“Do not be afraid” and “rejoice” are words that we begin to hear in Advent and which flow into Feast of Christmas. As Pope Francis tells us in Evangelii Gaudium,” no one should ever be excluded from the joy” brought to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. We all look for happiness in life and as Catholics we particularly seek to find this joy which comes to us from our closeness to Jesus Christ himself.
We all do battle in our lives with very real forces that try to make us worry and at times even be afraid. These are things of darkness. Yet, as strong as they can be, our faith assures us that they can never overcome us. For Jesus, born at Christmas, is the Light that drives out the darkness. During Advent, John the Baptist declared himself to be a witness who testifies to the light. Jesus calls us who believe in Him to also be witnesses to the light and the joy our faith brings to us. This is what we call evangelization: letting all around us see the good things that God has brought about in our lives.
So our hearts welcome the words of the Angel to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Christ, the Lord.” We must truly never allow anything of the darkness to keep us from the joy that Christ the Saviour has placed in our hearts.
A very important part of the Nativity Story of the Birth of Jesus, the Christ and the Lord are the shepherds. These are unrooted men, the lowly of human society. They are not the powerful, the rich, the confident, the beautiful people. They are, what Pope Francis would call, those on “the peripheries.” They are like Mary, who in her “lowliness” was looked on “with favour” by God. They were “the lowly” whom God lifted up with love and tenderness. We can easily find our place among them, with all our inadequacies, our failures, our weaknesses and our sinfulness. The shepherds make us understand that we all belong in this wondrous event of Christmas.
Surrounded by the glory of the Lord, we too are invited to journey to Bethlehem in our hearts and in the deep part of our souls to see again “this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” And like the shepherds we are called to “make known what had been told them about this child,” Pope Francis calls us to be missionaries to those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to evangelize by bringing the good news of great joy to all. What the lowly shepherds did, we too can do. And it will be for us joy and peace.
Freedom from fear, the gift of joy and peace, are my warmest wishes to you and to those you hold dear.
Yours sincerely in Christ the Saviour and Lord, ✠Daniel J. Bohan, Archbishop of Regina