May We Open Our Hearts to Christ

As I am sitting here on December 28 writing this column, I am absorbing the remarks in Rome today by Pope Francis and the Holy See press office concerning the declining health of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I pray each day for Pope Francis and for Pope Emeritus Benedict and invite you to join me in asking God to bless them.

Today I find myself thinking back to Christmas 2010. I was a pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago and our parish was developing our social communications. Just before Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI was the guest speaker for a BBC radio program, “Thought for the Day.” Our parish posted a video we created including Pope Benedict’s short address on the BBC. Ever since then I’ve returned to his words each Christmas.

Pope Benedict said:

The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place-he was to be the Savior of all people throughout the world and throughout history.

And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.

And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centers of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God.

Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself.

As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down; he gives us hope, he brings us life.

As we move toward the conclusion of the Christmas Season and cross the threshold of a new civil year, may we open our hearts to Christ. With Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict let us receive and share the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: our sin history, our struggles, our discouragement. May we rejoice with fresh hearts that Christ gives us hope, he brings us life.

In Christ,
Bishop Michael McGovern