Monday, December 24, 2012

Bishop Larry Silva's 2012 Christmas Message

Larry Silva - 2012 Christmas Message
...only Jesus can give us the ability to grow in holiness.
By Bishop Larry Silva
December 21, 2012

From the Hawaii Catholic Herald

In this Year of Faith, I would like to direct my annual Christmas message not only to our very faithful parishioners who always participate in worship and the good works of our Catholic community, but more directly to our sisters and brothers whom we do not see with us very often. I invite you to share this with them by reprinting it and putting it in your Christmas cards or gifts, sending it through the Internet, or in whatever way the Lord moves you.

CHRISTMAS AND EASTER are the most special times of the year for the Catholic Church. At Christmas we celebrate God's eternal love that was so palpable his Word took flesh in a human person, Jesus. At Easter we celebrate the incredible and surprising depth of God's love by which Jesus took upon himself the sins of all humanity, in which he had no personal culpability, and nailed them to the cross. This tremendous act of love was far overshadowed by the shocking event that happened three days later, his resurrection from the dead. Christmas and Easter - the Incarnation and the Resurrection - are the two pivotal events of our Christian faith. Our churches are packed on those days with people we seldom see otherwise. We take consolation that at least people have a sense of the need to worship around these pivotal events, and we are grateful that our brothers and sisters flock to church on these days. But we invite all those who come only at Christmas and Easter - or even less often - to reflect on the meaning of this great feast of Christmas we are about to celebrate.

One night in the environs of Bethlehem, a city whose name means "House of Bread," shepherds tending their flocks had an experience that was not the routine experience for shepherds. They experienced a great light and the presence of angels, who sang to them great news, that in the City of David, a savior had been born who was Christ (Messiah, anointed one) and Lord. After all this high drama, they must have been rather let down when they were told that this would be the sign that all this was true: "You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." That was it? The hope of all the centuries, of so much struggle and waiting, was only this? Another infant - one of hundreds in Bethlehem - and this one laying in a feed trough for animals? Yet they went, and they marveled at what they witnessed.

You are invited every Sunday to be in the transorming presence of that same person the shepherds went to see. The Messiah and Lord is physically present in the Eucharist. But if you are expecting great drama, you will miss this entirely. He comes in the midst of a broken people, sometimes sinful, sometimes neglectful of others, sometimes with an atmosphere that may be as barren as a stable. His presence is not even a cute, cuddly little baby, but is in bread and wine, unamazing things to be sure. He no longer lies in a feeding trough for animals, but he offers himself as nourishment for human beings in his own Body and Blood. He calls you to come, to taste and see how good he is. If you come with an open heart, you may hear angels sing, but you will hear the Word Eternal who made his dwelling place with us. Just as the shepherds were amazed to see one so holy in such a lowly form, so you will be amazed. Your life will never be the same once you pick up this tiny Savior and let him draw you to his heart.

Perhaps you do not come to worship more often because you do not feel a need for it. Remember Herod? He said he wanted to worship the newborn king, but he really viewed him as competition. If that little child were king, how could Herod have the power he felt he deserved? Herod could not tolerate anyone else having power over him, so he tried to snuff out the life of Jesus. In these days when we can so easily think that we have no need for God, that the world and our own lives can go on quite nicely without God, do we try to silence the voice of God in Jesus by simply ignoring Him? Perhaps we know that if we worship God, then we cannot be god, making our own decisions about life and death, about the wondrous gift of sexuality that was given to us, or about how we amass the goods of the world. We may not be as blatant as Herod, but we may have the same motive for shutting God out of our lives, the desire to be our own self-made people and not the servants of anyone else. No one can deny that Herod made a name for himself, a name that will live on until the end of time. But is anyone singing carols to Herod? Come, let us sing to the Lord, whose love gives us the security to be servants, even slaves, of Jesus! With the Virgin Mary, let our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord as we say, "Let it be done to me according to your word."

Do you not come because you feel that those who go to Mass regularly are hypocrites? You are correct that we do not always live what we profess. We strive to be saints, but we are still sinners. Yet we do not come because we are perfect, but because we know that only Jesus can give us the ability to grow in holiness. We come to be transformed by his love, because it is a much needed transformation we cannot possibly accomplish on our own. This is why God became one of us in the person of Jesus. He wanted not only to show us the way, but to be the Way that purifies us. Come, join us on the journey; accompany us on the Way!

Perhaps you have simply lost faith in God because of all the violence and suffering in the world, and the injustices so many people endure. Let this Christmas remind you that your belief in God only comes when you realize that God believes in you! Why else would he send his beloved Son into a cold and dark world to bring it such warmth and light?

We invite you to come and to experience every day of your lives this Savior Jesus Christ, who made angels sing, who inspired wise men, who presented himself to shepherds a sthe finest Lamb they had ever seen, and who died to show you - and all of us - that true love can never die. Merry Christmas!

Most Reverend Larry Silva
Bishop of Honolulu