A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘loss

My husband’s arguments to the contrary, I don’t think Die Hard is a Christmas movie; it’s a movie that happens to take place at Christmas. I think a Christmas movie has a main character who discovers the true meaning of Christmas or who receives a Christmas gift of love, forgiveness or compassion.

Some people, though, may not even want to think about watching one of the many schmaltzy holiday movies on TV right now, let alone debating whether they’re really Christmas films. I’m thinking of people who are grieving even as Christmas approaches.

Some of the hyper-festive holiday music on the radio might also be too much, I thought to myself as I listened to the laidback, jazzy soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas this morning. And the holiday lights and decorations and greeting cards? Too cheery.

Nanny's birthday

My mother with my grandmother on Nanny’s 80th birthday

I love everything about Christmas, but even I get a little sad sometimes while looking at the holiday treats—which seems silly, unless you knew that my mom’s mother loved receiving boxed chocolates as gifts, enjoyed an After Eight after Christmas dinner, and always gave my father a tin of cashews “From Santa.”

When life is on a relatively even keel and we’re looking forward to Christmas, it can be hard to remember that the holidays are challenging for some.

We could pause when we’re sending out cards and year-end letters to think about who might appreciate a thoughtful personal note more than a cheery greeting. For example, my mom, writing up her Christmas cards, realized that more low-key cards would be better for the three widowers on her card list, two of them facing Christmas as a single for the first time in decades.

We could give some thought as to which of our relatives, friends or neighbours might find themselves spending Christmas dinner alone because the spouse who did the cooking no longer lives there or has passed away. When I was growing up, after my dad’s mother died, his father spent Christmas Eve with us for a number of years.

We could also consider who might welcome a friendly visit as they struggle with the holidays—so focussed on children—because a child in their life has lost the battle with illness. Or who might appreciate a hand with their holiday preparations because they’re dealing with their own illness or that of a parent, a reality for many today as our population ages.

As we anticipate celebrating Christmas, may we be mindful of this prayer intention of the Holy Father for December:

That families, especially those who suffer, may find in the birth of Jesus a sign of certain hope.





We may lose a loved one, a friendship, our job, or money. We may suffer illness. Our spouse may be unfaithful. When life brings sad moments, some people convince themselves that God must hate them.

As we read in Wisdom 11:24-26*, they couldn’t be more wrong:

For you love all things that exist,

and you loathe none of the things which you have made,

for you would not have made anything if you had hated it.

How would anything have endured if you had not willed it?

Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?

You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord who love the living.

In our culture, there seems to be a belief that, if we follow Jesus, we’ll never have to face challenges or loss or hardship—that, if we’re “good Christians,” we’ll know only blessings. But God doesn’t promise us that, as just a few examples from the Bible show us:

  • Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 21:1-7), Hannah and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:1-20) and Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25) waited years to have a child.
  • Jacob’s wife Rachel died in childbirth (Genesis 35:16-20).
  • Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:12-36).
  • The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14).
  • Except for John, who died in exile, all the apostles were martyred, beginning with James (Acts 12:2).

In fact, Jesus tells that we may face challenges because we follow him (Matthew 5:10-12):

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

What Jesus does promise us is that he will be with us:

“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

“Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

When we struggle with the challenges life brings, I pray that we would take comfort in remembering just how much God loves us and draw strength from the truth that he will always be with us.

(*Scripture quotes and references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

We hear a lot about profit and loss, about companies in the black and in the red, about revenue and deficit—especially right now, with the federal government’s latest budget this week and the personal income tax deadline just around the corner.

Of course the state of our financial health as a nation and individually matters, but how about the state of our spiritual health?

We live in a country with abundant natural resources and a reputation for peacekeeping and compassion but where there is no law on abortion, where the ban on physician-assisted death has been struck down, where the statistics on missing and murdered women don’t give rise to the outrage and action they should.

Individually, we say we are Christians and serve in our parish and the community—but do we then fail to declare our income honestly on our tax forms, engage in cyberbullying, or watch pornography?

Jesus asks (in Mark 8:36-37*), “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life?”

If we’re more concerned about accumulating money and acquiring possessions and living for pleasure than about pursuing justice and mercy and acting out of compassion and love, then our spiritual balance sheet will reflect that. And we could find ourselves at the Lord’s left hand, told to depart from him for our failure to minister to the hungry, the imprisoned, and others in need (see Matthew 25:41-43).

Now is the time to ask God’s forgiveness and his guidance in learning how to be in the world but close to God, as the apostle Paul urged (Romans 12:2):

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I pray that we would turn our attention away from the world’s view of the good life to Jesus’ view so that the way we live will bring these welcome words at the end: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

(*Scripture quotes and reference taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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