Bishop shares Christmas message

By Bishop Stephen J. Berg

I send you heartfelt greetings in this joyful preparation of Advent, looking toward the coming, new season of Christmas. The celebrations of our 75th Anniversary are drawing to a close. The prayerful reflection and activity of the past year have been felt in every deanery of the diocese. We have chosen this year to remember who we are as intentional disciples of Jesus. We have entered a new vision of Hispanic leadership through Encuentro V.

We have traveled on pilgrimage with Our Lady of Guadalupe and have rooted our prayer more deeply in the Little Way of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. We have celebrated as people of many diverse origins and cultures in our Catholic faith. This Christmas will be a poignant moment of thanksgiving for past blessings received and now, importantly, preparation for the faith filled future which is being presented. For we have only just begun!

I wish now to recall some seminal words of inspiration of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come” (Joy of the Gospel, #1).

These words, simply, purely and essentially, lay the foundation which has been chosen for the future of our diocese. An outline of the strategic plan for the next 3-5 years is presented in this newspaper. We are to restructure our efforts towards joy, the joy of the Gospel, to fill hearts and minds through the joy of our encounter with Jesus. The strategic plan for our future is based on this premise. We are to become heralds of joy, and through joy we shall evangelize, for only in Christ is true joy constantly born anew. As Pope Francis has encouraged the Christian faithful, we shall “embark upon a new chapter of this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”

In our preparation for this Christmas season let’s remember the world into which the child Jesus was born. The faithful of Israel had waited millennia for the prophecy of a Savior to be fulfilled. Times were dark in Palestine then, and the miracle of the birth of a child from a virgin was accomplished quietly and in obscurity to a world which was looking elsewhere for its salvation.

Thus was born the joy of the baby Jesus in quiet and obscure majesty. The joy spread, through the prayerful and humble attendance of Mary, through the teaching, works, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, into the world which did not know him then and which mainly cannot comprehend him today. This is the joy of our salvation, the joy of our lives, the joy of our future. This is the joy into which we are called.

It is my prayer that you and your family experience the joy of new birth in your lives this Christmas, the joy of encountering Jesus. As you review the activities of this past year and the broad strategic plans for the future, I ask too for your prayers for our diocese. As further details of the plan unfold, may we pray to be guided in the years ahead through the illuminating attendance and prayerful intercession of our mother Mary, to serve her Son by encountering him in all things. May we grow to burn with desire to seek him out and serve him in the poor, the sick, the suffering, and the lost. May we become his gospel of light, renewal, and joy to all we encounter. May we be blessed in all ways this Christmas and through the year ahead.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!