Fr. Robert Bengry: Merry Christmas!
St. John’s Christmas pageant was held Sunday night at St. John the Evangelist here in Calgary — and what a great joy it was! The singing was beautiful and the costumes joyous and the readings deeply meaningful. After a serious Advent spent in preparation for the ways that the Christ comes to us, I hope you take the opportunity to rest in Him now that He has arrived anew. Enjoy your friends and family, as we did last night as a parish, reach out to the poor and to the lonely, have a delicious meal and as the secular Christmas draws to a close, begin the celebration of a truly Catholic Christmas the twelve days following.
At St. John the Evangelist, here in Calgary, we celebrate our patron on the 27th in a low-key way: with a said Mass, St. John’s Love, and with fellowship and food. It’s a delightful way to rest in each other as a Catholic family. Whatever your Christmas traditions, do them with joy remembering Christ came to show us the Kingdom of God.
As we celebrate Anglicanorum coetibus this year of jubilee for the Ordinariates, I want you to reflect on the great universality of the Catholic Church. Christ came to save all people from sin and death and He does that through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church... great and truly divers.
As Roman Catholics we at St. John’s belong to a great choir — the Church — and, as small as we are, we must sing our parts beautifully and to the best of our ability. We must never forget, however, that we sing in harmony with the wider Church and most importantly we sing the same hymn of praise.
Ghettoisation and factionalism are real dangers in the Church today: we must never fall victim to this strategy of the devil to divide and conquer. The Church is so very beautiful in her genuine universality and we play a small part in that universality. We do that by sharing the Anglican patrimony the Church saw fit to incorporate into herself, but never forget who you are: you are a Catholic. That is your identity — full stop.
I know Christmas isn’t a joyous time for everyone. The reality is that sin and darkness are all around and some people feel that acutely this time of year. Not everyone has a warm fire and a lovely tree. Others have had to bear great losses this year and that makes it difficult to rejoice. The loss of friends, loved ones... of family: that’s hard to bear. For some, the past year was difficult and they’ll be glad to see the other side of it. Those are realities for many people. But even in hardship, most especially perhaps, we must find the genuine Christmas joy where we are and in what we are doing — even, paradoxically, in the hurts and disappointments of life.
St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:38–39 “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This reality, which is a Christmas joy as much as it is an Easter one, can be a source of strength and peace for us who seek to be a people of God.
Smile and show kindness this Christmas. Be of good cheer in the circumstances in which you find yourself — you’re a Catholic! — and share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who have not heard that the greatest King the world will ever know has been born on Christmas day.
Happy Christmas and may God bless you. — Fr. Robert Bengry