Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas Urbi et Orbi Message and a Deacon at Our Lady Immaculate Parish in Athol

In his Christmas Urbi et Orbi (To the City and the World) Message, Pope Benedict XVI said:

"Dear brothers and sisters listening to me here in Rome and throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim the message of Christmas: God became man; he came to dwell among us. God is not distant: he is 'Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is no stranger: he has a face, the face of Jesus. This message is ever new, ever surprising, for it surpasses even our most daring hope.

First of all, because it is not merely a proclamation: it is an event, a happening, which credible witnesses saw, heard and touched in the person of Jesus of Nazareth! Being in his presence, observing his works and hearing his words, they recognised in Jesus the Messiah; and seeing him risen, after his crucifixion, they were certain that he was true man and true God, the only-begotten Son come from the Father, full of grace and truth (cf. Jn 1:14).

'The Word became flesh'. Before this revelation we once more wonder: how can this be? The Word and the flesh are mutually opposed realities; how can the eternal and almighty Word become a frail and mortal man? There is only one answer: Love. Those who love desire to share with the beloved, they want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great love story of God for his people which culminated in Jesus Christ.

God in fact does not change: he is faithful to himself. He who created the world is the same one who called Abraham and revealed his name to Moses: 'I am who I am' … the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … a God merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (cf. Ex 3:14-15; 34:6). God does not change; he is Love, ever and always. In himself he is communion, unity in Trinity, and all his words and works are directed to communion. The Incarnation is the culmination of creation. When Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, was formed in the womb of Mary by the will of the Father and the working of the Holy Spirit, creation reached its high point. The ordering principle of the universe, the Logos, began to exist in the world, in a certain time and space...this truth is revealed to those who receive it in faith, for it is a mystery of love. Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas. So it was on that night in Bethlehem, and so it is today. The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history. In the night of the world a new light was kindled, one which lets itself be seen by the simple eyes of faith, by the meek and humble hearts of those who await the Saviour. If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power. But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the “yes” of our hearts.

And what do our hearts, in effect, seek, if not a Truth which is also Love? Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence.

'The Word became flesh'. The proclamation of Christmas is also a light for all peoples, for the collective journey of humanity. “Emmanuel”, God-with-us, has come as King of justice and peace. We know that his Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbour, in the peaceful struggle for justice. Belief in the God who desired to share in our history constantly encourages us in our own commitment to that history, for all its contradictions. It is a source of hope for everyone whose dignity is offended and violated, since the one born in Bethlehem came to set every man and woman free from the source of all enslavement.

May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic. May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters.

May the birth of the Saviour open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire; may it promote political and social stability in Madagascar; may it bring security and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and in Pakistan; may it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of 'God-with-us' grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all.

Dear brothers and sisters, 'the Word became flesh'; he came to dwell among us; he is Emmanuel, the God who became close to us. Together let us contemplate this great mystery of love; let our hearts be filled with the light which shines in the stable of Bethlehem! To everyone, a Merry Christmas!"

What struck me the most in our Holy Father's Christmas message were these words: "Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas."  Last night, I attended a Christmas Eve Mass at Our Lady Immaculate Parish in Athol, Massachusetts.  I was in a cheerful mood (as always) and prayerfully preparing for Mass when I was approached by one of the parish's deacons who began to lecture me about making room for "elderly people" who were in need of a seat.  When I calmly informed him that no one had approached us (I was with family) to ask us if we could slide down the pew, he answered with dripping sarcasm, "Consider yourself approached."

Was the deacon's attitude Christ-like?  Is it evidence of a person who is "open to love"?  Or does it not betray a lack of charity?  The homily at Mass, delivered by Father Richard Jakubauskas, was largely about the need to embrace love and kindness toward one another.  But words are cheap when they are not backed up with concrete action.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they were all show.  Their actions did not correspond to their preaching.  Is that not the case here?  Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council tells us that, "Ministers of the lesser rank are also sharers in the mission and grace of the supreme priest.  In the first place among these ministers are deacons, who inasmuch as they are dispensers of Christ's mysteries and servants of the Church, should keep themselves free from every vice and stand before men as personifications of goodness and friends of God (cf. 1 Tm 3: 8-10, 12-13).  Clerics, who are called by the Lord and are set aside as his portion in order to prepare themselves for the various ministerial offices under the watchful eye of spiritual shepherds, are bound to bring their hearts and minds into accord with this special election (which is theirs).  They will accomplish this by their constancy in prayer, by their burning love, and by their unremitting recollection of whatever is true, just and of good repute.." (No. 41).

Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas.  There is a deacon in Athol who should meditate very carefully on those words.  Although this unhappy soul attempted to distract me from prayer and to squash my joyous spirit, he failed.  Emmanuel: God with us....even if others be against us!


Athol/OrangeCatholic said...

I'm sorry about your experience Paul. I know the staff at OLI. And I think I know who you are referring to. The Deacon in question is short and has a beard right? I will not divulge his name but, like the Associate Pastor, he comes across as proud and arrogant. We need to pray for the Diocese of Worcester, that Jesus will send us truly faith-filled and loving priests and deacons who are humble. There is a small number of such clerics now, but we sorely need more like them.

Ted Loiseau said...

Since this charitable soul interrupted your prayer in an attempt to distract you from your conversation with Jesus while sowing discord, one has to ask the $64,000 dollar question: Whose work is he doing? That of the Lord Jesus? Or that of the Evil One?

Even the most uneducated and unsophisticated Catholic should be able to answer that question.

Michelle said...

Mr. James Linderman is his name. In my view, Athol/Orange Catholic is right on the money. Arrogance is most unbecoming in a priest or deacon. It's a turn off.

Thomas Coolberth said...

I always ask myself, "Where are all these people during the rest of the year?"

A kind man gave up his seat to my wife and my son. I stayed in the basement with my unruly 14 month old.

Plus, I was due to head out alone later for a midnight Mass at St Joseph's in Fitchburg. It was the Extraordinary Rite and is was indeed extraordinary.

On a side note Our Lady of the Lake in Leominster had a midnight Mass, too. I think Midnight Mass is making a come back, in years past they seemed to be few and far between in our humble corner of the Diocese.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

The Devil inspires his followers to interrupt faithful Catholics who are trying to pray the Rosary and who are engaged in contemplative prayer. It was St. Louis de Montfort who reminded us that those who oppose the Confraternity of the Rosary have absorbed the poison of Hell.

Many of our clerics (priests and deacons) have abandoned prayer. And, as a result, have succumbed to pride, to lust and idolatry. Even the tabernacle has been moved to the periphery so that the celebrant's chair can be placed at the center.

The self-worship which leads to Hell.

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