God is with us

By  Harry McAvoy
  • January 25, 2024

As the end of the Advent season drew near, I was blessed with an Emmanuel moment that became a Christmas gift that has kept on giving.

One day at morning Mass, I decided to move up a few pews to sit with my Aunt Theresa, who happens to be my godmother, and my Uncle Mike, her brother.  As Fr. Roy read the Gospel from Matthew, chapter one, he read of the fulfillment of prophecy, “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

Those words, God is with us, woke me up.  Why?  Because as the Gospel was being proclaimed I recognized the lived example of a beloved aunt and uncle.  You see both are living through great sadness, every parent’s nightmare, but they are doing it with deep abiding faith, that speaks loudly.  There are many places they could be each morning, but they choose to be at daily Mass, in the pew, raising their minds, hearts and voices to God.  In living their faith, they are being blessed with God’s grace and providing an edifying example to all who know the pain that is theirs.

A few days later, the Bride and I made a Christmas visit to my Uncle Eugene and Aunt Val.  They too are enduring great sadness, as my godfather struggles to remember. When Aunt Val provided her update, she spoke of attending the daily television Mass, and what a blessing it has been given their circumstances.  When others might have hardened their hearts, wondering where is God, they have continued to practise their Catholic faith, from which they draw great consolation.

As we visited, I mentioned my own memory struggles and how hard it can be on a relationship.  Eugene and Val nodded, as they understood. Then I spoke words of hope that are a tremendous blessing for all who believe.  I said, because we do our best to stay close to God, we live with the confidence that despite our current sorrows, God is with us and will be for eternity; and what a source of joy is this belief, even in the midst of life’s great tragedies.

As Jennifer and I drove home, I shared my Emmanuel revelation, but also how it had occurred to me, when we show up at Mass not only are we the recipients of God’s grace, but we offer hope for others who to are hurting. It is one thing to witness acts of faith, but something different to see others who persevere, walking confidently with God in the midst of their storms. To wonder how they do it, and to conclude, God is with them.

In my senior years, which are nearly here, I want what my aunts and uncles have. That quiet peace that comes from believing their beliefs, showing up in good times and bad, and being the lived example of God’s great love, that the world, including my children, grandchildren and godchildren, desperately need.

My beloved aunts and uncles have demonstrated, as did my parents, that choosing to be with the Lord is not just a good thing to do; rather it is where we gather with our fellow believers, raising each other up, relishing God’s word  and receiving our Lord and Saviour in the Eucharist, a gift the world can never replicate. To know these truths and to witness them lived well are two of the greatest gifts we can possibly experience in this life. The belief God is with us is a source of great peace when times are good and when suffering has its way.   

For those who believe, the beautiful hymn, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” becomes a song for all seasons, because we know God is with us, now and always. 

(Harry McAvoy is co-author with his wife, Jennifer, of the book Faith, Love and Loss; Sustaining Hope amid Memory Loss and the Storms of Life.)

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