Every year at Christmas Midnight Mass I am in awe at the words of the Letter of St Paul to Titus: ‘God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race’ (Titus 2:11). What always fascinates me and fills me with gratitude is the thought of the grace of God being made available to the whole human race. It is all God’s initiative, it is his gift to all of us, it comes to us through a child born in Bethlehem. I am fascinated by the fact that God wants to relate to us, wants us to share the life of God, the Trinity.
A few weeks ago, I read a reflection written over 50 years ago by Monsignor Ronald Knox, an English priest renowned for his work as a translator of the Bible. He wrote: ‘And at the same time, when we get to heaven ‒ if we get to heaven ‒ we shall realise that the Creed was true, instead of just going on believing it was true. We shall be conscious of God as our Father; we shall recognise that everything which happened on earth was part of an almighty design.’
The birth of Jesus was part of an almighty design. A design revealed in our time, to bring us into communion with God. It is hard for us to fathom, God born into our world, God with a body like ours, but we believe it. Every Sunday we say in the Creed we believe the words: ‘for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man’.
Another translation of St Paul’s words to Titus says: ‘For the Grace of God has appeared …’. Every Christmas we give thanks for the fact that the grace of God appears in our lives. We know deep in our hearts the grace of God has appeared. Sometimes we feel it, we experience it in different ways, and are filled with wonder and awe. What is even more remarkable is we are able to share that grace with others, and that it is our mission to do exactly that.
“It doesn’t take much to be missionaries, because goodness can always be shared.” – Christus Vivit 239
Recently on the Feast of St Martin of Tours, I was praying Evening Prayer of the Church. It was one of those moments of grace when suddenly words had an impact and I could not move on, the words captivated me. They were:
‘Christ chose you in His tender love,
to be the steward of his grace,
to give his Father glory due
and to all peoples lasting life.’
This Christmas as we reflect on and ponder the mystery of Christ’s presence among us, as we reflect on the fact that ‘the grace of God has appeared’, we also think about how we can be ‘stewards of his grace’. One of the greatest things we can do is to reflect on and actually look for ways to share goodness and kindness with others, as stewards of his grace. I love a line in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, which came out of last year’s Synod on young people, faith and vocational discernment: ‘It doesn’t take much to be missionaries, because goodness can always be shared’ (Christus Vivit 239). Whenever we share goodness, whenever we decide to be kind and forgiving, gentle and patient, we are sharing the goodness of God. We are being missionaries, we are being ‘stewards of God’s grace’.
As this is my last WelCom column for 2019 I take this opportunity to share with the people of the Archdiocese of Wellington and the Diocese of Palmerston North all good wishes and blessings for Christmas and for 2020. I pray for all of you, laity, religious and clergy, that this coming Christmas season will be a time when all of us know that the ‘grace of God has appeared’, and knowing that fact, we look for ways to be missionaries who share God’s goodness with others, and live throughout 2020 as ‘stewards of God’s grace’.