Bishop's Blog

With Gratitude, We Pray, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

 In Advent we recite beautiful prayers of longing and waiting; we sing hymns of hope and anticipation and we light candles in the darkness to remind us of God’s faithful love. Every year we gather all of our yearnings, and faithful expectations into one word: “Come.” What a unique prayer this is!

Jesus has already come; he has shared our life among us with its joys and challenges, and at the end he will reveal the resurrection. It is also true that Jesus will come again, not that he has really gone away, but that his final coming will embrace humanity for all eternity. As St. Augustine stated, we live our lives each day between these two comings of Jesus. The risen Lord remains with us in Word and Sacrament. But still Jesus will come again, which is the Truth we live each day, and celebrate with great solemnity, at Christmas, his first coming.

Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us. Christmas is the mystery of this “marvelous exchange” [CCC 526].

Behold, Jesus comes. His coming finds its incarnational fulfillment in the present moment. This is the single moment of anticipation that we celebrate in Advent which is reflected in our unique prayer of invocation, “Come.”

Each year in the liturgical season of Advent, I am inspired by the works of service and charity that have been undertaken to address the needs of those living in poverty, underemployment, loneliness, illness, etc. For me, these are clear signs that we understand and embrace the Advent spirit of prayer – that we anticipate that Jesus is always among us. Such encounters transform us and society when we come together to serve those who are in need. Often those who serve acknowledge that they receive more in return than they feel they give. This Christian memory reflects the goodness and deep belief that is present in parish communities when they are transformed when serving the poor during Advent.

Volunteers at Feed the Hungry serve a weekly Sunday meal in downtown Calgary at the Cathedral hall to 500 - 700 individuals and families who are in need. The faithful of the Diocese initiated this outreach to the poor more than 24 years ago and it continues to provide a home-cooked meal on 50 weekends every year. The volunteers and sponsors come from the diocese, other faith traditions and the local community. This outreach has been a consistent witness to the faith in our city centre. With gratitude we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society dedicate themselves to befriending and serving the poor and visiting them in their homes. St. Vincent de Paul inspires their work saying, “We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.” Their good works include responding to requests for food, and providing help in paying bills to avoid eviction or having gas, power cut off. The Vincentian mission is to live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy. Each Christmas, in addition to their service all year, Vincentians deliver thousands of food hampers to families and individuals. With gratitude we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Parishioners are involved as members or as contributors to Caritas International – Development and Peace and in so doing, they work to create greater global justice as they act in solidarity with the most poor and vulnerable. Their campaigns raise our awareness and coordinate our response to the urgent needs of those impacted by hunger, war, famine and natural disasters throughout the world. With gratitude we pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”

The Catholic Women’s League addresses the issue of homelessness through their Provincial Legislation Standing Committee. This advocacy for the needs of others happens when women of faith identify the needs surrounding them in their communities. And through their fundraising and stewardship, the Knights of Columbus have given more than $2,300,000 to charities on behalf of member Knights in the Alberta-NWT Jurisdiction. To date, more than 90 charitable causes have received financial support from the Knights’ foundation. With gratitude we pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”

For 20 years, The Carillon has played a tremendous role in witnessing, sharing and promoting the vibrant faith and ministries of the Diocese. From the beginning, The Carillon was edited and published by a team of faithful individuals dedicated to the task of producing a monthly communication to celebrate, support and promote the faith life of our parish communities. Under the committed leadership of Monique and Myron Achtman, the publication has served as an important link in our pastoral communication network. I join with my predecessor, Bishop Fred Henry, and the faithful of the Diocese to thank Monique and Myron for 20 years of faithful service. I want to express my appreciation for the legacy of this publication, which has faithfully chronicled this life of faith and witness to Jesus alive in our diocese. The enduring quality of any work is often refined in its ability to adapt to change and to respond to emerging needs. In that regard, I also want to express my appreciation and admiration for the way in which Monique and Myron have embraced this time of change and contributed their talents to ensure a smooth transition to a new format for this publication. With gratitude we pray, “Come Lord Jesus!” 

This Advent/Christmas season also awakens in me a spirit of gratitude for the words of encouragement, support and prayers that I have received. I note the witness of pastoral charity exhibited by the priests, the deacons who exercise the role of Christ the servant, the presence of the religious communities who offer their unique charisms and a witness to holiness, the co-responsibility of the lay faithful as a living sign of Christ in the world, the role of the teachers and catechists in our schools and parishes, and the essential gift of family life that is shared so readily in an expression of sacrificial love and an openness to new life.

Finally, to those working at the Pastoral Centre with whom I collaborate daily, I am grateful for the dedication and cooperation that we share in serving the needs of God’s people. Daily, the Spirit calls to my mind the need to ponder these gifts in my life and ministry and in the spirit of Mary “to treasure these in my heart.” With gratitude I pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”

It is my prayer that in this Christmas season, the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Eucharist may strengthen all the faithful so that we will be confirmed in the Joy of the Gospel. May God, who is always coming into our lives, grant us the grace to live now, in this time of Advent, in such a way that we joyfully proclaim his coming, at Christmas, that embraces all humanity.

☩ William McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary

Related Offices Bishop's
Related Themes Advent

Advent & Christmas Message

"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"

-------

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

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Bishop's
Related Themes Christmas Advent

Thinking of Moms and Babies

"The time came for Mary to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn"

Lk 2:6f.

This was the moment that Israel had been awaiting for centuries, through many dark hours, the moment that all humanity was somehow awaiting, in terms as yet ill-defined: when God would take care of us, when he would step outside his concealment, when the world would be saved and God would renew all things.

We can imagine the kind of interior preparation, the kind of love with which Mary approached that hour. The brief phrase: "She wrapped him in swaddling clothes" allows us to glimpse something of the holy joy and the silent zeal of that preparation. The swaddling clothes were ready, so that the child could be given a fitting welcome. Yet there is no room at the inn.

In some way, we are still awaiting God, waiting for him to draw near. But when the moment comes, there is no room for him. We are so preoccupied with ourselves, we have such urgent need of all the space and all the time for our own things, that nothing remains for others, for our neighbour, for the poor, for God.

It used to be said that while populations expand exponentially, food production expands only arithmetically, leading to inevitable starvation. However, thanks to agricultural technology, the world's capacity to feed itself has confounded the pessimists. In many places, what drives malnourishment is not overpopulation or insufficient food, but corruption.

That is also what lies behind what is emerging as the biggest threat to economic progress across the globe, namely the ability of man-made-institutions like international financial markets to destroy wealth rather than to create it. When this is coupled with the ability of the rich and powerful interests to grab an ever larger share of the spoils of economic activity, grassroots movements of social unrest and protest are inevitable.

St. 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).

This refers first and foremost to Bethlehem: the Son of David comes to his own city, but has to be born in a stable, because there is no room for him at the inn. Then it refers to Israel: the one who is sent comes among his own, but they do not want him. And truly, it refers to all mankind,:as he through whom the world was made, enters into the world, but he is not listened to, he is not received.

St. Luke's account of the Christmas story tells us that God first raised the veil of his hiddenness to people of very lowly status, people who were looked down upon by society at large, to shepherds looking after their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. Luke tells us that they were "keeping watch".

This phrase reminds us of nature of our Advent preparation but also a central theme of Jesus's message, which insistently bids us to keep watch, to stay awake, to recognize the Lord's coming, and to be prepared.

The expression seems to imply more than simply being physically awake during the night hour. The shepherds were truly "watchful" people, with a lively sense of God and of his closeness. They were waiting for God, and were not resigned to his apparent remoteness from their everyday lives. To a watchful heart, the news of great joy can be proclaimed: "for you this night the Saviour is born." Only a watchful heart is able to believe the message. Only a watchful heart can instil the courage to set out to find God in the form of a baby in a stable. Let us ask the Lord to help us, too, to become a "watchful" people.

At Christmas we draw near to the child of Bethlehem, to the God who for our sake chose to become a child. In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love.

This advent, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace. Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul.

Let us also think of the mothers of these children who are also often the victims of poverty, abuse and exploitation. Let us stop funding abortion agencies, at home and aborad, which suggest to mothers that in order to save their own lives they must kill their babies, rather than provide them with safe comprehensive maternity care.

The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children and their mothers; to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman. Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome. Only if people change, will the world change. In order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.

And so we watch, we wait, we prepare, we pray and think of moms and their children.

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Bishop's Life & Family Resource Centre (LFRC) Office of Liturgy
Related Themes Liturgical Calendar Advent Family

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