Christmas: Joy in the Midst of Suffering

As much as we’d rather sweep things under the rug and hope the sparkle of sequinned dresses and Christmas lights can distract us, the Advent season does not make us immune to stress, pain, mourning, loneliness, illness, and suffering. Life does not suddenly stop throwing curveballs just because its Christmas. No, life keeps on rolling, and many of us find ourselves drowning in a sea of distractions–even if that’s the last thing we want.

I wish I could tell you that the pain would go away. I wish I could guarantee that you’d find all the answers to your questions. I wish I could tell you that Christmas would magically heal your illnesses, your brokenness. But I cannot. All I can give you is a reminder of something much deeper, of something that remains true regardless of your circumstances: God loves you.

For just this moment, forget your burdens. No, don’t forget them, acknowledge them. Feel them, and feel them fully. But in the end, offer them to God.. and read this.

Below is a letter from Mother Teresa, written to the Missionaries of Charity. I want to share it with you because it speaks of the LOVE that is so central to Christmas, the reason Jesus came down to Earth as a baby in the first place. Read it slowly. Digest every bit of it. Here it is..


Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much love He has for each one of you—beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus—one to one—you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in the chapel—but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus—not from books but from being with him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He’s longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying “I Thirst” in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person—not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say “I love you”—impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead—meditation only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him—speaking in the silence of your heart.
Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The Devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes—to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more—He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes—He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe—you are precious to Him. Bring all your suffering to His feet—only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest.
You all know in your mind that Jesus loves you—but in this letter Mother wants to touch your heart instead. … That is why I ask you to read this letter before the Blessed Sacrament, the same place it was written, so Jesus Himself can speak to you each one.
… His words on the wall of every Missionaries of Charity chapel [“I Thirst”], they are not from the past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? If so, you will hear, you will feel His presence. Let it become as intimate for each of you, just as for Mother—this is the greatest joy you could give me. Mother will try to help you understand—but Jesus Himself must be the one to say to you “I Thirst.” Hear your own name. Not just once. Every day. IF you listen with your heart, you will hear, you will understand.
Why does Jesus say “I Thirst?” What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words—if you could remember anything from Mother’s letter, remember this—“I thirst” is something much deeper than Jesus just saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.
… Our Lady was the first person to hear Jesus’ cry “I Thirst” with St. John, and I am sure Mary Magdalen. Because Our Lady was there on Calvary, she knows how real, how deep is His longing for you and for the poor. Do we know? Do we feel as she? Ask her to teach … Her role is to bring you face to face, as John and Magdalen, with the love in the heart of Jesus crucified. Before it was Our Lady pleading with Mother, now it is Mother in her name pleading with you—“listen to Jesus’ thirst.” Let it be for each … a Word of life.
How do you approach the thirst of Jesus? Only one secret—the closer you come to Jesus, the better you will know His thirst. ‘Repent and believe,’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor—He knows your weakness, He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. He is not bound by time. Whenever we come close to Him—we become partners of Our Lady, St. John, Magdalen. Hear Him. Hear your own name. Make my joy and yours complete.
While its tempting to focus more on ourselves than on Christ when there is so much suffering in our lives, do NOT let these challenging circumstances keep you from experiencing the REALNESS of God’s love ..for you. For you, specifically.
The Nativity isn’t just a historical event re-enacted in plays. It is not just something from the past; it is our present and future. As a priest from my parish constantly says: our hearts are the mangers that Jesus wants to be born in. That is His thirst.

This Christmas, will you quench it?

“The magic of Christmas is not in presents but in His presence.” Merry Christmas!

– Celine


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: