Friday, January 30, 2015

A Time for Faith

 A wonderful woman died last week.  I was privileged to give the homily at her funeral Mass this morning.

The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt (circa 1630)
          The first time I met Jenn Hoban she gave me the finger.  The index finger that is.  It was a few years ago when she pointed her finger in my face and asked, “Why does God allow his children to suffer?”  She told me the story of Katie’s heart surgery and wanted to know why an all-loving God would allow an innocent baby to suffer like that.  In just a few words punctuated by flailing hands, I knew I was dealing with a tough a Bronx chick who grew up in an Italian neighborhood, so I wasn’t about to give her some flowery theological answer and hope that she’d just go away.   So I told her the truth:  “I don’t know.”  It’s not a satisfying answer, I know, and I was afraid that Jenn might lose faith because of it.  But that wasn’t the case at all.  Jenn kept coming to Mass with her family, she stayed involved in Family PREP, and she continued to run our Thanksgiving Food Drive.  She also kept asking Deacon Joe and me that same question whenever she got the chance, finger and all.  Jenn understood that knowledge has its limits; there comes a time for faith.

          Our Gospel reading this morning is an excerpt from the miraculous story of the Raising of Lazarus.  In this passage, Martha challenges Jesus:  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  In other words, “Why did you let him die?”  “Here is one of the most human speeches in all the Bible, for Martha spoke half with a reproach that she could not keep back, and half with a faith that nothing could shake.”[1]  Martha was distraught; she felt let down; she had her doubts, but she still had faith in Jesus; she still believed that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.
          Like Martha, we have our doubts; at least I know I do.  Many of us probably share Jenn’s question in one form or another, especially today:  Why does God allow his children to suffer?  Why does God let our loved ones die?  We don’t know, and I’m not alone in saying it.  Pope Francis gave that same answer to a young girl just two weeks ago.  Sometimes we just don’t know.  But that’s why Jenn’s question is so important to ask; it delivers us to the threshold of faith.  Where catechesis and theological knowledge fail, faith steps in.  Faith teaches us that there’s a time for everything under the heavens – a time for life and a time for death (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2).  Faith teaches us that God is love (1 John 4: 8), and that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (John 3: 16).  Faith teaches us that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in him will never die (John 11: 25-26).  Faith teaches us that the crown of righteousness waits for those who keep the faith (2 Timothy 4: 6-8).  And that’s our challenge, especially today:  we have to keep the faith; we have to believe in the Resurrection and the Life.
But keeping the faith doesn’t mean that we have to deny how we really feel.  As I’ve said to Jenn’s family, our feelings are always legitimate; we have to honor them.  But when we feel angry, let’s point that finger and tell God that we’re angry; when we’re sad, let’s tell God that we’re sad; when we doubt, let’s tell God that we doubt.  Placing our burdens before God is itself an act of faith; it’s prayer.  When we place our burdens before God, we open ourselves to God’s healing love, and we open ourselves to the sure knowledge that in the end “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”[2]  Remember, Christ came to dwell among us to free us from our burdens and from the power of death.  Have faith in him, and receive his eternal life.

          Jenn had faith. 

+ Jenn’s faith was crying out to me from the end of that finger as she questioned the ways of the God she loved so much.

+ Jenn’s faith inspired her evangelical wakeup calls: “Rise and shine and give God the glory glory!”

+ Jenn’s faith compelled her to fight for what she believed in, making her the loudest and toughest spectator at all the kids’ games.

+ Jenn’s faith, evident in her love of God and neighbor, gave her the strength to finish the Thanksgiving Food Drive through the pain of cancer. 

+ Jenn’s faith welcomed the Lord with open arms as she received him in Holy Communion from her sick bed.

+ Jenn’s faith echoes in the advice she gave her children:  “Keep on doing what you’re doing.  Don’t give up.”

Sure, Jenn had her doubts, but she lived her faith.  So I have every assurance of faith, that Jenn has received the gift of eternal life.  And if faith isn’t enough, then eight years as a Girl Scout Troop Leader has to count for something.

          About a week before she died, Jenn gave me the finger.  The index finger, again.  This time, her question was more of a command:  “You’ll be there, right?”  We were planning this funeral, and Jenn wanted to make sure that I’d be here today.  I was flattered and had no problem assuring her that I’d be here.  But the more I think about it, the more I believe that Jenn was challenging me to make a statement of faith; to stand before this congregation as a statement that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life.  Well, here I am; and I believe.  I stand here with my doubts, of course, doubts that years of theological studies haven’t answered.  But thank God for Jenn Hoban and her beautiful family, who’ve taught me so much about the power of faith, and thank God for the gift of faith that sustains us through difficult times like this.  There’s a time for faith.  The time for faith is always now.

Readings:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 2 Timothy 4: 6-8; John 11: 17-27

[1] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, vol. 2 (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1975) at 91.
[2] Julian of Norwich, The Showings (Mahwah, Paulist Press, 1978) at 151.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Pope Francis hugging Glycelle
                “Why does God allow children to suffer?”  Pope Francis was asked this poignant question yesterday by a 12-year old Filipina street girl named Glycelle during his Apostolic Visit to Manila.  I was asked a similar question this morning:  “Why is God making us go through all of this?”  Katie’s question was equally as heartbreaking, and equally as impossible to answer as Glycelle’s.  I’m asked this question a lot, and I often find myself asking the same question:  Why?

                Why does God allow suffering?  Lots of answers float around out there, but truth be told, none of them are very satisfying.  Some say suffering teaches us a lesson that God wants us to learn.  I don’t doubt that we learn many valuable lessons in our suffering, and I don’t doubt that God can help us learn and grow from suffering.  But I don’t believe that an all-powerful God who created the heavens and the earth would have to rely on suffering to teach us a lesson.  One would think that God has a more creative lesson plan than that, and that an all-compassionate, all-merciful God would not resort to torturing his students to get his message across to us. 

Another answer we often hear is that our suffering is punishment for some wrong that we've committed.  While this response plays to our sense of justice, it’s not borne out by our experience.  The “law of retribution,” as it’s called, states that the just are rewarded and the wicked are punished.  Well, that sounds fair, but, as the saying goes, “life isn't fair.”  It doesn't always work out that way, at least not in this life.  Good and bad things happen to bad people, good and bad things happen to good people, and there’s no rhyme nor reason as to when or why or how. 

Then there’s the worst possible answer to the question of why God allows us to suffer:  “It’s God’s will.”  (Please don’t ever say this at a funeral).  This vague, falsely-providential response fails on several levels.  First, God is perfect and, therefore, perfectly simple.  So if “God is love” (1 John 4: 8) then God can only love.  God cannot will suffering, sickness or death.  It’s contrary to his nature.  If God willed death, he would never have sent his Son to bring us eternal life.  Second, since God can only love perfectly, God cannot love one person more or less than another.  God loves everyone and everything equally – that is to say, perfectly.  As a result, God cannot and does not target one person to suffer and another to live a care-free life.  God’s will for everyone is for us to live in his perfect love for all of eternity.

So how do I answer this question when asked?  Well, the short answer is that I don’t.  I admit right off the bat, like Pope Francis did, that we don’t have the answer to that question.  Then I try to put the question into the context of what we understand about God and his creation.  I explain, as I did above, that God is love and that God cannot and does not cause or will suffering, sickness or death to anyone.  God created us to love us and so that we could love him.  But to have love, we have to have free will.  Love can’t be forced; it must be freely given.  And with free will came the original sin that introduced disorder into the cosmos – disorder that results in suffering, sickness and death.  Our suffering, therefore, isn't the will of God or an act of God; it’s simply a condition of this disordered world.  In one sense, then, suffering is an inevitable consequence of a world where free will is permitted to exist.  Perhaps God accepts that a life spent loving him and being loved by him is worth the inevitable suffering that results from the free will needed to make that love possible.
God doesn't cause suffering, but he always offers us the opportunity for good to come out of suffering – he always offers us the opportunity to love.  When people around us suffer, God hands us the opportunity to help them, to pray for them, to comfort them – to love them.  Likewise, when we suffer, God gives us the opportunity to join with those who suffer, to pray together with them, to suffer with them – to love them.  God also offers us the opportunity to allow others to minister to us in our suffering.  Humbly placing ourselves into the loving care of others is itself an act of love.  The trick, then, for all who suffer is to look for the God-inspired love that is being poured out for us and to seize the God-given opportunities to pour out our love for others.

Why does God allow us to suffer?  I don’t know.  I ask God that question all the time.  He has not yet chosen to answer me.  But I do know that when I and those close to me have suffered, God was with us because love was all around us.  God’s love sustained us, comforted us and brought us peace.  So I also know that God’s eternal love is more powerful and more enduring than any suffering this life may bring.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Always Today - Homily for the Baptism of the Lord

With my Godparents, Eleanor and Bob Gallo, January 9, 1966
          I was baptized on January 9, 1966. Raise your hand if you know the date of your baptism. Well, don’t feel bad if you don’t. I only know the date of my baptism because I looked it up four days ago for this homily. It seems odd that we Christians generally don’t celebrate the anniversary of our baptism. After all, it’s our second birthday; the day we were reborn in Christ. But if you think about it, the specific date of our baptism doesn't really matter. Christians are called to remember our baptismal promises every day of our lives. So for us, the day of our baptism is always today.

          It’s fitting on this, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, that we should hear a Gospel passage about Jesus’ baptism. If today’s Gospel sounds especially familiar, that’s because you heard it just a few weeks ago on the Second Sunday of Advent. If it doesn't sound familiar, then you either weren't paying attention or you weren't here, but that’s the subject of another homily. In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist declares that one mightier than he is coming into the world: one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. And as Jesus emerges from the waters of the Jordan, we learn that he’s the one: Jesus is God’s beloved Son. “What John’s preaching points to, God himself confirms.”[1]

          Our second reading reminds us that we've all become sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ. “What the voice from heaven said to Jesus at his baptism by John – ‘You are my beloved Son’ – God also says to each of us: ‘You are my Son, my Daughter.’ Endowed with grace and dignity, we are also holy places where the Spirit of God has come to dwell and to remain.”[2] That same Spirit that descended upon Christ at his baptism, testifying that he is the pre-existent Son of God, descended upon each of us at our baptism, testifying that we are children of God. And as children of God we’re invited, as Isaiah tells us, to a wonderful new life with God. As children of God, we’re invited to witness to Christ here on earth. That Spirit that descended upon us, the Holy Spirit, not only serves as witness; it also enables [us] to witness to the world.”[3] That’s what we promised to do at our baptism.

          Now, many of us were baptized when we were infants, so our parents and godparents made that promise for us. We reaffirmed that promise at our Confirmation, for most of us when we were teenagers. For many of us that was a long time ago. Did I mention that I was baptized in 1966? But God calls on us to keep that promise every day of our lives. Whether we keep that promise – whether we witness to Christ every day of our lives – is a choice. “In every life there come moments of decision which may be accepted or rejected.”[4] Our baptism requires, in each of those moments, that we keep our promise to live as Jesus taught us. Our baptism requires, in each of those moments, that we keep our promise to stand for the truth at all cost.

          Needless to say, the Christian way of life isn't always easy, or safe or popular. Jesus’ life proves that, and we know all too well that even in 2015 Christians are ridiculed, persecuted and killed for being Christ’s witnesses to the world. Just last week I read an article proclaiming that people with religious convictions aren't very smart. Perhaps I should speak more slowly and use smaller words. Much more seriously, though, the past few months have brought the painful news that Christians are not only being denied the opportunity to practice the faith, but they’re being tortured and killed by extremists for being Christ’s witnesses to the world. But we’re still called to witness to Christ; we’re still called to keep our promise. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said so eloquently and poignantly, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular – but one must take it because it’s right.” We promised to take such a position at our baptism, so for Christians, the time to take that position is always today.

          This world presents us with no shortage of opportunities to keep our baptismal promises:

 ╬ When we support life from conception to natural death, when we promote justice and peace, and when we take a stand against racism and discrimination in all of their ugly forms, we renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his empty show.
╬ When we attend Mass, when we respect the dignity of every person regardless of our differences, and when we protect and preserve our environment, we believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth;
╬ When we visit the sick and imprisoned, when we comfort the mourning, feed the hungry and clothe the naked, we believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; and

╬ When we have faith in God’s promises, when we hope for eternal life, and when we love our neighbor as Christ loves us, we believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting!
These aren't remote or occasional issues; we face these choices all the time. So we’re challenged to keep our baptismal promises every day of our lives.

          You know, the anniversary of my baptism was two days ago, and even though I had looked it up just two days before that, I still forgot to acknowledge it on Friday. No matter, though. Our baptismal promises weren't fixed in a moment of time on the day of our baptism – they’re eternal. We’re called to remember our baptismal promises every day of our lives, and keeping our baptismal promises is the best way to celebrate and honor our baptism. The anniversary of my baptism isn't important because the best day to remember my baptism and the best day to keep my baptismal promises is always today.

Readings:  Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-6; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11

[1] Philip Van Linden, “Mark,” The Collegeville Bible Commentary, Robert J. Karris, ed. (Collegeville, The Liturgical Press, 1992) at 906.
[2] Patricia Datchuk Sánchez, “You Are My Beloved,” National Catholic Reporter, vol. 51, no. 61 (January 2-15, 2015) at 27.
[3] Pheme Perkins, “The Johannine Epistles,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, Roland Murphy, eds. (Upper Saddle River, Prentice Hall, 1990) at 992.
[4] William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark (Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1975) at 19.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Silence is Golden

                Last night I decided to commit an hour or two of rare quiet time to finishing a book that I've been working on through Advent and Christmas.  I need silence when I read if I’m to have any chance of absorbing the words on the page.  But I’m also at that stage of life when silence tops the endangered species list.  With work, kids, animals and Church, my life is very full, very active and very noisy.  So for me, as my father used to say, “Silence is golden.” 

Yet, the approaching New Year beckoned for a new beginning, including beginning a new book, so I set myself to my task and diligently finished The Strangest Way by Father Robert Barron.  Having completed my last-minute Old Year’s Resolution, I went upstairs to rummage through the books on my nightstand to decide which one would christen the New Year.  When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but another unfinished book that had gotten lost in the pile of untrod texts.  I’m not sure why or when I stopped reading The Way of the Pilgrim – I only had five pages to go – but there it sat, unfinished.  With the New Year closing in on me fast, I got to reading. 

The point in the book where I had left off was talking about the value of the contemplative life, which can only be realized in silence.  Contrary to modern usage, contemplation isn't “thinking about something.”  Rather, in the words of the 11th Century Prior, Guigo, contemplation is the “lifting up of the heart to God.”  In other words, contemplation is listening to God with our hearts.  And if we really want to listen to God, we need silence, and we need to be silent. 

For a fairly noisy person who talks a lot, I have an uncharacteristic appreciation of silence.  I think I’m an early bird largely because the wee hours of the morning are the quietest moments of my day.  I love long, earbudless walks in the woods with nothing more than the sounds of wind rustling through the trees, birds singing and the jostling of my dogs’ collars reaching my ears.  When I exercise (if I exercise), I swim, where all sound is muted and muffled by the deep, clear waters of our local pool.  When I need to solve a problem, I retreat to the silence of my office.  I think best in silence; I relax best in silence; and I pray best in silence.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find these words quietly waiting for me within a page or two of finishing The Way of the Pilgrim:  “Silence is the mother of prayer.”  These words speak volumes to me.   I take this phrase to mean that prayer is brought to being and is nurtured by silence.  I've never been good at coming up with words when I pray.  I know the basic rote prayers, and I use them, but I stumble when I have to come up with words of my own.  So the most fulfilling prayer experiences for me involve silence – putting myself in the presence of God without saying a word.  And guess what?  I pray most often in the wee hours of the morning, on long, earbudless walks in the woods, when I’m swimming, and when I’m trying to solve a problem. 

          I've never been much for New Year’s Resolutions, and it would be much too easy (and hokey) to end this posting with a Resolution to pray more and to find more quiet time in the New Year.  I’d love to do both, but I’d rather not set myself up for disappointment.  Instead, I’ll simply hope that when I get those rare moments of silence, I’ll appreciate them:  I’ll appreciate that silence brings the opportunity to listen to God with my heart - to contemplate his Truth.  That’s why silence is golden. 

A Solemn Blessing for the New Year

May God, the source and origin of all blessing, 
grant you grace,
pour out his blessing in abundance,
and keep you safe from harm throughout the year.

May he give you integrity in the faith,
endurance in hope, 
and perseverance in charity
with holy patience to the end.

May he order your days and your deeds in his peace,
grant your prayers in this and in every place, 
and lead you happily to eternal life.

And may the blessing of almighty God, 
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
come down on you and remain with you forever.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Best Seat in the House

                Some have accused me of becoming a Deacon so I would always have a seat in Church on Christmas and Easter.  Well, that wasn't the only reason, but I can’t deny that the Deacon’s Bench (as we call it) is, literally and figuratively, the best seat in the house.   Allow me to share a few Christmas observations from the Deacon’s Bench.

                My Christmas began with 4:00 pm Mass on Christmas Eve.  This is the most popular Mass at our Parish, so we celebrate Mass both in the Church and in the Parish Hall at the same time.  And it’s PACKED.  My very rough estimate is that we had over 700 people in the Church and over 300 in the Parish Hall.  That’s just for the first two Masses of Christmas; we had six more Masses after that.
Of course, many attendees are – how shall I put it? – infrequent fliers.   These Masses can be a little awkward as those unfamiliar with the new Mass parts stumble over the responses and don’t quite have the hang of the whole communion process.  I’ll admit, the infrequent fliers used to annoy me.  If you’re not going to come to Church regularly, why bother on Christmas?  But somewhere in my adulthood, well before I earned my reserved seat as a Deacon, my perspective changed.  I realized that the infrequent fliers needed Christmas Mass more than I did.  The Holy Spirit inspired them to go to Mass, so the least I could do is make a little room for them in a pew and in my heart.  Maybe they’d come back before Easter if they felt welcomed by our community.  So from my vantage point, a PACKED Church at Christmas is a symbol of hope – hope that our parish made a good impression and hope that the infrequent fliers will be back soon.

After the 4:00 pm Mass, it’s my family’s tradition to spend the evening with our neighbors.  We've become very close over the years, so it’s a nice, relaxing evening filled with Christmas revelry and a little irreverent jocularity.   OK, a lot of irreverent jocularity, but hey, it’s Christmas.  We had a great time.  We even got to see Catzilla pay homage to the Holy Family.  This observation is not the result of an imagination run wild or too much egg nog, as evidenced by the attached photo.   

Everyone needs good friends – people with whom we can be ourselves:  no fancy airs, no one upmanship; just ourselves, warts and all.  Christmas is a great time to celebrate these relationships because “relationship” is what the Incarnation is all about.  God freely chooses to be in active relationship with us.  God chose to dwell among us, to become our brother, to make sure we know that he understands us and accepts us, warts and all.  So from where I sit, Christmas brings great joy – the joy nurtured in good times with good friends; and the joy of knowing that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.

Christmas also allowed me to minister to those who are facing tough times.  I was able to give a big hug to Jackie, who was celebrating her first Christmas without her mother; I was blessed to bring Communion to Bob and Jenn, who are facing serious illnesses; and I was asked to pray with Tom (Jenn’s husband) and the whole family as they spend their first Christmas without Tom’s father.  Ministry is immensely rewarding in so many ways, but I’d have to say that witnessing the deep faith of people like Jackie, Bob, Jenn, and Tom tops the list.  Faith is challenged most – and strengthened most – by sickness and death.  Christmas is all about faith – you either believe that God is with us, or you don’t.  The faith of those who turn to God in these most difficult times, knowing that God is with us, is inspiring, to say the least. 

What would Christmas be without spending time with family?  My day started (a little too early) opening presents with my wife and daughters, who are always so thoughtful about the gifts they give and grateful for those they receive.  We had Christmas dinner at my sister’s, with almost the whole family present.  Another relaxing, comfortable time spent with loved ones.  We all need strong family ties.  Family represents our history:  who we are; where we came from; and where we’re going.  Family gives us stability in an unstable world; family gives us peace (well, at least an inner peace, if not always an outer peace).  What better time to celebrate family than at Christmas as we welcome the Prince of Peace into our human family?  

           My Christmas observations didn't come to me exclusively in my role as a Deacon, but my perspective on them is certainly shaped by the fact that I am a Deacon.  It’s a wonderful perspective to have – one shaped by hope, joy, faith and peace.  The view from the Deacon’s Bench is a good one.  I can’t deny it; it’s the best seat in the house.

Monday, December 22, 2014

We Need a Little Christmas – NOW!

Paintings of the Birth of Christ, Gerard van Honthorst, 1622
                We say that Advent is supposed to be a time of “joyful expectation.”  Well, I don’t know about you, but my Advent has been downright depressing.  It started with the news of yet another parishioner’s cancer diagnosis.  Then a friend was scheduled for emergency back surgery three days before Christmas.  Another friend’s daughter continues her struggle with a rare, painful autoinflammatory disorder.  Last Wednesday, my nephew, Brian, was admitted to the hospital with a stomach flu that’s complicated by his colectomy.  (You may recall that Brian was hospitalized last Christmas, so we’re praying hard that he’ll be home this year.)  That same day, my mother and I hastened to Texas to visit my Uncle Bob, whose health is failing.  And if that weren't enough, three policemen were gunned down in cold-blood over the weekend.  Enough already.  We need a little Christmas – NOW!

                I love Christmas.  I love the candles in the window and the carols at the spinet.  I love the gift-giving and gift-receiving.  I love the fruit cake, the family and the fellowship.  I love Christmas Mass – whether it’s the 4 pm Mass where both the Church and the parish hall are packed tighter than Santa’s sleigh, or Midnight Mass with all the smells and bells.  I love coming home from Midnight Mass with the children nestled all snug in their beds, while I quietly place baby Jesus and the “Gloria” angel in our nativity.  But most of all, I love what Christmas brings – faith, hope, joy and peace.  We could use a little of each, right now.

                Faith is a gift from God by which we’re invited to accept and respond to the Truth that God has revealed to us.  Faith teaches us to trust God, to believe that God is eternally faithful – that he keeps his promises.  Through faith, Christmas invites us to trust that God is with us in our sickness and in our pain, that his little angel is sitting on our shoulder. 

                Hope is an attitude based on positive expectations.  Hope gives us an outlook that transcends this world, a snappy, happy-ever-after assurance that “all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”[1]  Christmas gives us the hope of eternal life that encourages us to persevere through the struggles of this life, confident “that no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”[2] 

                Joy is a sharing in God’s life.  Joy persists through sorrow and suffering; joy sustains us and encourages us to live each living day; joy carries us into the fullness of God’s eternal joy.  Christmas delivers the joyful message that God loves us so much that he sent “his own Son into the dysfunction of the world so that he might gather that world into the bliss of the divine life.”[3]

                Peace is a state of harmony and tranquility.  In peace, we live without fear, conflict or violence.  Christmas inaugurates the reign of the Prince of Peace, allowing us to sleep in heavenly peace.

                At prayer this morning at Immaculate Conception School, the children gathered around the Advent Wreath as their Vice Principal lit the candles symbolizing the four weeks of Advent.  As she lit each candle, Diane reminded the children what each candle represents:  faith, hope, joy and peace.  She reminded me, too.  That’s exactly what I needed to face the challenges this past month has thrown at me.  We all need faith, hope, joy and peace.  We all need a little Christmas – NOW!

Click here to listen to "We Need A Little Christmas" from the musical Mame.

[1] Julian of Norwich, The Showings.
[2] 1 Corinthians 2: 9.
[3] Robert Barron, The Strangest Way:  Walking the Christian Path (Maryknoll, Orbis, 2002) at 31.