Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in the Year of Faith

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

Every Christmas is the chance for a new beginning. The journey of Advent leads us to the manger in Bethlehem and encounter with the child who makes all things new.

In this wonderful season, in the midst of all the festivities and sharing with our families and loved ones, each of us must make time to reflect, in a deeply personal way, on what Christmas means to us.

Each of us needs to ask: Who is this child we find sleeping in his mother’s arms? What difference does his coming make in my life?

These are the essential questions of the Year of Faith proclaimed by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. Because Jesus comes at Christmas to be born anew in every human heart. Faith in him is what gives us new birth.

So the Year of Faith poses a personal question to each of us: Is Jesus being born in our hearts or not?

“To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God,” St. John tells us at start of his Gospel.

The child we seek in the manger at Bethlehem is a mirror in which we find our own reflection. Who this Child is, we are meant to be. This is the one lesson I hope we can all “take away” from this Year of Faith.

God in his love came down to us at Christmas to show us a new path for our life. The path of faith. The path we can walk as sons and daughters, led by the hand of our Father.

The Gospels tell us that in his human nature the child Jesus grew in wisdom and grace.

And we need to grow also as children of God. In his writings on the spiritual life, St. Paul often talked about our need to grow in our knowledge of the Son of God until we reach “mature adulthood” in our faith.

In other words, our faith journey is meant to make us grown-up children of God.

We grow as children of God by following the pattern of life that Jesus showed us. That’s why it’s so important for us to have a deep personal knowledge of the Gospels. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough. It is time for all Catholics to make the words of Jesus and the characters and stories of the Gospels a deep, integral part of our lives.

The Gospels tell us that Mary “kept” the words and events of her Son’s life and “pondered” them in her heart. She engaged the divine Word with prayer and questions. She asked the angel Gabriel: “How can this be?” She asked Jesus, “Why have you treated us so?”

Jesus said that Mary was blessed because she heard the word and followed it. She told others to do the same. At Cana, she told the wedding servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

We need to engage Jesus Christ and his Gospel in the same way. With reverence and prayer. With reason and faith. We need to question the word, always asking: What is this word saying to me? What does Jesus require of my life?

The church assigns a Gospel reading for every day of the year. Even if we can’t make it to daily Mass to hear that Gospel proclaimed, we can find time every day to read this passage and reflect on it.

When we make this a daily habit we find that we are walking with Jesus in our daily life. His words become the language of our heart. His teachings and attitude start to guide our approach to things. We start to see the world through his eyes.

Reading the Gospels daily, we begin to live as Jesus did — aware we are always in the presence of our loving Father; talking to him all day long in prayer; listening for his word in our hearts, striving to live by his commandments. As Jesus did, we offer ourselves in the service of God’s plan, serving him in the people around us, especially the poor and the lowly.

In this way, we really begin to live as children of God. This is the goal of our lives. And this is the “reason for the season.”

So in this Christmas in the Year of Faith, let’s pray for one another. That we might all make a new beginning. That in this coming year, we will all strive with his grace to become the sons and daughters of God we are meant to be.

I wish your families a most holy Christmas!

Let us entrust our journey to Bethlehem to the loving intercession of Mary, our mother. May she help us to welcome the child who comes to make us children of God.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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