While few, if any, balloons or
cigars or the like will proclaim our Lord’s birth this Christmas, Christians
everywhere are expected not only to keep Jesus as the focal point of
Christmas Day, but to sustain this focus throughout the celebrations that
add emphasis to our celebration of the Lord’s Incarnation.
The Solemn Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary
and Joseph comes right in the wake of Christmas this year. Many will still
be making the rounds to visit and celebrate Christmas with relatives and
in-laws Dec. 26. How appropriate to be with family that Sunday as we honor
the Holy Family of Nazareth. The gifts we share—especially the gift of
time—will no doubt be appreciated by those on the receiving end. It is a
time for letting go (read: forgiving) of past hurts so as to enjoy
the gift of family that the Lord has given to each of us, which oftentimes
transcends blood lines and includes those whom we consider "adopted" family
On the Octave Day of Christmas we will honor Mary
as the Mother of Jesus, and thus as the Mother of God. And because Jesus is
our spiritual brother, Mary is our spiritual mother, leaving no believer
without "family" during this special season of grace.
While many like to visit parents during the
holiday time, some will only be able to "visit" their heavenly mother—that
is, by honoring her at the Church’s special Holy Day Mass as we begin the
New Year, requesting her motherly love and her heavenly intercession. The
Catholic Church itself provides us all with a true spiritual family that
expectantly welcomes each member as a cherished child of God.
The first two Sundays of January complete our
Christmas celebrations with the Epiphany and the Birth of John the Baptist.
Few feasts of the Church’s liturgical year better express our call to be
evangelists of the Good News of our Lord’s birth.
While John the Baptist’s life mission was to
prepare the local people for the Messiah’s arrival, the Wise Men signaled
the universal call to salvation for all people, near and far. We disciples
of Jesus were commissioned by the Lord Himself to spread the Gospel of
salvation to the ends of the earth. Naturally, we start by living a holy
life, affecting those nearest to us. But the way to put an exclamation point
on our evangelizing efforts is to make them more deliberate by learning our
Catholic Faith well, so that we can articulate it to those whose faith is
weak or to those with little or no faith at all.
May our celebration of the upcoming Christmas Holy
Days and holidays be an authentic proclamation of the joy we know because we
are disciples of Jesus. Pretty much everybody knows that the babe born in
Bethlehem two millennia ago was a boy. It is up to us to make sure that
others around us come to know that He was—and is—so much more!