The writer Anton Čechov once wrote: “Just as the wood-lice devours plants, and rust devours metal, so the lie devours the soul.” St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians writes a similar message: “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. ... Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Eph.4:25,29). And Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).
We are about to celebrate the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians are those who have been baptised into “the way, and the truth, and the life” of Jesus Christ. This is what makes Christmas so important for us.
Christmas calls all of us to deepen our awareness of being Christians. This should mean something special and important to each one of us. As St Paul reminds us, as Christians we are members of one another.
Many people this Christmas will not be as happy as they would wish to be. This should be a concern for all people of good will. For the past number of years Irish generosity and solidarity have been so generous to help the various victims, in different parts of the world, with extraordinary generosity. This year the greatest need is probably as home, at least for many of our citizens.
Let us pray that our generosity can be as effective as is our tradition. People are without their homes, their jobs and their dignity. Let us all do whatever we can to alleviate the pain of so many of our brothers and sisters.
The second point I would like to share with you all is the need to protect and develop the faith that is our heritage from time immemorial. Faith is not something of the past. It is also vital for the present and the future. How can we protect this treasure of faith for our future generations? I would like to mention some of the initiatives that are significant in our Diocese at this time:
A) The 50th International Eucharist Congress 2012, June 10-17. Fr Martin Tobin, chairman of the Preparatory Committee, shares the following reflection with us. “The 50th Congress 2012 is very important for us in Ireland. Modern Ireland is losing sight of Christ, of reducing the Christian heritage to the annals of history. Christianity has been central in forming the Irish character; our generosity and kindness are the fruits of our Christian heritage. It has been the person of Christ who has taught us how to live and forgive; how to welcome the stranger and give generously to the poor. We must not allow Christ to be pushed to the sidelines of our culture. The Congress is an ideal opportunity for us to put Christ back in the centre of our lives and also of our social lives. What can we do? First, we can register, online, to attend some if not all of the Congress. Secondly, the Congress is looking for 3,000 volunteers. Why not become a volunteer? Again you can register online at www.iec2012.ie.
B) John Paul Ii Award in the Diocese of Ossory: At the launch of the John Paul II Award in St Kieran’s College on October 27 of this year, 150 young people from the Diocese of Ossory applied to take part in the award. Fr Willie Purcell, director, has these words to share with us: “Through the John Paul II Award, young people will be enabled to take an active part in the life of the Church, in the life of their community and society and also become more aware of the social teaching and role of the Catholic Church in the world. It will enable young people to understand that religion and faith is not just for learning, nor is it a list of rules, but that it is for living. Parishes are encouraged to affirm and support each young person through involvement in the liturgical and community life of the parish. Through the support of Parish Pastoral Councils and the involvement with groups such as St Vincent de Paul they will realise their place as young people who have many gifts and abilities to offer in making the Kingdom of God a living reality in the world we live in.”
C) Adult faith development: There is a world of difference between knowing a person and having knowledge of a person. Knowledge comes from having the facts. Knowing comes through friendship and relationship. To know God, we need to have a personal relationship. During this past year an Adult Faith Development Group was set up to promote faith as relationship with Christ. Fr Dermot Ryan, a member of the group, offers us this reflection: “As we celebrate Christmas we commit, or re-commit, ourselves to deepening our relationship with Christ our Saviour. As the child of Bethlehem grew in his wisdom of the mission entrusted to Him by the Father (Lk 2:52), we too must follow his example by listening to the Word of God and deepening our relationship with Him. Christmas calls us to a new relationship with God. It invites us to know and love Him more deeply. This is a lifelong journey for all of us. The understanding of God we have as children is not sufficient as we move through life. In this Diocese, the Ossory Adult Faith Development Group has a special role in helping us to develop and mature our faith as we live the reality of today. During this past year, this group has helped facilitate us in deepening our faith in God. Through a variety of initiatives – CDs, books, courses, debates, lectures, lunchtime theology, twitter and the internet – we have been helped to pray, to share and to deepen our faith in God in an ever more meaningful and mature way. Many more initiatives are planned for next year. What a wonderful way this could to respond to the Infant God whose arms are outstretched in the crib inviting us to come close and to get to know him better”.
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 sorrows and difficulties of our time.
I wish each and all of you a happy and blessed Christmas, and peace and joy in the New Year.