Like most years, 2012 brought its highs and lows. The Olympics and the Paralympics inspired us,
strengthened communities and consolidated the human family. The Arab Spring continued to manifest further the potential of social media, unleashed forces both positive and negative. In Church and society the hurt and destruction wrought by the abuse of children and vulnerable adults still cried out for unflinching consistency in the pursuit of safeguarding and the growth of a culture of vigilance. The economic crisis hit many households hard: businesses have closed or moved, jobs and livelihoods have been lost and new poverty has emerged in our communities, neighbourhoods and family circles. In our own streets, despite our common Christian heritage and faith, old ghosts, untamed and myopic tribal forces, have returned to haunt us and menace our future. Census and poll results on religious identity and practice have caught our attention and shape attitude for some.
What light can the good tidings of Christmas bring into this ever opaque, betimes bewildering, oftentimes harsh world? This question raises its head for all thinking Christians.
Yet the Good News of the Gospel retains its radical newness. From generation to generation it calls to
knowledge of God in the person of Jesus Christ, to fullness of life, to truth, to love and respect of neighbour, to forgiveness. It challenges one’s mind and heart afresh in each year’s circumstances. Year on year, at Christmas, it offers its light and life in the Christ child.
Life’s experience and history is thickly sprinkled with Christians who have made and continue to make exceptional and extra-ordinary difference to the lives of many. Some make that difference by helping the sick, by loyally supporting a spouse, parent or friend in great suffering. Others do so by promoting choice for life and its dignity in all circumstances. Still others are inspired by their faith in Christ to work for justice in communities or on the international scene, or by engaging in heroic, self-sacrificing development or relief work. The God-child, the mystery-laden love of the incarnation of the divine in the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth drives, impels and sustains the grind of their dedication. That dedication, when encountered and experienced, edifies, and sometimes unsettles and questions personal inertia. Like the prophetic voice of the pages of the Bible, echoed still in the life of the Christian community, it never leaves one indifferent or unaffected.
Each Christmas unveils the fact that our response to God’s Word incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth is a
continuing choice, ever to be renewed, to be made, risked and chosen by each individual and by each
generation. That faith choice involves exploration, questing, discovery, sometimes intense and discomforting emotional and mental wrestling and also to times of calm. The figures of the three Magi in the crib, personifications of political power, of wealth and production, and of investigative human reason, identified the Christ-child as the end and also as the beginning of their search. Their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Mt.2.11) offer precious tribute to a reality, indeed to life beyond power, wealth and reason – to divine love and its incarnate dynamics.
In the Catholic tradition this Year of Faith, running from Sunday 11 October 2012 until the Feast of Christ the King on Sunday 24 November 2013, and the recent Synod on the New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, together with the Down and Connor diocesan Living Church initiative, invite us to explore the Good News of faith in Jesus Christ and to come alive as individual believers, as a Christian community and as a living Church, to the energising and saving power the message of salvation releases in our lives.
In the name of the new-born Saviour, I wish you all the blessings of this Holy Season.
+ Noel Treanor
Bishop of Down and Connor