Readings for the Vigil Mass
Readings for the Mass at Night
Readings for Mass at Dawn
Readings for Mass During the Day
Over these past few weeks, I have had the powerful realization that I am not alone. My father died a little more than a week ago. Throughout his most recent illness, the result of a fall where he broke both hips, I spent a lot of time in a hospital and in a nursing home. Interestingly, these two locations can be places of loneliness and connection. I witnessed both. But I experienced connection. It was because I was not alone. First, and most important, I felt repeatedly the presence of God. But beyond that, my mother and brother were beside me. We were together. Second, thanks to my connection to the Dominicans in the Central Province, my relatives, and those with whom I am connected on Facebook, I felt a tremendous sense of being to connected to many people from aspects of my life.
But in the midst of these days I saw many who appeared to be alone. This was not a result of care. My father received amazing care. But as my father had dementia, there were many spouses visiting persons they loved who did not know who they were. My father over the past few years had his mind taken from him little by little. At the end of his life, I think he thought I was one of the nurses. Thinking not only about my father, as well as the others in the various care facilities, caused me to wonder what someone with dementia really felt and experienced. I thought about a woman whose husband had been in the care facility for years. He did not recognize him. Even so, moved by what seemed to me to be loving care, she visited him every day for hours a day. I wonder if she felt alone in the midst of this horrible illness.
During the holidays, like Christmas, while for many are times when family and loved ones can make us feel connected, for others it can be a time of profound loneliness. As beautiful as Norman Rockwell Christmas paintings can be, they do not reflect for all the reality of the season. How is it we attempt to cope with this loneliness? There are a variety of ways. For some, it is the desire to get and to purchase lots and lots of material things in an attempt to fill up what we are missing. For some, it can be a time where there is a lot of drinking to numb the pain.
But the profound mystery we celebrate this Christmas is the reality we are not alone. God is with us. We have learned that in the name we sometimes us to refer to Jesus, “God with us.” And what can be more powerful than knowing that really, we are never alone. God is with us. For God could not bear for us to be alone, the result of sin. Sin breaks our relationships. Sin causes the connections we desire to form due to our social nature to be destroyed.
God desires nothing more than giving us every chance to experience salvation. Knowledge we are not alone helps us to face just about anything. While the awareness I was not alone did not keep my father from dying, it did remind me in a powerful way that life is beyond simply what I can see. I learned I was connected in ways I was not even aware of before my father’s death.
It can be easy in our world to question whether God exists, because there seems to be so much disconnection. There is such brutal and unbelievable suffering and death in places like Syria and Iraq. There are too many who go without the basics in life. Each day people starve not because we cannot produce enough food, but because we do not share it. The possibility of a person coming into the United States might have Ebola causes tremendous panic, even though we here can live with the reality that too many in the world have little or no health care structure at all.