A Christmas 2021 Message from Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta
Dear brothers and sisters,
Peace and joy to you all, as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth.
After nearly two years of the pandemic and months of hard lockdown, we rejoice as the country slowly recovers and we regain our freedoms thanks to the great work of getting people vaccinated.
During this special season of thanking God for becoming one of us, let’s reflect on how the God of love makes himself known to us in our daily lives.
Christmas is God coming to us in human form and showing us that we are loved inherently, abundantly and eternally. As a Franciscan, I believe that the incarnation was not an accident of history. It was not plan B because we messed up plan A.
Jesus is the fullness of God’s revelation of love for us and for all of creation. This means that no matter who we are: male or female, black or white, straight or gay, rich or poor, high or low, citizen or refugee, God’s love embraces us and reverences us all.
Jesus came down to live in a typical Middle Eastern village called Nazareth, that was home to a couple of hundred ‘country’ people. He did not decide to brandish his power, but to spend most of his time with the powerless and disenfranchised.
As God breaks ranks and becomes vulnerable for us, so must we have the courage to leave our comfort zones and discover the presence, the beauty, the love of God in unfamiliar places, in the margins and the shadows of life. We cannot worship the Christ child in truth without honouring him in the needy, the poor and the marginalised.
The incarnation also means that God has embraced the world and the cosmos. Jesus is not only God’s yes to humans but God’s yes to all forms of life.
We need a radical new way of relating and living that brings harmony and sustainability to all of life. We humans are part of the interconnected cosmic web of creation and we need to live a new paradigm of communion with all that is.
Long ago, Francis of Assisi grasped this fundamental reality. He intuitively understood the importance of living not as a self-centred individual but as part of the larger whole. He championed the art of living in deep harmony and communion.
Inspired by his namesake, Pope Francis says the awareness of God incarnate in the world that can “motivate us to a more passionate concern for the protection of our world” and an “ecological conversion”. We must learn that ‘less is more’.
We must learn to envision a new economy that shifts away from consumption and exploitation to one that celebrates radical interdependence and reciprocity within diverse webs of life. Only by taking less from the earth can we move to an alternative model of living in radical harmony and deep connection with the planet.
The pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected everyone is. If we do not take care of one another, starting with the least, with those who are most impacted, including creation, we cannot heal the world. Let us follow the footsteps of Jesus as we listen and respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
I wish you my blessings and prayers for a Christmas season filled with peace, joy and hope.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta