Archbishop John Dew
Ki te ingoa o te Matua, o te Tamaiti,
o te Wairua Tapu, Amene.
Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: ‘You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone’. (Psalm 16:1)
I love these words from Psalm 16. Nothing and no one other than God can bring us happiness. We are so privileged and so blessed to be people who know God through Jesus who came to live among us. This is what we will celebrate and give thanks for this Christmas: Jesus – God – came to live among us.
On a clear Sydney night in July 2008 Pope Benedict spoke of the stars above – particularly the constellation of the Southern Cross. He was speaking to an enormous crowd of young people at Randwick Racecourse for the World Youth Day Vigil. Everyone held candles as he reminded them that, though the world we live in may seem at times to be as dark as the night, we actually live in the light because of the presence of Jesus.
Jesus, who is the ‘light of the world’, came to live among us and we, through the gift of baptism, have become ‘daughters and sons of the light’. We have been illumined by the ‘light that no darkness can overcome’. We have already entered God’s life. This Christmas, in this Year of Faith, reflect deeply on what this means and give thanks.
At the Sydney prayer vigil, Pope Benedict told the young people of the world something they may not have thought of before: Everything we wish for has already been given to us as a gift. God has given himself to us in his Son Jesus Christ. This unbelievable love comes to us as a gift from the spirit of God who leads us always into God’s own inner life. This gift will always be beyond our understanding, but through prayer and reflection, we are able to discover something of God’s gift to us. It is always to be seen as a gift.
A wonderful article by Fr Bernard Bro OP summed it up for me. He wrote, ‘Just as I do not invent my own life, I do not invent my faith but instead receive it as it is.’
I think one of the ways we can reflect on the presence of God in our lives and the gift of faith is through a simple action, one of the most familiar Christian gestures, the Sign of the Cross.
‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…’. These words are said over us in baptism when we become sharers in Christ’s light. If we were baptised as babies, others who loved us assented for us and with us to this most basic profession of faith. As we grow in understanding, we slowly come to realise that these simple words contain an incredible mystery. Maybe it was the first prayer we were taught, along with an action as we signed ourselves. Just think of the way parents and grandparents delight in watching their children make the Sign of the Cross.
The sign of the Cross is traced over us when we are small and will be traced over us again when we die: ‘In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…’ Our entire life as Christians unfolds and is lived out within those words which actually contain the unutterable mystery of God. As we pay attention to those words, we come to understand them more and more as words of love which name God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and ‘God is love.’
They are also words of faith, but not a faith of our making. That night in Sydney Pope Benedict said ‘Faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning’. It is ‘a gift of God’. Faith is an act of self-giving love: ‘It starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life.’
In this Year of Faith I pray that every Wel-Com reader will know deeply the gift of God’s love every time we make the sign of the Cross – simple words which we say often.
May the Spirit of God gift us anew with the love of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Abundant Christmas blessings to you all.