‘Rise above established norms’ – Christmas message from Bishop Francis Alleyne
Christmas message from Bishop Francis Alleyne, Roman Catholic Bishop of Guyana
This year’s Christmas Novena focused on conversion. While various areas of conversion were identified – integral, pastoral, cultural, Ecological and Synodal – the main theme of the Novena was conversion.
In the opening prayer for December 17th we read “… that your Only Begotten Son, having taken to himself our humanity, may be pleased to grant us a share in his divinity”. This is the conversion into which we are invited; to nurture a greater share in his divinity, contemplating his word and mysteries and allowing them to prompt us more wholesome ways of living.
In the Gospel of December 18th (Mt 1:18-24) we heard the account of Joseph confronting a grave dilemma; he has come to know that Mary was with child, an irregularity in the expectation of the culture with severe consequences. But Joseph, Mathew tells us, was a man on honour and brought that quality to the situation in such a way as to minimize the negative impact on Mary. He decides to divorce her informally and spare her any embarrassment or humiliation.
This is noble. This man of honour trying to bring about the best outcome within the limitations of cultural norms. His honour and integrity take him further. Matthew, using the metaphor of dream to describe a deep encounter with God, tells us of Joseph’s meeting the divine and the result of this is a divine response, “… to take Mary home as your wife”.
At Christmas we come to the crib to encounter the divine with a desire to have a fuller share in his divinity. We, like Joseph, face realities in life, in the culture, that could have grave consequences for ourselves and others. For us, like Joseph, it is not a matter of clinically separating ourselves from the difficulties and dilemmas but looking towards the paths opened by the divine and rise above the established norms.
There are some very grave issues that face the whole of Guyana at present; Climate Change, oil, violence, corruption, elections to name a few. With climate change the science is clear. Planet earth has been mis-managed, the stewardship over God’s creation has been neglected and earth’s resources have been severely exploited to the point of irreversibly upsetting the balance and harmony of nature not to mention the very damaging impact this exploitation has had on people who inhabit the places where the resources are found. May we be counted among those granted a share in the divinity and ensure, at all costs and foremost, that God’s children are protected and valued and provided for and those right relations are restored between God and his children, his children between each other and his children with the whole of creation.
The advent of oil has generated much discussion and speculation about this new reality for Guyana. This is another resource that has and will attract the attention of those who wish to capitalize on new find. Much of the science and economic information suggest prosperity and relief for the citizens of this country. For people of honour and integrity questions are raised about the proposed favourable outcome. It has not been that way for some other countries that discovered oil reserves. As alluded to at the Chrism Mass last year the oils that we invest in, because of our communion with the Divine, are those that bring healing, salvation and give the capacity to live as prophets, priests and kings.
Elections will be upon us early in 2020. Those vying for seats in the national assembly are already presenting and will continue to present themselves and their promises to the Guyanese public. This too we need to bring to the divine. This is an important moment and an important process for the nation. In all the political activity may divine intervention prompt political parties to maintain the greatest respect for themselves and the people whose vote they solicit. With divine guidance there can be no deceit, manipulation, intimidation, fear or threat. Rather the language and ways of trust, reconciliation, collaboration, unity under divine guidance we pray will shape the way forward for the nation.
My wishes to all are that the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ at his birth, God taking on our humanity, may open many paths for us, his children, to have unlimited access to his divinity.