“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). This categorical statement captures in a nutshell God’s intervention in human history in order to save humankind from sin and perdition.
Created in God’s image (Gen 1:27), man and woman right at the beginning of creation were lovingly placed in the Garden of Eden where they shared God’s love and lived as ‘one flesh’ in love with each other (Gen 2:4-25). It was not long before they turned rebellious and disobeyed God. That sin of theirs tore their union apart and resulted in their eventual return to dust in death (Gen 3). This sin made its mark on humankind and their history.
Out of his unconditional love for them, God promised salvation for the man and the woman when he cursed the tempter (cf Gen 3:14-15). He fulfilled this promise in the fullness of time as John 3:16-17 records: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
The Word in John 1:14 is revealed as the eternal God in John 1:1-2 and identified as the “only Son from the Father” in the second part of John 1:14 (cf also Jn 1:18). He was made flesh in Jesus Christ (Jn 1:17), “the Saviour of the world” (Jn 4:42). Christmas celebrates this reality of the Word of God made flesh, the birth of Jesus the Son of God made man, God sending his Son into the world to save it from perdition.
The XII Synod of Bishops convened by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in Rome from 5-26 October considered the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. The Synod’s message presents the Word in terms of four images, each one of which corresponds to one phase of the Word reaching out to humankind. The VOICE covers the Old Testament period in which God revealed himself in various ways – creation, history and Sacred Scriptures.
The FACE of the Word is Jesus Christ, “the image of the unseen God”, breaking into human history and taking centre place in it. The Word of God made its HOUSE in the Church founded on Peter and the Apostles. The Church continues to keep, announce and interpret the Word. The ROADS of the Word is the image depicting the great mission Christ entrusts to the Church to proclaim the Word to all nations.
From the rich message, I would like to single out the family touched on in the fourth phase (cf paragraph 12), for the obvious reason that in the Archdiocese of Kuching we are focusing on the family. Here, Revelation 3:20 is quoted where Christ says, “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side.” The message affirms, “The family, enclosed between the domestic walls with its joys and sufferings, is a fundamental space where the word of God is allowed to enter. The Bible is full of small and great family stories … The spreading of the word of God is passed on through the generations so that parents become ‘the first preachers of the faith’ (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Art 11) … Therefore, every home should have its own Bible and safeguard it in a visible and dignified way, to read it and to pray with it, while at the same time the family should propose forms and models of a prayerful catechetical and didactic education on how to use the Scriptures.”
We will soon move into the third year of our ‘Focus on the Family’. The first year paid attention to the faith of the family while the second highlighted hope. In the coming year 2009, our theme will be ‘Family of Love’. Of immense value here is Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (= God is Love). It will serve our pastoral focus on the family well as it provides us authoritative guidance in our task of building up every Christian family in the Archdiocese of Kuching as a family of love.
It is my hope and prayer that the Word of God – comprising Sacred Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church – will take firm root in every family of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Kuching. In this way, the family will truly be a koinonia, a family of true Christian love. Through their life of love in fidelity to the Word of God, every family becomes a “house of the Word” and every one of its members “a living lecture/lesson of the Word of God” (paragraph 12 of the Synod’s message).
May Jesus Christ the Word made flesh dwell in the midst of every Christian family to bring eternal life to them. May this Christmas be a renewed experience of this divine presence for every family.
Archbishop John Ha