Messages from the Bishop

Advent & Christmas Message

Written by Bishop Henry

"O come, O Key of David come. And open wide our heavenly home, make safe the way that leads on high. And close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel. Shall come to you O Israel"

This verse resonates very well with an important symbol marking this Extraordinary Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, the Holy Door. We are being told: Open the Door! Open the Gates!

A door in everyday life has several functions, all repeated by the symbol of the Holy Door:

it marks the separation between inside and outside, between sin and the order of grace;

it permits entry to a new place, in showing mercy and not condemnation;

it provides protection,

it provides salvation.

Jesus said: "I am the gate" (Jn 10:7). There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the way to salvation. To him alone can the words of the Psalmist be applied in full truth: "This is the Lord's own gate: where the just may enter" (Ps 117:20).

The Holy Door reminds us of our responsibility when crossing the threshold: It is a decision which implies the freedom to choose, and at the same time the courage to abandon something, to leave something behind. Passing through this door means professing that Jesus Christ is Lord, and in strengthening our faith in Him to embrace the new life He has given us. This is what Saint Pope John Paul II had announced to the world on the day of his election: "Open wide the doors to Christ".

In some way, humanity is awaiting God, waiting for him to draw near. But when the moment comes, there is no room in the inn. There is no room for him. The door is closed. Man is so preoccupied with himself, he has such urgent need of all the space and all the time for his own things, that nothing remains for others – for his neighbour, for the poor, for God. And the richer men become, the more they fill up all the space by themselves. And the less room there is for others.

Saint John, in his Gospel, went to the heart of the matter, giving added depth to Saint Luke's brief account of the situation in Bethlehem: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not" Jn 1:11). These words refer ultimately to us, to each individual and to society as a whole.

Do we have time for our neighbour who is in need of hope, or in need of affection?

For the sufferer who is in need of help?

For the refugee who is seeking asylum?

Do we have time and space for God?

Can he enter into our lives?

Does he find room in us, or have we occupied all the available space in our thoughts, our actions, our lives for ourselves?

In the Gospel of Christmas, we encounter the maternal love of Mary and the fidelity of Saint Joseph, the vigilance of the shepherds and their great joy, the visit of the wise men, who come from afar, so too John says to us: " To all who received him, he gave power to become children of God" Jn 1:12).

The message of Christmas makes us recognize the darkness of a closed world, and thereby no doubt illustrates a reality that we see daily. Yet it also tells us that God does not allow himself to be shut out. He finds a space, even if it means entering through the stable; there are people who see his light and pass it on. Through the word of the Gospel, the angel also speaks to us, and in the sacred liturgy the light of the Redeemer enters our lives. Whether we are shepherds or " wise men " – the light and its message call us to set out, to leave the narrow circle of our desires and interests, to go out to meet the Lord and worship him. We worship him by opening the world to truth, to good, to Christ, to the service of those who are marginalized and in whom he awaits us.

Setting out from a stable, Jesus builds the great new community, whose key-word the angels sing at the hour of his birth: " Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those whom he loves " – those who pass through the door, place their will in his, in this way becoming men and women of God, new persons, a new world.

Christmas is a feast of restored creation. In the stable at Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth meet. Heaven has come down to Earth. For this reason, a light shines from the stable for all times; for this reason joy is enkindled there; for this reason song is born there.

"O come, O Key of David come. And open wide our heavenly home, make safe the way that leads on high. And close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel. Shall come to you O Israel"

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Homily from Advent Celebration in City Hall, December 20, 2015

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