In the Gospel of Mark (13:33), it is though Jesus is in charge of a great lighthouse and reminds us to: Be Watchful! Be Alert! His words immediately follow a private conversation with Peter, James, John, and Andrew regarding events that would precede His return at the end of time. And so, Jesus stresses that we should be ready.
But should we be fearful? Not according to St. Paul. For in his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:3-9), the Apostle exhorts that “in Him, we have been enriched in every way and that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And so, we are blessed.
The liturgies during the Advent and Christmas seasons remind us of the many ways we’ve been blessed through the Incarnation: that God loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to live among us and provide for our every need. During this time, many of us remember Christmases past and particularly our loved ones who’ve passed on and now, we pray, live with God in His heavenly kingdom. Whether they be our mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, or close friends, our hearts forever store the stories of how they cared and nurtured and loved and blessed us.
In my own life, this Christmas marks the 4th year of my dad’s passing—on Christmas morning. In thinking about this, I have been remembering my 20s and 30s. For me, they were years of building houses and eventually becoming a husband and father. And from time to time, truth be told, they were years in which I would sometimes need an extra dollar or two in my wallet until the next payday. And that is where my dad would come to the rescue.
On those occasions, I recall calling my dad to ask if I could see him regarding a “special” request. And so, after talk of the prior night’s sports results, he would ask the question: “So, what do you need?” And after telling him, we would continue the ritual of cash given in exchange for a post-dated check destined for deposit in a week or two or three. And always, true to form, he would call me the next morning to ask whether my check would be honored. Looking back, I miss those days of hearing my father say to me, “So, what do you need?”
On November 18, 2017, Capuchin Fr. Solanus Casey was beatified at Ford Field in Detroit. I feel blessed to have attended and participated in a small way. At the Mass was a woman from Panama named Paula Medina Zarate who received the miracle attributed to Fr. Solanus that was investigated by medical professionals. At home, Paula was known for being a kind soul, a religion teacher and catechist for school children who spoke out for the poor and suffering, all the while dealing with ichthyosis vulgaris, a disease that caused her skin to turn into scales and bleed. A genetic condition, there is no known cure for the disorder.
Because of her condition, she was required to leave her profession early, a “forced” decision that caused her personal distress. In September 2012, however, her sorrow would be transformed into joy. While visiting the United States, she traveled to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit with Fr. Joe Timmers, O.F.M. Cap., a priest she knew from his work with the Capuchin mission in Chepo, Panama.
After arriving there, she stayed overnight. The next day, Paula made her way to Fr. Solanus’ tomb, knelt down, and wrote her intentions on 14 pieces of paper. Despite the many stresses of her disease, Paula wrote intentions for her mother, brothers, students, and those from her hometown. But upon rising from her knees before the tomb, she heard a voice: “And you, what do you need?”
After this, she recalls…”falling down on her knees, seeing the cross and thinking about Christ’s Passion and all the pardons granted, and remembering that she didn’t ask anything for herself.” And so, she asked God for her legs and arms to be healed. After doing so, she began to feel a current of heat in her body and recalling that she felt dizzy, as though she was in a dream. After a long time, she rose and began wondering what was happening. She recalled: “I was afraid, my legs were so hot. My doctors warned me that my skin might crack open and bleed. I touched my skin, and the scales began to fall off, with no blood.” But soon, she saw a rose-like color of flesh appear where the scales had been. For the next day or so, more and more of the scales began to fall off. She gathered the scales into a piece of paper to show what was happening.” Later, after telling Fr. Timmers what had happened, “she spent the whole afternoon in her room crying, giving thanks to God.” (Adapted from an article published in The Michigan Catholic, November 14, 2017)
As we begin the Advent season, our culture is set to full throttle. With lights and music and advertising capturing our senses, we ask ourselves: “Is that what Christmas is all about?” Or is about something more?
This Advent, amidst the hustle-and-bustle, may we imagine ourselves on a journey to that holy crib in Bethlehem. With each step, we come that much closer. What thoughts fill our minds? What thoughts flood our hearts? If we could speak to the Christ child, what would we say?
But more importantly, if we could hear Jesus ask us what we need, just what would that be?