Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Message 2012 - Diocese of Raphoe

“The shepherds found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger” (Lk 2: 16).

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of a Child who would bring hope and joy to a world sunk in darkness and despair. Joy would come to us because the Child was the very Son of God who came in our human flesh and spoke to us of God’s saving love. Hope would rise in our hearts because He gave us the invitation and the possibility of sharing in God’s own life and happiness. At our own risk and to our own disadvantage we reject or neglect the message from heaven brought to us by this Child.

 At this season we wish each other a happy Christmas. This greeting is often on our lips and on the Christmas cards we send to our friends. It is good to do this but we should make sure that these words do not lose their profoundly religious value and meaning. Our Christmas cards should portray something of the real meaning of this Feast and of the Birth of Christ, our Saviour, without which there would be no Christmas. A snowman and bells and holly twigs alone do not express the mystery we celebrate. Let us live Christmas in it truest sense, as a commemoration of God’s visible entry into our world, in the Person of his Beloved Son, born of the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem. This is something that is sacred and Christian. It is not folklore or mere popular custom.

The sense of hope brought to us by the mystery of Christmas is very necessary at the present time. Budget after budget has made many families struggle to survive. Unemployment and emigration, debt and impoverishment, have become a harsh reality during the past year for many people. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is extending its charitable services to more and more families. Many are responding generously to its requests and to those of other Charities. This too is an essential part of the sacred season we are preparing.

The Child born at Bethlehem is certainly a very special Child. But the birth of every child is special. Every child in the womb is unique. He or she is God’s own creation. The Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother. By virtue of their common humanity, the lives of both a mother and her unborn baby are sacred. If our concern for human rights is to mean anything, it must include concern for the most basic right of all – the right not to be killed. We ask our public representatives and politicians not to have the burden on their conscience of having legislated for abortion, but to have the courage of their convictions and uphold the uniqueness and sacredness of every human life from the first moment of conception to natural death. Abortion is gravely immoral in all circumstances, no matter how ‘limited’ the access to abortion may be.

As we celebrate the birth of Life and Truth at Christmas, let us respect life and walk in the truth. Let us with Saint Augustine ‘cast ourselves down from our pretentious selves and bow down in adoration before this fragile divine life who built himself a humble dwelling from our clay, so that he might raise and lift us up’ (cf. Confessions, VII, 18. 24). May this Christmas bring hope and peace to your hearts and homes, and joy to your children.

Nollaig mhaith daoibh go léir.

+ Philip Boyce, O.C.D.