The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

My dear sis­ters and broth­ers in Christ, Christ­mas is a Sea­son of joy and Christ­mas Day is a day of cel­e­bra­tion. I wish to share my joy with you and all the bless­ings and graces of our fes­tive Christ­mas Day and the rest of the Sea­son. May God be with you through­out the New Year.

In my Christ­mas Mes­sage this year I would like you to fo­cus on MERCY. This Church has called us to be Mer­ci­ful Like the Fa­ther (cf. Luke 6:36). Yes, the en­tire Church all over the world has en­tered an Ex­tra­or­di­nary Ju­bilee Year of Mercy which ex­tends from De­cem­ber 8, this year, to the Feast of Christ the King, Sun­day Novem­ber 20, 2016. I find the words taken from Psalm 102:13: ‘The time has come to have mercy, the mo­ment has come’, very in­spir­ing for my Christ­mas re­flec­tion this year.

When we hear the word ‘mercy’ what is the first thing we think of? Sor­row, par­don, for­give­ness, benev­o­lence! Mercy is the great­est at­tribute of God. Pope Fran­cis refers to it as the most stu­pen­dous at­tribute of the Cre­ator and of the Re­deemer (The Face of Mercy #11). In his En­cycli­cal Let­ter: Rich in Mercy (Dives in Mis­re­icor­dia), Saint John Paul II says that ‘Mercy is love’s sec­ond name’ (DM #7).

This Year of Mercy will in­deed have a pen­i­ten­tial di­men­sion as we an­swer the call to con­ver­sion ask­ing for par­don and the for­give­ness of our sins but it will also be a time for liv­ing the Gospel with joy in the ser­vice of our sis­ters and broth­ers es­pe­cially the poor and the af­flicted.

God loves a cheer­ful giver and, there­fore, in the prac­tice of the cor­po­ral and spir­i­tual works of mercy, we would need to be joy­ful in our ser­vice and care for oth­ers. What a joy it is to serve. What a joy it is at this time to be able to give and share with oth­ers es­pe­cially those most in need. The Mis­sion­ar­ies of Char­ity and all our car­ing In­sti­tu­tions are great ex­am­ples for us of serv­ing the poor, af­flicted and needy among us. When we serve the least we serve Christ who has iden­ti­fied with the least (cf. Matthew 25:40). To serve the Lord in oth­ers is a joy.

The Ju­bilee Year will also be a time for prayer and pil­grim­age which will take us to the Door of Mercy at the Cathe­dral, the Bene­dic­tine Abbey, St. Lucy Church in Mi­coud and the Church of the As­sump­tion in Soufriere. The Door of Mercy is now opened wide in this Arch­dio­cese to en­sure that no one is ex­cluded and that all can share in the graces and bless­ings of the Ju­bilee. The sick, the home­bound, the in­car­cer­ated who can­not go on pil­grim­age to the des­ig­nated holy places dur­ing the year can also share in the graces of the Ju­bilee through prayer, per­sonal sac­ri­fices and by fol­low­ing cel­e­bra­tion of the Holy Mass through the net­works of ra­dio, tele­vi­sion or other so­cial me­dia. A Ju­bilee is a time of joy and each of us would need to find our oa­sis of mercy this year from which we could drink and find our joy in the Lord.

At Christ­mas we cel­e­brate the joy of God tak­ing on our hu­man flesh and com­ing to live among us. This is an ex­pres­sion of un­fath­omable love whereby God makes him­self known to us and be­comes ac­ces­si­ble to us. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). God is near to us. We can find him in a manger and see him dy­ing for us out of love on a Cross. His Shep­herd’s voice con­tin­ues to echo among us in his mercy, ten­der­ness and com­pas­sion for us.

The theme and motto for the Ju­bilee Year of Mercy is Mer­ci­ful Like the Fa­ther based on the text from St. Luke’s Gospel Be Mer­ci­ful as your Fa­ther is Mer­ci­ful (Lk 6:36). The Logo de­pict­ing this is fas­ci­nat­ing. It is the work of a Je­suit priest Fr. Marko I. Rup­nik and it is re­ferred to as a sum­mary of the the­ol­ogy of mercy. It rep­re­sents the love of Christ who brings the mystery of his in­car­na­tion to ful­fill­ment with the re­demp­tion. Je­sus is the Good Shep­herd and the Logo has been con­ceived in such a way that the Good Shep­herd touches hu­man­ity’s flesh so deeply and with such love as to bring about a rad­i­cal change.

One fea­ture of the logo which can­not fail to emerge is how, hav­ing raised hu­man­ity onto his shoul­ders in a ges­ture which demon­strates ex­treme mercy, the eyes of the Good Shep­herd and those of Adam be­come united so that Christ sees through the eyes of Adam, and vice-versa. Ev­ery man and woman thus dis­cov­ers in Christ, the new Adam, his or her own hu­man­ity and the fu­ture to come, con­tem­plat­ing in the eyes of Christ the Fa­ther’s love.

The scene is set within a man­dorla (an al­mond shape), a de­vice dear to early and me­dieval iconog­ra­phy, which un­der­lines the pres­ence of the two na­tures - divine and hu­man – in Christ.

The three con­cen­tric ovals, pro­gres­sively lighter in colour as they ex­tend out­wards the outer edge, sug­gests the dy­namic by which Christ car­ries hu­man­ity out of the night of sin and death. Con­versely, the depth of the darker colour sug­gests the im­pen­e­tra­bil­ity of the love of the Fa­ther who for­gives all.

Cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas in the Year of Mercy Pope Fran­cis re­minds us that ‘Je­sus is the love of god in­car­nate, Mercy In­car­nate’ (Regina Caeli, April 7, 2013). ‘Af­ter Je­sus has come into the world it is im­pos­si­ble to act as if we do not know God . . . No, God has a real face, God has a name: God is mercy’ (Pope Fran­cis, An­gelus, Au­gust 18, 2013).

In light of this Year of Mercy where we are called to do works of mercy I wish to thank you for your gen­er­ous out­reach to our sis­ters and broth­ers in Do­minica in the wake of trop­i­cal storm Erica. On De­cem­ber 01, I gave to the Church in Do­minica a cheque for EC$75,441.99 from the Church in Saint Lucia. In my Christ­mas Mes­sage this year on Ra­dio and Tele­vi­sion Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, the Bishop of Roseau, Do­minica, will have an op­por­tu­nity ex­press the grat­i­tude of the church in Do­minica. What would Christ­mas be with­out giv­ing? God has given us so much. We too must give. “The time for mercy has come. This is the mo­ment.”

May your Christ­mas and New Year be filled with mercy, joy and great love ex­pressed in the joy of giv­ing and for­giv­ing. MERRY CHRIST­MAS. Bon fete nwel.

Arch­bishop Robert Rivas.

Rose Mary De­sir, Prayer Co­or­di­na­tor.

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