Dear Jesus Youth Family,
One Christmas Eve when all the preparations were in full swing I received a call from one of the city hospitals. It was one of the poor villagers from our neighborhood. His daughter was about to undergo an emergency surgery the next day early morning and she was desperately in need of blood and was searching for a benevolent donor. I passed the request to one of the JYs and within an hour they traced one such a youth who was willing to donate his blood that midnight. It was about 11.30 p.m. when I directed him to the hospital. Due to the long hospital procedures he came back home only after the midnight Mass and all the celebrations. I felt sorry and called him up in the morning; but his answer was quite edifying. He said: “Thank you Father, for today I can really celebrate Christmas. The family had knocked all possible doors before they called you up because the blood group was rare. My reaching at the hospital last midnight was like ‘God with them’.”
Christmas is an experience of the ‘God with us’ (Immanuel). Advent is a time of waiting in preparation for His coming. We await and prepare for the experience of ‘God with us’. This experience is possible at any time, provided that I am prepared and ready. And so, whenever I experience this ‘God with us’, it is Christmas. The experience of ‘God with us’ almost always should leave us with a new conviction, change of attitude, perception, etc. At Christmas the shepherds experienced ‘God with us’ and they were filled with hope and joy. Once the three kings experienced the ‘God with us’ they returned home ‘another way’. They could never be the same persons again. The old Simeon saw the Immanuel and he felt that he can now go ‘home’ in peace. This is what the birth of Jesus (‘God with us’) did in the lives of some people. As we prepare for Christmas this is what exactly has to happen in our lives too.
Christ can’t be born again as it happened two thousand years ago. But the experience of ‘Immanuel’ is possible even today for anyone who is open to conversion. I believe this is what we celebrate in Christmas – our experience of the Immanuel (‘God with us’). Void of such an experience Christmas has no relevance and meaning.
Not only at his birth but also all through his life Christ brought this experience to whomever He came across. That was the Good News he brought, that was the Kingdom of God he established thru his message and his very person. The blind man experienced ‘God with us’ when Jesus brought sight into his life. The widow of Nain experienced ‘God with us’ when her only son was brought back to life. Zaccheaus could never be the same after his experience of ‘God with us’. What about me? Mary Magdalene becomes an evangelizer after her experience of ‘God with us’. After more than 12 years having wasted all her wealth, the woman with bleeding experiences the ‘God with us' just because she believed and touched on the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. For Peter who denied his Master, just a glance of the Master was sufficient to lead him to conversion. Saul had such an experience of the ‘God with us’ that turned him to be the zealous missionary in St. Paul … Down the centuries thousands and thousands of men and women in the Church had similar experiences of the ‘God with us’, which turned them to be the holy men and women in the Church. If there are hundreds of Institutes of Consecrated life (Religious Orders, Congregations …) and Lay Movements in the Church with their own particular charism, they all loudly speak of the variety of ways in which their founding/pioneering fathers and mothers experienced the ‘God with us’. Certainly, such an experience led them to make a radical response.
Each Christmas is a reminder to experience the ‘God with us’ in our daily lives and let others experience this ‘God with us’ in and thru us. In the absence of such experiences Christmas becomes a very secular celebration which has nothing to do with my life. This is all the more relevant and significant for us as the Church is focusing on the Mission and the New Evangelization during these years. Remember our post-jubilee slogan: ‘Every Jesus Youth is a Missionary’.
Let these four weeks of preparation thru the season of Advent be a time for us to experience ‘God with us’ and make this an experience for my brother and sister too.
How can I experience ‘God with us’ in my daily life?
First Week of Advent: Focus on experiencing ‘God with us’ in my personal life
- Through regular personal prayer, Word of God, Sacraments, …
Second Week: Focus on sharing this ‘God with us’ experience
- In my fellowship groups, prayer meetings, cell group, …
- If I am not part of these, I make it a point to be part of these.
Third Week: Focus on prayerfully preparing to become ‘God with us’
- Prayerfully discern which are the areas and situations where Jesus expects me to be His presence (‘God with us’) – in my family, school, college, work place, parish, etc.
- Prayerfully prepare for a couple of concrete actions on the basis of your discernment
Fourth Week: Focus on becoming ‘God with us’
- Through the concrete actions I have discerned, help someone experience ‘God with us’
- By sharing my resources (talents, time, material goods, etc.)
- Become part of the JY Outreach Child Support Project
WISH YOU ALL A FRUTIFUL ADVENT SEASON AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS WITH ABUNDANCE OF EXPERIENCES OF ‘GOD WITH US’!
Fr. Bitaju Puthenpurackal, O.SS.T.