My dear Brothers and Sisters in the Archdiocese of Manila,
All over the world, Christmas greetings express a wish that the person or community may experience joy on Christmas: Have a Merry Christmas! A Happy Christmas to you! Maligayang Pasko! Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Joy is at the heart of the Christmas event.
The angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary of Nazareth was, “Rejoice, favored one!” (Luke 1:28). Responding to Elizabeth’s profuse praise of her, Mary said, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” (Luke 1:47). The angel that visited the shepherds declared, “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Luke 20-11). The Magi “were overjoyed at seeing the star and on entering the house they saw the Child with Mary his Mother” (Matthew 2:10-11). The first Christmas was an explosion of extraordinary joy in the world because in a simple, quiet but real way, the Savior has come – as one of us, a brother among us. He came not to destroy us to but to make us whole. Jesus’ pure goodness and genuine kindness bring joy to those who need God’s healing.
The joy of Christmas is about Jesus’ goodness and kindness that we manifest to one another. During Christmas, we try to make other people happy; and we are happy when we see them happy. We find creative ways of making the sick, orphan, prisoner, widow, hungry, homeless, and victims of violence and natural disasters feel they are important and loved. Seeing their smiles, we are moved to tears. As we give joy, we receive joy in return. Let us imagine a world where those simple acts of Christmas kindness and goodness generate a new culture when done repeatedly even outside the Christmas season. My wish is that we develop and spread a culture of Christian joy beyond Christmas. This culture embodies the enduring joy of Jesus’ coming contrary to the false joys or thrills that excite us temporarily:
The joy of saving peoples’ lives, rather than the thrill of destroying them,
The joy of sharing possessions, rather than the thrill of accumulating them,
The joy of denying oneself, rather than the thrill of getting ahead of others,
The joy of forgiving, rather than the thrill of retaliating,
The joy of accepting people, rather than the thrill of isolating them.
We witnessed this joy among the drug dependents who had completed the Sanlakbay Parish drug rehabilitation program, their families, the barangay officials, the police and volunteers. We saw this joy in our Moslem brothers and sisters who had protected Christians from persecution in Marawi and joy in the Christians who had experienced heroic love from those who differed from them. We marvel at the joyful strains produced by the bell orchestra composed of poor girls who study at the Sisters of Mary Girlstown and we eagerly await the joyful music from the street kids of Tulay ng Kabataan who are learning how to play the violin. Let us nurture a culture of joy, not a culture of anger, bitterness and violence. We need good will that produces acts of kindness and goodness. “Ang pag-ibig ang siyang maghari. Araw-araw ay magiging Pasko lagi.” Maligaya at mabiyayang Pasko sa inyong lahat. Luwalhati sa Dios sa kaitaasan at sa lupa’y kapayapaan sa mga taong may mabuting kalooban!
+ Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle
23 December 2017
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