Christmas Message of the Ecclesial Assistant
CHRISTIAN, REMEMBER YOUR DIGNITY (St. Leo, Christmas Homily, 5th Century)
Christmas, the joy of God’s presence in the world
Advent truly sheds light on the mystery of Christmas. We are not celebrating an ordinary birthday but the glorious coming of the Lord at the end of history; an event already fulfilled in the sacraments and in the life of believers. Advent brings home the joyful colours of hope. I invite you to give thanks for those Christians and all people of good will who try to live the Gospel of Christ and bear witness to his presence in our world.
Christmas, the joy of being Christian
This joy and this pride are not to be understood solely in relation to the witness of Christians, as is the case in the Middle East, who face persecution. They are essentially linked to the Baptism by which we become ‘Christians’, another Christ and, therefore, children of God and temple of God and His Spirit. Baptism confers on us an identity and an incomparable dignity shared by all members of the Church, young and old alike. To become sons and daughters of God in Baptism means bringing to light that which is part of our life with the created world. God is with everyone, all people. Baptism affirms this and brings it about explicitly. It allows me to receive personally the word which God pronounced when He brought down the Holy Spirit on Jesus when he was baptised by John. ‘You are my Son the beloved.’ We enter into a relationship of friendship and love with God the Father, Son and Spirit.
Christmas, the need to live our faith in daily life
During the rite of Baptism, when the celebrant anoints with Sacred Chrism, he says: “Now you are a member of the Body of Christ and share in his priestly, prophetic and royal dignity.” This shows the dignity of the baptised: the three titles show his mission to follow in the footsteps of Christ. The baptised person is a priest because he is called to keep alive a relationship with God by means of prayer and the offering of his life. As prophet, the baptised person is called to give witness the Word of God in words and deeds. As king he is called the carry out his responsibilities and duties in the spirit of Christ the servant. It is important to honour these three missions both personally and as a community.
Christmas 2015, beginning of the Year of Mercy
To strengthen our baptismal vocation, Pope Francis invites the whole Church to commit ourselves to the works of mercy: “Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.” (Bull of Indiction Misericordiae Vultus n. 14-15).
Entering into this pedagogy of mercy, we are able to glimpse better the demands arising from our Baptism underlined robustly by Pope St. Leo in his homily for Christmas: “Remember the head and body of which you are a member...by the sacrament of Baptism you were made a temple of the Holy Spirit.”
Auxiliary Bishop of Strasbourg, Ecclesial Assistant to the World Union of Catholic Teachers (UMEC-WUCT)