by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Christmas is a remarkable season. Despite the consumerism that is in stark contrast to the utter simplicity and poverty of Our Lord’s birth in Bethlehem, there are many beautiful expressions of efforts to assist the poor.
A couple years ago, I remember listening to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s radio show during which he reminisced as a young boy helping his father deliver boxes of gifts to a poor family in his parish. Cardinal Dolan’s father was a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a parish-based organization that attempts to assist the poor throughout the year.
What impressed Cardinal Dolan most about the experience was how his father was very sensitive to preserving the dignity of the parents of the family.
When delivering the boxes with beautifully wrapped gifts of clothes and toys for each of the children, Cardinal Dolan’s dad made a point of saying to the father of the receiving family — for all his children to hear — that his order for the family had come in.
Cardinal Dolan’s dad and the Vincent de Paul Society wanted no acknowledgment for their kindness. More than anything else, they wanted to make the father a hero for his family.
Equally important to the assistance we may be privileged to provide for others is the manner in which we provide it. For the Christian, we realize that everything is God’s gift and our possessions are merely entrusted to us to be used in a manner that glorifies God.
We know that nothing pleases God more than when we care for the poor. Keeping that which we do not truly need is depriving the poor of what belongs to them and what God desires for them.
It is tragic that so many people in our culture are clueless about the reason we celebrate at Christmas.
Fewer and fewer people in our society know Jesus and the incredible love of God for all humanity that was revealed by his birth. The spiritual poverty of not knowing God’s love made manifest in the birth of Jesus is more devastating than any material poverty.
What a deprivation not to know God’s desire to immerse himself in our humanity, even to the point of being born as a helpless baby in the starkness of a shelter for animals.
God chooses to humble himself by taking on our humanity in order that we might share in his divine and eternal life. This is the reason for our celebration and the motivation for our inadequate efforts to imitate his generosity by assisting those in need.
In addition to our efforts to support Catholic Charities and many other ministries that strive to bring the love of God revealed in Bethlehem to those most in need during this season, I urge you to make a commitment during the coming year to help at least one other person to come to know Jesus.
Not just to know about Jesus, but to come to experience friendship with Our Lord. While we must be concerned about the material and physical needs of others, we must strive even more to eliminate the devastating spiritual poverty rampant in American culture.
Consider the impact if all 200,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas each introduced one person to Jesus.
During this Christmas season, thank Jesus for the gift of your faith and ask him to help you know with whom he is calling you to share the gift of our Catholic faith. Who among your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers is living in the cold darkness of unbelief?
Remember that Jesus, born in Bethlehem and who gave his life on Calvary for us, is present to us in the Eucharist! The one whom the shepherds adored and the Magi traveled many miles over rugged terrain to see, offers himself to us each week in holy Communion.
If you are interested in learning how to share the gift of your Catholic faith with others, check out the Holy Family School of Faith website. School of Faith helps form people in missionary discipleship.
It is not rocket science. It begins with friendship. It requires from us caring enough about another person to pray and sacrifice for their spiritual welfare. The goal is not to convince the other person you are right and they are wrong.
Instead, the goal is to witness to another the authentic joy that comes from experiencing the love of Jesus.
Another great resource is the book “Called,” by Kevin Cotter, published by Ave Maria Press. It is a five-week self-administered retreat providing daily meditations on how to become a missionary disciple.
I pray the Christmas season may inspire you to do something to attempt to help the materially poor as well as the spiritually poor. This time of year, many of us experience the special joy in giving someone a material gift that they truly need or want.
Magnify that joy a million times when God allows us to be his human instruments in helping another person discover God’s love revealed on that holy night 2,000 years ago!
In 2019, give someone else the gift of Jesus.