There is a Place for You in the House of the Lord
As the family of God gathers today on this first Sunday of Advent, we joyfully proclaim again and again in the Responsorial Psalm: “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122).
This invitation to go together to God’s house is the heart of our annual archdiocesan “Find the Perfect Gift” evangelization campaign. For this year, every parish in the Church of Washington in this time of preparation for the coming of the Lord has been invited to order Christmas-card style invitations that echo the angel’s proclamation of the good news of Christ’s birth and read, “Would you consider coming to Mass this Christmas and every Sunday to experience God’s love in our church? There is a place for you in our community.”
This initiative reminds people that God’s immense love for us becomes concrete in the birth of Jesus Christ, who is Emmanuel, God with us. God became one of us so that we might share in the very life of God. Jesus, Son of God, became man so that we might know God, love God, and come to life everlasting with God.
With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, we have the perfect opportunity to share with people the gift we also have in gathering on the Lord’s Day to celebrate the Eucharist. In a very real and tangible manner, heaven touches earth in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Our invitation is for people to personally participate in this wonder and joy. There is no gift that we could buy that would be greater than the gift of knowing that we belong in the house of the Lord.
This sense of belonging is the second part of the invitation which ensures people, “There is a place for you in our community.” My experience in talking with people who call themselves “former Catholics” or “inactive Catholics” or even “fallen-away Catholics” is that many of them think that there is not a place for them in the Church. Maybe they think that their sins may be too great, or they have had a bad experience with a priest or in Catholic school or in a parish program and cannot trust things may be different now. In these cases, it is not so much they have lost a belief in God or a desire to go to church, they are not sure they will be welcomed or that there is a place for them.
We can never say enough that there is no sin too great to keep one from God – his love which is alive in the Church is greater than any of our failings and imperfections. All are welcome. Furthermore, for whatever we might have done for people to feel apart from their spiritual home, this is an occasion for us to express our sorrow and contrition and show them now the loving concern they may not have felt before.
Finally, there is a space in these Find the Perfect Gift invitations for you to write a personal note, to share in a few words how going together to Mass, to spend time in communion with the Lord of love and life, is the perfect gift that you have to give.
In today’s world, the meaning of Christmas can easily get lost both in our familiarity of the story but also in the busyness and excitement of decorating, shopping, celebrating with friends. It can also be obscured in the day-in and day-out proclamation of a secular and material message that knows no God, sees no manifestation of God with us, and does not experience God’s loving care.
Interestingly enough, however, recent polls show that our fellow citizens are in the midst of a quest for spiritual meaning in their lives. At some level they know that no amount of worldly goods, in whatever form they enjoy them, can ever satisfy this longing of the human heart. For friends like this, in addition to bearing witness that the wonderful story of Christmas and love incarnate coming into the world is true, we can point them to the special website findtheperfectgift.org to find a family Advent calendar with prayer and activities to help prepare spiritually for Christmas. You will also find daily reflections which you can receive via text message.
May this Advent season be a time for each of us to celebrate with a fresh spirit of confidence in what we proclaim – that in Jesus, born in Bethlehem, we have found the perfect gift.