Over the last few months there have been a number of 40th anniversaries celebrated as the milestones of Vatican II have been remembered. As the church and the world remembers the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, it could be helpful for us to reflect on the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. I think this is particularly helpful as we prepare for and celebrate Christmas. Gaudium et Spes reminded us that while we live with the expectation and hope of heaven, that anticipation must not lead to neglect of the commitment to transform the earth.
On the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Benedict reminded us that every time the Christian community prepares to remember the birth of the Redeemer, it feels a tremor of joy which is communicated in some sense to the whole of society. He called on Christians to awaken in their hearts the hope of being able, with the help of God, to renew the world. That’s a wonderful message as we celebrate Christmas 2005. We havev within our hearts, the hope of being able, with God’s help, to renew the world.
I reflected on that hope-filled reading from the Prophet Isaiah, and prayed about this challenge to renew the world and to build this kingdom where:
the wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together and the little boy leads them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox, the infant plays over the cobra’s hole and to the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand. (Isaiah 11:6-8).
This is wonderful imagery of the kingdom of God, of that world we hope to create as we cooperate with God’s love.
The approaching Christmas prompts us to wonder at the greatness of God’s love – God gifting us with his son who calls us to build his kingdom wherever we live. Our hope and our joy is the fact that God remains among us. As Christians we raise our sights to the final goal of our human pilgrimage – the glorious return of Jesus, the Risen Lord.
We also look back and remember his birth with deep gratitude, as we bend down before the wonder of the crib and marvel at God’s love. Our hope is directed to the future and it remains well rooted in the past.
Forty years have gone by since the Second Vatican Council’s call to transform the earth. This call to build God’s kingdom is still real.
As we wonder at the greatness of God’s love, my prayer for you all this Christmas season is that God’s presence will enlighten the hearts of everyone. In the peace Jesus brings, may the weary find rest, the lonely, friendship, and the sick, the comforting love of our care. As we relax and prepare for a new year, may we make gentleness and care the gifts we offer each other.
May you all be blessed with a joyous and peace-filled Christmas.