ROBERT RIVAS O.P., ARCHBISHOP OF CASTRIES - CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2015
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.