This year's Christmas Letter:
Each year as Advent commences I find myself reminding parishioners that as Christians, we have spent more than two thousand years awaiting the return of the Messiah, the Holy One of God, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Two thousand years is a long time to wait, but as St. Peter reminds us in his second epistle, Our Lord tarries not because He is delayed, but rather, because the longer He waits in returning, the longer we have to take advantage of the invitation to grace He has extended to each of us. Our waiting, then, is not marked by foot-tapping impatience, but rather, it ought to induce us toward the flurry of last minute preparations prior to the arrival of an honored guest.
It is not accidental that I use the word flurry; it seems well-suited to the style of life to which I am becoming accustomed in my new assignment. The three parishes for which I now share pastoral responsibility with Msgr. Woster are exceedingly busy parishes. With Mass schedules, confession schedules, meetings, social occasions, and the like, I find that I spend an inordinate amount of time behind my steering wheel. I have grown to appreciate my day off in a way I had not known previously. The needs of the parishes have, to my chagrin, preserved the lives of a great many trout and pheasants in the last several months. In place of these pleasures, I have forgiven thousands of sins, I have fed multitudes with the Body of Our Lord, and I have escorted many of the dying to the gates of Heaven. It seems a fair trade.
It would be dishonest to give the impression that I have had less than my fair share of leisure. Several trips out to hunt, a fall vacation to Minnesota, and an upcoming trip to Mexico are more than the Lord affords to most people. Likewise, I have been readily welcomed into the homes and into the lives of so many of my new parishioners. I find myself remarking often, “Why wouldn’t everyone want to be a priest?” Indeed, why would everyone not want the opportunity to witness God at work while sharing in the joys and heartbreaks of an individual or a family?
In the meanwhile, the Lord asks that I abandon myself more and more to Him. As is typical, I hear the call and I resist, stubbornly insisting that I have everything under control. How quickly I forget the abundance of the Lord’s generosity! The Lord has never asked me for anything which, when given, was not rewarded with something better in return. Why, hard heart of mine, do you resist? And yet, I do resist. The frailty of my humanity, burdened by the blindness of my sin and folly, knows not even how to desire the thing it wants the most. Thus, our Lord tarries. He waits for me to convert, to turn around, to embrace Him, just as when, in the fullness of time, He embraced my humanity when He condescended to be conceived in the womb of the Virgin and born in the poverty of a stable.
So, as Advent moves to Christmas, and as 2012 becomes 2013, and as I continue to try to become more and more the priest I have been called to be, know of my prayers for you. Thank you for your kind sentiments, and your own prayers on my behalf. You are among the countless blessings the Lord has given to me. May all of God’s richest blessings be yours this holy season.
Fr. Tyler Dennis