The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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December 22, 2000 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

The nowness of Jesus' birth and presence

Peace and joy are the now effects of Christmas

December 25, Christmas Midnight Mass
(Reading I: Isaiah 9:1-6; Reading II: Titus 2:11-14; Gospel: Luke 2:1-14)


By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. How do you reveal God's beauty, peace and joy?

2. What time zone do you live in most often?

3. How do you celebrate the "nowness" of Christmas?

"For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord." These words have been proclaimed for twenty centuries, words that have stirred Christian hearts to prayers of praise. God has come to us in the poverty of our human condition and we cry out: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

At a recent dinner I had a lengthy conversation with a friend who spoke of the importance of the "now" in our lives. "Now" is a time word, different from "here," a spatial or geographic word. "Now" appreciates the past and knows that the future is coming. However, the past is gone and shall never return; the future is not yet here and may never come. All we have for certain is the "now."

The feast of Christmas might seem to celebrate a past event - and, surely it does. But the "today in the city of David a savior has been born" is also a "now" event. For the person of faith, Jesus, is being born NOW in our hearts and in our community. The savior is breaking into our lives through scripture and sacraments, through community and the Spirit's workings in our hearts. Our "glory to God" is not for some past grace alone but for a present bestowal of favors.

And what are the effects and signs of the "nowness" of Jesus' birth and presence? Peace! Joy!

When God came in times past and comes among us in the person of Jesus, the grace of peace is offered. Peace happens when what is suppose to be, is! Peace is that deep experience of the rightness of things. Relationships are ordered; the conscience is clean. Even though sufferings may abound, if we are right with God, peace is experienced. Peace is shattered by the darkness of a troubled conscience and the rupture of relationshiops.

The second "now" effect of the Christmas mystery is joy! This is a deep joy, one that no surface winds can remove or destroy. In the presence of love, God's love revealed in the person of Jesus, we cannot keep from singing. Here is a joy that is contagious and gracious.

Recently I came across a prayer from the Sufi tradition (quoted in Joseph Nassel's Premeditated Mercy). It is a prayer that sees God's light, love and life filling our empty hearts and poor world. It might be a good prayer to utter on this Christmas feast: "O Divine One, to thee / I raise my whole being, / a vessel emptied of self. / Accept, O gracious God, / this my emptiness, / and so fill me with thyself - / thy light, thy love, thy life - / that these thy precious gifts / may radiate through me / and overflow the chalice of my heart / into the hearts of all those / with whom I come in contact this day - / revealing unto them the beauty / of thy joy and wholeness / and the serenity of thy peace, / which nothing can destroy."

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)



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