In his Christmas Day Sermon (189) St. Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, North Africa said:
‘And so let His mercy come to be in our hearts. His mother bore Him in her womb; let us bear Him in our hearts. The virgin was big with the incarnation of Christ; let our bosoms grow big with the faith of Christ. She gave birth to the Saviour; let us give birth to praise. We mustn’t be barren; our souls must be fruitful with God.’
Augustine is making reference to the physical features of Mary as she carried Jesus in her womb. This leads us to ponder on what kind of young woman (probably aged twelve) Mary was in her faith and love of God. Augustine encourages his congregation to be people who are full of faith in God, comparing such faith to being big hearted and proud. Just as we feast materially on Christmas Day, equally, or even more, let us be people who are rich in the fruitful graces of God.
Another year of pilgrimage has almost gone. As a parish family, we have gathered each Sunday at least at the tables of the Word and the Eucharist to be fed and nourished for our journey to our heavenly homeland. We have farewelled some members of our parish family and pray they spend eternity with the Lord. We have welcomed new members through the Sacrament of Baptism. We have provided for the spiritual needs of many through our participation in the Sacraments (Penance, Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick). We have tried to be good people by the way we treat others we know and do not know. We readily acknowledge that none of us is perfect. We seek the forgiveness of God and others and do our best to extend that forgiveness to those whom we have hurt.
On Christmas Day we celebrate with exultant joy and praise the God who came among us as one of us. As Augustine would say, let our hearts be big with His mercy. We celebrate also with those whom we love: family and friends. Our family is the Church we have at home. We cherish Christ in the midst of our Church. Let us cherish Christ in the midst of our family too.
May all parishioners have a happy and holy Christmas.
~ Fr. Peter Blayney