I am blessed to have served as a priest for 17 years in our Holy Cross ministries in Peru. I love Christmas in Peru. As night falls on Christmas Eve, a quiet settles, along with a sense of waiting. Christmas Eve Mass is celebrated around 10 p.m. The Churches are packed for beautiful celebrations as the feast begins, and people return to their homes, yet there is still a sense of waiting—until midnight!
Precisely at the stroke of twelve, firecrackers and small skyrockets begin at full force everywhere for the next ten minutes as an outburst of wonder and joy because the Savior has come! I would go to the flat roof of our Holy Cross residence in Lima and look out over the valley where we lived, which is home to about a million people, hundreds of thousands of families, mostly poor.
Now I am not advocating the use of dangerous pyrotechnics. Instead, I want to note the expression of faith and love. Through their suffering the effects of poverty, they know their great human longing and their need for God. "And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts," says the prophet Malachi around the year 430 before Christ.
Malachi prophesied 100 years after the restoration of Jerusalem, after the Babylonian Captivity. Through Malachi, the Lord had decried that people had not learned from their exile the lessons of fidelity to the Lord and His ways. Religious mediocrity reigned as many priests were lax. Rampant divorce and intermarriage with pagans led to a severe breach in the transmission of the Covenant to the young.
After Malachi, prophecy then went silent! There were no more recognized prophets in Judah. People were left to wait, to learn from life, to long for God, for His coming. To wait—until in a village in the hill country outside of Jerusalem, a baby boy was born amid extraordinary events to an old priest and his believed sterile wife. Not only had prophecy returned. Malachi's messenger of the Lord, the new Elijah, had arrived. His name is John—meaning "God is gracious!"
"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, He has come to His people and set them free!" The Christ Child changes everything. Today, let us long for and be open to His coming.
We of Holy Cross Family Ministries are deeply grateful that we have been able to journey with you this Advent, encouraging families to look to Holy Family to learn the ways of the Lord and live the ways of selfless love. In this Christmas season, we wish you and your families the true joy that comes from knowing in our hearts how it is in Christ alone that the longings of the human heart find their fulfillment. With the poor in spirit all around the world, let us gather with our families to gaze with love on Him lying in a manger.
About Father Jim Phalan, C.S.C.
Father James Phalan, C.S.C., is a Catholic priest, member of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the National Director of Family Rosary. He served as a missionary for many years travelling the globe to help people come to Jesus through Mary as part of the Family Rosary team. Now he is happy to be serving back at home in the USA!