The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light. (…)
For a child is born to us, a son is given us!
Every year, at Midnight Mass, when these words resound, a great emotion overwhelms me, no matter if I am in the most beautiful cathedral, an ordinary parish of my diocese, or in an obscure community hall in a high mountain of Colombia. When these words reach me, I always have the clear impression that something is changing for our world.
And yet, will the world have changed by the time we leave Midnight Mass? This year, if the gently falling snow would have us believe that it has come to dress our world in its beautiful cloak of purity and innocence, we will find it hard to believe. The year 2020 has gone by under the sign of death and anguish of the Covid-19 pandemic, hitting the world with full force and disrupting all our projects. Instead of recovering, we are submerged wave after wave... and we are waiting for the famous vaccine that will get us out of this horrible nightmare.
As I write these lines, I have just learned that the government and health authorities have announced that everyone will be invited to experience Christmas without meeting family and friends, trying to protect each other from an infection that threatens us all. We look forward to this famous injection that will allow us to regain a semblance of normalcy. But is it the vaccine that will save the world?
What if it was the Child who saves the world? What if it is He who comes to inject us with His joy and hope in these days that are so dark for the world? Looking at photos of my grandnephews on Facebook, listening to video clips of families preparing for Christmas as a family, I marvel at the joy and trust of the children. These children simply invite me to find the Inner Child who wants to be born in me, in each one of us. Perhaps it is He who will come to remind me that He is “Wonderful Counselor, Strong God, Father-forever, Prince-of-Peace” (Is 9:5)... and then everything can change!
He is born for you, for me, for us
Jesus, the Emmanuel, the God-with-us, accompanies us at every moment of our history. He is there with us, at the heart of the pandemic, to tell us once again that love will have the last word. He is there in our joys and sorrows to let us know that he is present at every moment of our lives. He is there in the lowly and the poor to teach us that true richness is found in the heart!
This quieter, more solitary Christmas invites us to hear with new radicalism the promise of the Saviour! He is here! He is born for you, for me, for each one of us! By making our heart a manger where He wants to be born, He comes to entrust to all the members of the Secular Institutes a great mission: to be for the world the place of the incarnation of the Gospel! How do we achieve this? I propose three paths for this Christmas season...
To welcome its mystery in a deep silence, this is the first step. More than ever, this Christmas will call us to deep meditation on the great mystery of Jesus. The Son of God is here! As in Bethlehem, the silence of the night envelops our inner grotto. And it is in this silence that we can welcome the promise, like the shepherds: “Today, in the city of David, a Saviour has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).
By being silent, we will be able to dive into the depths of his love for every person... but first of all into this personal love he has for me, for you, for each one of us! How important it is to hear the Saviour tell us again of his personal love for each and every one of us! For it is because we know we are loved that we can share it!
Announcing this good news of Love with apostolic courage is the logical next step. Impossible to keep this good news only for ourselves; it must be shared at all costs. The shepherds were the first disciples of this Child. “They made known what they had been told about this Child” (Lk 2:17). Today, our world is hungry and thirsty for hope. And the source of hope is the Child in the manger.
Announcing Jesus Christ is within everyone's reach. Our personal testimony is a doorway... but it is no longer enough! By listening to the cry of our brothers and sisters, by discerning their hunger and thirst for hope, we are invited to recognize that Jesus is already there in their lives. But let us, in turn, humbly present the source that sustains our own lives. Let us dare to say the name of Jesus! Let us dare to sing “the glory and praise of God” (Lk 2:20) so that others may long for this life-changing encounter. And let us show them the path that leads to the Author of Life.
Finally, we are called to build a new world according to Emmanuel's plan: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace for his beloved” (Lk 2:14). In a world so divided, so polarized - often even within our own families or Institutes - we are called to be these peacemakers. The new world that God offers begins to emerge when we become the men and women capable of placing the second stone for the building of a new world. For He is the cornerstone, the Prince of Peace! He is here... and promises us a better world.
But each one of us, with our talent, our gift and our personal charism, will come to place the stone of our lives to build a more human, more just, more fraternal world. May this promise of life be realized day by day when each one brings his or her share to build the civilization of Love.
These very simple paths call us on the road to Bethlehem... The city of Bethlehem of 2020 - in the Holy Land - is behind a wall of shame. The pandemic has erected other walls around the world. But this year, let us dare to believe that the Star will shine even brighter, more intensely, to announce the Good News: He is here! He lives in you, in me, in us! And this light will pierce all the walls to brighten a new day that has dawned!
On behalf of the members of the Executive Council of the Canadian Conference of Secular Institutes, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Holy and New Year 2021. May the Child in the manger fill us with his joyful hope to be able to communicate it to all those who will cross our path throughout the New Year!