As the world moves into shopping overdrive we shoudn’t forget that Advent is primarily a time in which to prepare ourselves spiritually to celebrate the great feast of Christmas. How? Pope Francis has commented: “In their daily routine, St. Joseph, together with Mary, shared a single common centre of attention: Jesus. They accompany and nurture the growth of the Son of God made man for us with commitment and tenderness, reflecting on everything that has happened. In the Gospels, St. Luke twice emphasizes the attitude of Mary which is also that of St. Joseph: she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart”. To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, feel his constant presence in our lives, and we must stop and converse with him, give him space in prayer. Each of us should ask ourselves, “How much space do I give to the Lord? Do I stop to talk with him?” Ever since we were children, our parents have taught us to start and end the day with a prayer, to teach us to feel that the friendship and the love of God accompany us. Let us remember the Lord more in our daily life, especially this Advent!”
Walk with Me booklets are on sale (£1) to help you put aside a short period each day for quiet reflection and prayer.
Two years ago, I introduced you to Olive Aid. This is a charity which helps all Palestinians who have lost their olive trees, usually their only source of income, to the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on the West bank and that dreadful security wall. Olive trees are precious: just twenty trees can sustain a family for a year. Olive Aid is a self-help project run by Bethlehem’s Catholic University (most of whose students are Muslim) which provides needy families with 3 year old olive saplings. Christian and Muslim alike are helped but the project particularly aims to stem the emigration of Christian families who suffer the most in the conflict. Today, Christians in Bethlehem constitute less than 15% of the population. Fifty years ago, Christians living in the birthplace of Jesus made up more than 70% of the population. You can buy a tree for £25. For details see me or go to www.oliveaid.com It is a Christmas Charity that I support and a number of parishioners have joined with me over the past couple of years in buying trees.
Finally, now is the time to consider whom you will invite to Come Home for Christmas. Invite a friend or relation who may have slipped from practice to join you at Mass and come home for Christmas. (Watch a short video at www.catholicscomehome.org)