Awakening to Christmas and the Plenary Council
I have observed some theologians use the word AWAKENING when they refer to the encounter of biblical figures with the new life experienced in the Risen Jesus.
For example, there are the Emmaus disciples (“And their eyes were opened and they recognised him” Luke 24/31) and Mary Magdalen (“Rabbuni !” John 20/17).
Even the Pentecost experience of the early Church moved them from fear and awakened them to faith (“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” Acts 2/4).
The Advent liturgical season prepares us for the great Solemnity of Christmas. It is a time of awakening too. Indeed, we celebrate “the Word became flesh and He lived among us” (John 1/14). This the Mystery of our Faith that is absolutely central to all our hopes and joys. We need every day of Advent to prepare for Christmas. The Christmas liturgical season then helps us to savour its incredible beauty and Eucharistic nourishment for our Christian lives.
The lowly shepherds become the first Christian evangelisers. It is a twofold saving awakening. There is the impulse to “go to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2/15). Then there is the telling to others of Jesus, our Emmanuel – Mary’s child. Their testimony was convincing: “everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2/19).
It is during this high liturgical season that Australian Catholics are also engaging in the second phase of the Plenary Council of Australia – Let’s listen and discern.
My prayer is that our fulsome involvement as a diocese in this second phase with be an awakening in faith for all of us too.
I encourage strongly that our parishes and communities become directly involved in these discussions. Indeed, it is a wonderful way of bringing together both our awakening to Christ born afresh in us all and our awakening to what Jesus is doing in our midst in our ancient but new land.
Some parishes are showing leadership in organising small groups to ponder upon the six national themes for discernment. These themes need to be considered individually. There is time for reflection, sharing on scripture, discerning nationally and locally, and giving thanks. Brief outcomes of these discernment groups are compiled and then sent to the appropriate Discernment and Writing Group via the plenary council webpage.
Let us all make these groups a real Advent/Christmas Season priority for our parishes and communities. Let us carefully discern the key question: “How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church?”
As Mary, St Joseph, the shepherds and the people of Bethlehem “treasured all these things and pondered them”(Luke2/19), may we all do the same.
Australians are often seen as very practical and functional in their discernment. This is something good. However, without this transcendent dimension focussed on the Child Jesus within us and animating this discernment, then the awakening to the Holy Spirit is eclipsed.
I pray that this Advent and Christmas season be a real blessing for you, your family and loved ones, and all in our troubled world.
Happy Christmas and New Year 2020!