The elections are behind us, the leftovers of the Thanksgiving feast are finally consumed, and it is now the time to mark the celebrations that have arrived or are fast approaching.
Whether it be Christmas, Kwanza, or Hanukkah, which was celebrated last week, each has its elements of gift giving and family celebration.
Our environment immerses us in a pool of joyful preparation and anticipation. Music, television, theatrical productions, and the malls all do their part to instill in us a spirit of joyful anticipation. Yet, having recently spent some time in the hospital and having experienced the emergency room, I became starkly aware of what sickness and trauma can do to disturb the family unit.
My work at Grace Center, the day shelter for the homeless and people who are in crisis, is a constant reminder of how any of us could be caught in similar situations. The sudden loss of a job, abuse, situations which might lead to addictions, broken relations could strike any of us — not to mention the fact of the world situation, which often seems to border on the possibility of a nuclear winter, would be an omission as I begin to reflect on the culture in which we find ourselves.
As a clergy person, I am keenly aware of the dramatic fall in attendance in our places of worship. Most of the clergy are asking the question of why and what can be done.
In such a climate it becomes difficult to truly sing “Tis’ the Season to Be Jolly.” How can each of us respond to the challenge of joyful preparation and anticipation?
It seems to me that the true spirit of giving and joy, part of all of these celebrations, rests in relationships. Peace and joy comes no matter the situation when acts of love are performed.
For me, I have seen this happen as volunteers try to live out the message of Grace Center, which is hospitality acceptance and opportunity. Something happens to both guests and volunteers.
To paraphrase Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, I believe that small things done with love bring joy. I also believe that my strength and ability to do so comes from my experience of worship.
Yes, ‘tis the season to reach out in loving deeds and sincere support of those in need.
Find strength in your worship, and you will truly experience the meaning of these celebrations.
The Rev. Ronald J. Gariboldi is retired pastor of Holy Family Parish.