Bishop Patrick Neary: The greatest gift we have ever received

Bishop Patrick Neary C.S.C.

Dear Friends:

Every Christmas morning, we hear proclaimed at mass the prologue of John’s gospel. In John 1:14, the Greek literally says that “the word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.” We might say that God became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. We know that God tented with the Israelites in the wilderness and now Christ pitches his tent with us. Why did the word leave a glorious throne in heaven to pitch a tent in the rough and dusty confines of earth? It says a lot about how God sees us and how much god loves us!

In this Parish Year of the Eucharistic Revival, it’s fitting to think of each celebration of the Eucharist as Christ pitching his tent with us, the people of God. He gladly enters into solidarity with whatever we are experiencing in life. In her book “Redeemed,” Heather King imagines Jesus saying at each celebration of the Eucharist, “I’m in solidarity not only with your humanity, your brokenness, your sins; I’m in solidarity with your pathologies. And in offering up my very flesh, I am going to transform the consciousness of all humanity, for all time.”

By now my first pastoral letter as bishop, titled “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” has been distributed around the diocese. There are four sections to it: Eucharist as gift, Eucharist as encounter, Eucharist as communion, and Eucharist as mission. Ultimately, the Eucharist sends us forth as missionary disciples to pitch our tents with those most in need and to take the Christ we have received in our hearts to those who do not yet know him.

Clearly, we must begin with the poor. I am aware that the homeless in our community will soon enough have to pitch their tents in the snow. Some families and the elderly suffer from food scarcity. Especially at Christmas, let us consider offering our time or financial support to Catholic service organizations, such as Catholic Charities, which through its food shelf program meets the needs of our brothers and sisters who are hungry.

Though far away, our hearts go out to the victims of the war in the Holy Land and in Ukraine. We see migrants who risk everything, and who face exploitation and danger as they flee violence and oppression, seeking to find a better life in our country, just as our own ancestors did. Even the Holy Family fled violence and moved to Egypt. Surely Christ has pitched his tent among them, and so can we, through our sympathy and prayers.

As Christmas approaches, we give thanks that the Word became flesh and chose to pitch his tent among us human beings. The greatest gift we have ever received, Jesus Christ, dwells within us and comes to us at every Mass. As his disciples, we take him to others so that he can pitch his tent in the hearts of the lonely, the homeless, those struggling with mental or physical illness, immigrants, prisoners, struggling farmers and any who are in need.

Yours in Christ, Bishop Patrick Neary

Author: Bishop Patrick Neary, C.S.C.

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