First of all, I wish to take this opportunity of wishing all of you a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a blessed New Year in 2015.
Christmas is a time of joy and peace, and we can only experience true peace if there is an authentic harmony experienced by all people – young and old, the sick, the unemployed, the angry, the worried and confused. There is an innate tendency in the human begin to seek all that is good and true.
Christmas gives us a time of year when we can seek peace and to be a personal force for peace and harmony for all people of good will.
Indeed, if we want to have such a Christmas, then each person can be an agent of all that is right and true. This could well be the best gift we can offer the world at Christmas.
At Christmas time we aim to be the one people of the one God – the God of infinite love and mercy.
Who are we?
Scripture tells us that there is no longer Jew or Greek: there is no longer slave or free. We are rational beings who can resemble God the Creator.
We are called to collaborate with God, to be like God and to know Him, so that we can share His Infinite love with every other.
We are beings that feel for others who suffer. We can show compassion as Jesus did, and as he continues to love us.
Where are we?
We are communities and parishes in the Church. We live, according to St. Paul, in a world of the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. We who inherit the Word of God see the problems, are aware of evil, and see the real presence of evil in the world.
What’s wrong and what is the solution?
We take these two questions together for two reasons. They dovetail into one another, since St Paul’s vision of the future world would set us free from sin and corruption. The world of St Paul, in his second letter to Corinthians, where Paul is only too horribly aware of what can go wrong and has gone wrong.
What has gone wrong?
By way of answer we find the usual, but vital, trio: prayer, the spirit and the resurrection.
So too, in the ‘armour’ passages 1 Thessalonians 5, and Ephesians 6, there is indeed a battle to be fought with faith, love, hope, and, more fully, with truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, and with God’s Word and prayer.
Paul looks ahead to the way in which the one God will sort everything out doing what the Psalms and Isaiah said needed to be done. Evil must be denied the possibility of once again defacing and distorting God’s good world.
Made in the image and likeness of God we can and indeed we are called to collaborate with God in the building of a better world. This is not a suffering; in fact it can be a joy to know that we are collaborating with God to build a better world.
Knowing that we can collaborate with God to change the world is a source of wonderful joy. Each one of us can make a difference and make the world a better place – but we must walk with God – he is our sure guide.
Christmas is an opportunity where people feel they can make life a little better for the poor, for the sick and for those in need.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of wonderful joy and excitement. However, if we want to be honest with ourselves, there is also a Christmas where the abuse of alcohol and drugs, gambling, sickness, poverty, bereavement, compromise our lives and take away the joy. We pray that enough people will be inspired and have the where with all to alleviate the worst excesses of all that can destroy our Christmas.
Wiliam Hazlett, in one of his essays says ‘the happiest half hour of life is the half hour you were waiting at the station to take you home for Christmas’. Can we all find a half an hour a day in which we can give new life to someone this Christmas. Give a half an hour of our presence: by a conversation with a lonely person; by appreciating our parents; by appreciating the gift of family; showing appreciation can really enrich the way we celebrate Christmas and in doing so become aware of the real presence of Jesus. Remembering that when we help someone we experience the real the presence of Jesus and thus we can change the world.
I wish to thank, very especially, all those people of goodness and generosity who do succeed in being “a light in the darkness” (Jn.1:5) of the injustices and excesses of our time.
A very happy and holy Christmas to each of you and to your families.
God bless you all.
Séamus Freeman, SAC
Bishop of Ossory.