Christmas Reflection by Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor

22 Dec 2010

22 December 2010

Christmas Reflection by Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor

Unfathomable Mystery: God born as a human child. The babe, Jesus of Nazareth, nestling in the security of parental love. Those parents painfully aware of their poverty and their insecurity. Soon they would have to leave their homeland for a time to ensure his safety. A strange beginning: no privilege, no commands, no demands. Simply a birth. Yet a birth incarnating God in a human person and in time. A birth with its mystery-laden promise, forever mystifying, forever opening the way for life-with-God for you, for me, and for all in human time and in eternity.

A puzzling birth followed by a puzzling life. Jesus set out his life’s mission (Lk 4.14-30) by citing the words of Isaiah (Is 61.1-2): “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed”. Despite the promise and vision of those prophetic words, which Jesus claimed to fulfil, many could not open their hearts to the mystery of such incarnation (Lk 4.28-30, Mt.13.57-58). Were they more preoccupied with religion than with faith?

His teaching would provoke opposition and rejection. His passion and death would deflate his followers. Friends would abandon him in his suffering. Save his mother and a few who, like Mary of Magdala, through their encounter with him and his revitalising words, had discovered the mysterious power of divine love. It would take the Emmaus encounter with the Risen Christ in Word and Eucharist to re-ignite that sense of divine love, of life, faith, hope and joy in the hearts of his own disciples. A strange mission: no privilege expected, no demands made, a vision proclaimed for life’s way, response invited in freedom of choice.

Centuries have elapsed since the birth of our Saviour. His Gospel has been lived quietly, with devotion, with sacrifice and often heroically by generations of women and men. A Gospel betrayed, compromised, persecuted, it has also empowered, inspired and made women and men grow in holiness. A Gospel shadowed by the contradictions of human life and history indeed; does its pristine Good News not invite us to steel mind and heart in the face of evil? Does the stable at Bethlehem not resound in your heart with a call to the dignity of life’s essentials?

In our own lifetime this Gospel inspires us to know God in the person, life and actions of Jesus of Nazareth. We have seen, met and witnessed many who, because of their faith in Jesus Christ, do great and mysteriously simple things for fellow human beings, often at cost for themselves. Such is the power of this infant-birth we are about to celebrate.  We have intimated God in others, in life, in suffering, in the sacred liturgies. At times we have also known his silence and his absence. Do we permit the mystery of divine love, revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, to expand our lives and consciousness?

May this Christmas open us to the gift and Mystery of God’s divine love, unfathomable, alive for you and for me in Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, a woman, one of us.


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