I thank the Nationalist newspaper for this chance to write a few words to you for this day of all days, Christmas Day, when Jesus the Saviour is born in Bethlehem.
I want you to know that I pray for you all every day. That’s my first role as your bishop.
We read in the Bible, (Isaiah, chapter 9): “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light. Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them a light has shone.”
The presence of Jesus brings light. Jesus is light. There He is in the manger. He is why we celebrate Christmas. Can you imagine having a birthday party but without the birthday boy or girl? On this blessed day (if you have a good imagination) you can picture the scene: it’s dark, a star shines bright - see the stable and look inside – and see a young mother, her husband and the little infant – Christmas Day is his birthday – the birthday of the Christ who looks at us, smiles at us. Look at the face of Jesus, a face which melts our troubled hearts. Wherever you are now - at home, or elsewhere, maybe worrying, sad, lonely or depressed, maybe happy and doing well… remember that He has come to this earth for you. His birth is a proof of God’s love. He is born to live among us human beings with all our ups and downs.
A baby is all tenderness. Jesus is tenderness itself. In a world of such a lack of tenderness - Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He looks at you and me with love. How do we look at Him? How do we respond? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God - to be embraced by God? Or do I prevent myself from getting close? Do I stand back? Maybe what is important is not so much to seek God as to allow God to seek us, to find us and to caress us with tenderness.
As Pope Francis wrote: “The question put to us simply by the presence of the infant Jesus is - Do I allow God to love me?”
Do I, do you, allow God to love you?
To let go of barriers and fears, to see that we are in need, each one of us, you and me. And in looking at Jesus there in the manger doesn’t that urge us to see Him in others? Do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions?
How much the world needs tenderness today… the tenderness of God, the closeness of God and the patience of God. This encourages us to reach out to others and to be generous. Think of the generosity of God and what He gives to us.
The Child Jesus offers us something extraordinary. Himself.
Jesus is fully human like you and me and also fully God, fully divine. And, because He is human, He can understand you and me and feel and know our human condition but because He is God He can do things no human power can do: He gives:
Meaning in life, forgiveness of sins, the joy of service, the sense of true freedom, inner peace, and a willingness to be committed, to give our lives to something great and lasting.
Only He can soften our hearts, often hardened by bitterness and delusions, He tells us that WE CANNOT GO IT ALONE. But He wants to be with us, wants to be with you – and me.
He will say later as a grown man (as recorded in John’s Gospel) – “apart from me you can do nothing.” Let’s go to Bethlehem just like the shepherds and see the face of the little one who calls to us and asks us to trust Him and to allow ourselves to be loved by him.
In union with Catholic Christians all around Waterford & Lismore and all people of goodwill, I wish you and all your family and friends a blessed Christmas.
Bishop of Waterford & Lismore