‘Children, it is the last hour,’ writes St. John in the passage we heard from his first letter at Mass today. Apropos, to say the least, on this final day of 2014. But it was the Gospel reading—also from John—that really caught my attention this morning: To my ear, at least, a pitch-perfect summary of the season…and the year we are about to conclude.
With no little sense of wonder, John testifies
And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory…full of grace and truth.
A little later in the same passage, John continues
From [Christ’s] fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace…
Looking back on 2014, my heart is full of gratitude for a year that truly did overflow with blessings for my immediate family.
Way back in January, we welcomed Hannah—our first grandchild—into the world. And in the months that followed, we’ve had many opportunities to savor her presence in our lives…to watch her grow, and take delight in her ever-expanding repertoire of antics.
Hannah was there in June, too, along her Dad (our son Brian) and Mom (daughter-in-law Sarah) for the ordination of her Uncle Chris. It was a glorious celebration, but one that seemed like it was over much too soon—particularly since our son does not reside in these parts. He’s stationed in California with the Jesuits, so we don’t often get the chance to hear him preach or see him preside at Mass.
What a blessing, then, to have had Chris here in our home for the last two weeks of the year…and to be with him as he celebrated the Eucharist for congregations both large and small.
‘It must be such a joy, to have a son who’s a priest,’ people have been saying to me ever since June…and even moreso in recent days. They’ve got it right, too: It IS a joy. And yet, something more than joy—especially when I hear the words of his homilies and see his hands stretched out in the act of consecration. It is a participation in a holy mystery, much like the one John identifies in today’s gospel:
…to those who did accept him, [Christ] gave power to become children of God…who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
It would have been enough to have had just these blessings poured out on me, on us, in 2014.
But like the Evangelist, I find myself appreciating a fullness that goes beyond even these profound blessings—grace upon grace: not the least of which is the happy news that our daughter Ellen became engaged in November. So our family will soon be expanding again, to welcome Shane, her beloved.
It’s an exquisite thing to see how he makes her smile…how Shane treasures Ellen…and to know that both are working to fashion a place for God at the center of their relationship. It is a gift that this Daddy’s heart has long desired for his precious daughter—to one day experience the grace of a marriage that offers the strength of a three-ply cord.
So I think you can see why I’m overwhelmed with gratitude as we come to the close of 2014. I’ve had a front-row seat for the fullness of grace in recent months–and more than a few opportunities to experience how God does indeed dwell among us…offering us portals into the heavenly presence through the Body of Christ, the loving people whom God puts into our lives.
I’ve noticed, too, how that Presence extends beyond the joys I’ve experienced in 2014…how God has been there in some of the year’s most confounding moments as well: When my friends and family members have felt the devastation of divorce…addiction…death…disease…dementia. Despite the pain, we knew we had not been abandoned. We could draw on life-giving waters, and on the promise that everything–absolutely everything–in our lives is redeemable.
That’s the fullness of grace: God with us. Emmanuel.
Is there a greater Gift we could possibly unwrap, at any point in this holy season?
So thank you, St. John, for the reminder of the treasure that is ours for the asking, as ‘the last hour’ of this blessed year draws near.
And perhaps we can all take a cue from dear Hannah about the sentiment that’s most appropriate for a pilgrim people as we ring in 2015!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.
Happy New year brother John, to you and your blessed family. Fran Butler