Greetings of Love and Peace to all good people of St. Gabriel’s!
Our year 2015 cannot hide and deny the many tragic events haunting people and countries all over the world. From the destructive ISIS campaigns in the Middle East to the refugee crisis in Europe, the almost serial shootings in America, the pervading hunger and destitution in Asia and Africa and to the increasingly precarious condition of our planet brought by climate change. These events may seem so far from us considering the peace and comfort we have been so blessed with. But, I would like to believe, many of us do not sleep on the agony of our brothers and sisters the world over. We are connected to and affected by their plight.
At this, we are humbly awakened by a particular challenge: while the birth of our Lord certainly brings joy to the world, it also appeals to us – who have enormous access to such joy – to spread and share it to those deprived of such access. It does not take a mammoth scale of an effort for us to respond to such challenge. I personally witnessed how many of you in our parish community demonstrated your concern to our less fortunate brethren – in many varied ways. In this community, St. Gabriel’s virtue of maintaining the interaction between prayer and fraternal concern has been well animated. While the challenges of being a pastor can never be underestimated, I really haven’t approached a difficult curve in my ministry here because of your empowering support.
Our parish community can enumerate plenty of operative and successful programs this year: your outstanding response towards the Family of Faith Campaign initiated by the Archdiocese, your bountiful support through the works of St. Vincent De Paul; bringing food for Rosalie Hall, Good Shepherd Centre and providing material necessities to Catholic Children’s Aid and above all your immense generous response towards refugee sponsorship.
All these events and projects are highly significant for us because they are undertaken not by your Pastor, not by a small group, but through the collaboration of the entire parish —by our act of being church.
It then occurred to me that any act of gift-giving and gift-receiving this Christmas is simply a paying forward of the ultimate gift giving – the Lord’s giving of His Son to us. Such gift comes to us sans the wrappings. For indeed, the greatest gifts that one can receive are unwrappable. The kiss of your father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, or friend, including someone not on good terms with you, is unwrappable. And they can be more expensive than any perfume or gadget one can wrap. Your presence, prayer, involvement, collaboration and support which serve as engines of this parish are unwrappable. Our being church is the best Christmas gift we can receive. It is our ultimate response to the prior gift given to us, the birth of our Lord.
Hence, I cannot ask for more. The most that I can do is thank God for all the blessings He gave to us throughout the year. I can only thank all of you for being with me in shepherding the flock of St. Gabriel’s. Our flock may be so small to offset and address the harsh situations our world is facing. But every grand thing abounds from something little – like the baby Jesus in the manger, which calls and gathers all people to find a common home. Our community can be like that – a manger which gathers and welcomes everyone from Toronto and beyond – a common home. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
Thank you all for your prayer, support and encouragement! Looking forward to seeing you this Christmas!