A Christmas 2020 Message from Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Each Christmas season we are asked to hear liberating Good News. God has joined himself to us inseparably!
When Mary gives birth to Jesus our Saviour, the ‘overshadowing’ presence of God is now fully revealed in a precious child. God loves us so much that He becomes one of us!
And yet we all struggle with false images and representations of God. Too often they prevent us from seeing the real God at work in our lives.
As Les Murray, the great Australian poet once wrote in The Boys Who Stole the Funeral, a dead World War I digger cries out, “The true God gives his flesh and blood. Idols demand yours off you.”
Yes, we can all actually make things difficult for ourselves and others, by not properly appreciating the depths of our own faith. Too often, we substitute the wondrous and life-giving mystery of God with something (an idol) that diminishes us.
This Advent our vision of Christ needs to expand. Let’s especially remember God’s closeness to us and our responsibility to become peacemakers.
In this season of peace and goodwill, we see our God reduced to the most vulnerable of creatures; another little Middle Eastern boy caught up in homelessness, poverty and a cruel cycle of violence.
He gave up everything in order to become one with us. You cannot get closer than that! He comes to us, and stays with us, especially in times of difficulty and loneliness.
We might say that Christmas is the feast of ‘closeness’. It is the time when family and friends who are separated – by geography, by hurt or anger, or simply by the distances created by time – come together again to celebrate this joyous feast and to renew their bonds with one another and, we hope, with Christ.
Christmas reunions can be wonderful. They can also open old wounds and bring back painful memories. To make Christmas joyful we must be able to forgive one another and let go of past injuries – real and imagined.
We humans often struggle mightily our whole lives to really accept this Divine Love that gives itself so totally.
But this is precisely the Good News of our Catholic faith. Our God becomes a tiny infant – fragile yet divine.
May the Christ child bless you and your loved ones this Christmas 2020 and give you His strength and peace in the New Year ahead.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta