Bishop's Blog

2017 Christmas Message

Friends, as the days of Advent pass and the celebration of Christmas approaches, I extend to you my greetings and prayers.  

Each Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, in a Bethlehem stable, to parents who were sustained by their trusting faith and their love for God and each other.  The historical circumstances of Jesus birth serve to remind us that we are to look for His divine presence first among the poor and vulnerable.  Within hours, an angel announced the good news of His birth to shepherds tending their flocks in the fields, to those who held no social status or political power, and they were the first to seek out the Child, Jesus.   Those who encountered Him recognised the incarnate embodiment of love, of hope, of joy, and peace in that stable. We are told that they glorified and praised God at this wondrous event.

In Jesus, God emptied Himself and became human like us.  God, who created the universe in majesty, showed His generosity and love, in accepting to be born and placed in a lowly manger among the animals and in the presence of the poor.  God who holds the world in His hands was himself embraced in the arms of a young woman from a Galilean village.  From this sign of self-emptying love, the path of salvation was set for us through sacrifice, humility, and solidarity with those who have no importance or true dignity in the secular world.  

This Christmas, let us try to look beyond the cultural signs of this festive season to the darkness that is in need of this Radiant Light. To see this light in the work of those helping refugees become resettled in our city, in those who volunteer at food banks or Feed the Hungry, in nurses and doctors caring for the elderly, in our peace keepers, in the patience of teachers who believe in students who struggle, in the faces of those who support women living in situations of domestic violence, those who offer respect and dignity to young mothers and their children rebuilding their lives through Elizabeth House, in those who stand beside the addicted in their struggles and the thousands of people who live every day the challenges that Christ embraced in his humanity.  

The birth of the Son of God can be received with great joy.  Christmas offers us the hope that the light of His birth will never be eclipsed by the darkness of human pain and despair. God comes among us and calls us to become ever more generous and evermore active in serving the needs of others.  As Christians we are called to be a path of hope and through our outreach the presence of Christ who is being reborn into our world with such acts of love and service. Let us find new ways to share the joy of the Incarnation through our prayer and acts of charity.

I invite you to reflect for a few moments this Christmas in front of the crèche and ponder the riches that we have received into our hearts. To know once again the great love that is born into the world through Jesus Christ and to profess our belief in Him whom we follow. 

May the blessings of Jesus’ Presence be with you and your families.  May Christ’s Love, Peace and Joy embrace you this Christmas and each day of your life.  Merry Christmas to everyone! 

☩ William McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary

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Christmas Message: A Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Gospel

The Church’s Christmas liturgy presents the birth of Jesus, the Saviour, as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness.

Over the centuries “Christmas” has become a comprehensive word. It includes religious traditions which celebrate the mystery of God’s coming to live among human creatures: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord”( Lk10:11-12 ). Christmas also includes all the secular traditions associated with the season.

With the Father’s gift of Jesus as a model, Christians also celebrate the mystery of giving and receiving both with and without Christian faith. Christmas incorporates numerous pre–Christians traditions concerning the winter solstice along with the legends of St. Nicolas that gives rise to the modern creation of Santa Claus.

A mixture, and even confusion, of the sacred and the secular characterizes the Christmas Season.

Most people are comfortable with this situation, as Silent Night sometimes alternates with Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

We can even find salvation stories buried in what appear, at first blush, to be purely secular creations.

We all know Rudolph’s story and how all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolf play in any reindeer games. But one day, all that was turned upside down. For on a foggy Christmas eve Santa came to say: Rudolf with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

The story of Rudolf is modelled on the story of salvation and has even been called the “Reindeer Gospel” (Munachi Ezeogu).

To begin with, Rudolf was a misfit. Compared to the image of the ideal reindeer, we can say that something was definitely wrong with him. What is more, Rudolf could not help himself. All his fellow reindeer only made things worse for him. Only one person could help him, Santa, the messenger from heaven.

Similarly, St. Paul reminds us: “… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, we are not in a position to help ourselves. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the real Messenger from heaven. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). He comes to free us from our predicament of sinfulness. For it is sin that mars and disfigures the beautiful image of God that we all are.

The heavenly Messenger has the ability to turn the defects and red noses of our tainted humanity into assets for the service of God. Jesus is this heavenly messenger.

Like Rudolf’s yes, we too are called at Christmas “not to be afraid” but to listen to what the Child Jesus asks of us: “For to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12).

In 1975, Robert L. May, the creator of Rudolph the Red–Nosed Reindeer, in a column “Rudolph and I were something alike” wrote: Today children all over the world read and hear about a little deer who started out in life as a loser, just as I did. But they learn that when he gave himself for others, his handicap became the very means through which he achieved happiness (Gettysburg Times).

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!



☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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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"

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

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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