I would like to wish everyone a very merry and blessed Christmas and a happy and blessed New Year.

This has certainly been a very trying and unstable year; it has been a reminder to us that we cannot handle this troubled time on our own. We need to grow our faith through prayer and the Eucharist, when possible, in order to rely on God’s help. He will be our salvation if we only ask.

This weekend is a very important time for our faith, and especially for our parish. On Saturday, we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr for our faith and he was one of the first of seven men ordained to the diaconate. There is a great article in Faith Magazine that tells about the need for the deacons and the good that St. Stephen did for the early church.

When I answered the call to be an ordained deacon, St. Stephen became my inspiration to follow a ministry that I truly love and serving as many people as I am able.

The first Sunday after Christmas is always the feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Although major feast days dedicated to each member of the Holy Family exist, the feast of the Holy Family commemorates their life together and the celebration focuses on religious family life.

Mary and Joseph’s marriage is a beautiful reminder of what makes a Christian marriage distinctive. Marriage is not a purely romantic endeavor in which we gaze into each other’s eyes until happily ever after; rather it is a demanding vocation to live out our baptisms together by “putting on Christ” and committing to the virtues that lead to holiness. It is by daily practicing heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience that we become one and are able to raise our family to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

This Sunday is also the feast of St. John the Evangelist, which falls on the feast of the Holy Family. Every seven years, it is the chance for us to remember our roots as a parish, and to pray for its continued success.

The cornerstone of our parish church was laid in 1856 by Reverend Cornelius Moutard and fourteen families. We have the oldest church building in the Diocese of Lansing. Father Cornelius bought our cemetery in 1866 and named it St. John as well.

I can only guess that the name of St. John the Evangelist was chosen as the name of our parish because of the great love that all of us parishioners had for Jesus and the hope that all of our parishioners would embrace that love and follow St. John’s example.

St. John was a fisherman with his brother James when he answered Jesus’ call to “come and follow me.” He became the beloved disciple of Christ. He wrote the fourth gospel, three epistles, and the book of Revelations. His passages on the pre-existence of the Word, who by His incarnation became the Light of world and Life of our souls, are among the finest of the New Testament.

Jesus shows St. John particular instances of kindness and affection above all of the rest. He had the happiness to be present with Peter and James at the Transfiguration of Christ and was permitted to witness the agony in the Garden. He was allowed to rest his head on our Savior’s bosom at the Last Supper, and to him Jesus confided the care of his Holy Mother as he hung dying on the cross.

The Romans tried to martyr him, but it didn’t work. He continued to visit the churches in Asia, preaching to the people. When he was too old to preach, his disciples would carry him to the crowds and say only, “My dear children, love one another.” That sounds a lot like the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

St. John gave so much and we are all asked to give so little. With the inspiration of St. John, our namesake, I would ask you to pick up the pace of your growing faith. I would ask you to increase your prayers and your reception of the Eucharist as much as possible.

Please feel free to use this prayer in your meditation on St. John: “O God who, through the Blessed Apostle John, has unlocked for us the secrets of Your Word: grant, we pray, that we may grasp with proper understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who live and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” Amen.

Deacon Mike McCormick