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Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Lk 2: 8-11).’”
At the end of every Christmas and Easter Mass I have celebrated for the past 22 years, I have thanked each person for participating in the Mass and have told them how much their presence means to me and to the community. I have reminded them if just one person had chosen not to come to Mass that day, our celebrations and gathering would have been different. My comments are meant to express gratitude and encouragement to all and to underscore the fact that each person is precious to the life of our community.
This message takes on even more significance during Advent and Christmas, as Christ’s birth in Bethlehem tells us how precious each one of us is. On Christmas Day our churches will overflow, as friends and neighbors we do not see on a regular basis fill the pews. To all of those who have been away from the Church, I say welcome home! I am thrilled you will give glory and honor to Christ in the community of the Church this Christmas. I hope in the Christmas liturgy you will find a deep and wonderful experience of Christ and that you are moved to come home to his presence at Mass often. When you are with us at Mass, we rejoice. When you are away from Mass, we miss you. We are less when you are not with us.
This year, beginning with Advent and running through Nov. 23, 2008, we are marking the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Boston. Under the theme “Journey Together in Christ,” we will be celebrating the call to follow him. This will be a time of renewal in the Catholic community. If you are not currently active in the Church, please consider making this year a time of renewal of your own faith journey.
Throughout the year there will be archdiocesan-wide events, including retreats, regional days of celebration and the Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival. In addition, many parishes will be offering the program “ARISE: Together in Christ.” Small groups will gather to encourage one another into active discipleship and to support each other as they look for ways to bring God more fully into their daily lives. (For information, go to www.Boston200.org.) These events, and many others, are meant to extend the welcome of Christ at Christmas and to proclaim the good news to all.
To all of you who attend Mass weekly or daily, I would like you to know your faithfulness is a great gift and a source of inspiration. May this Christmas bring you closer to Christ as you continue to live by his word. May you be strengthened and renewed as you share the treasure of your faith with others. Through example and gentle encouragement may you reach out to those who have wandered from the Church and help guide them home.
The good news of the Gospel is meant for us to share. This is the gift and responsibility of evangelization given to the Church. When the angel visited the shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem, he said, “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” May our parish communities and Christmas liturgies be a great source of welcoming and joy for all who participate in Mass this Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, please come home for Christmas.
All loving and gracious God
We thank you for the Gift of your Son, Jesus Christ.
For two hundred years
We have journeyed together
As members of his Church
In the Archdiocese of Boston.
We have tried to live the Gospel message in service to one another.
Continue to walk with us as we seek to be receptive to your grace in Word and Sacrament.
Send us your Spirit to enlighten our minds, strengthen our wills and open our hearts. By our witness may others know you.
Through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, may the Church in Boston
Journey together in Christ with courage, joy and peace.
Father Erikson is Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.