“The road to Bethlehem takes us on a path of mercy”

Bishop Michael Smith celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Nativity on Christmas Eve at 10.00pm in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar.  The Bishop was joined in the liturgy by Frs Padraig McMahon, Joseph Naikarakudy, Robert McGivney, Paul Crosbie, Luke Ohiemi, Paul Connell and Ionut Imbrusca.  The music was provided by the Cathedral Choir, directed by Mr Gerard Lillis.  Prayers were recited in several languages including Irish, Malalyam, Polish, Spanish, Nigerian and Romanian.

In his homily, the Bishop welcomed who had come to the Cathedral to celebrate a central moment of our faith, which he described as “the fulfilment of the promise that runs through the whole of the Old Testament, that God would send a Saviour to His people in Israel.

“Those beautiful poetic words of our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, written many hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, sustained the faith and hope of the Jewish people over the centuries. It is the fulfilment of the prophecy that ‘a child is born to us, a son given to us dominion is laid on his shoulders’. These words direct us to the words spoken to the angels ‘today a Saviour has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord’.”

Bishop Smith spoke of the many dimensions to the Christmas celebration. He noted that is especially an occasion when families seek to celebrate together – the many thousands who come home over these days to be with their families. “While there is a strong commercial dimension with all sorts of invitations to find the true message of Christmas in some inane indulgence” he said, “yet at the heart of it all there is a child. It is through this child that God’s enters human history, in the lives of all who ‘bear the image and likeness of God’ as the words of Genesis remind us.”

“That relationship we are invited to have with our Creator finds its fullest and ultimate expression in the birth of Jesus Christ. The name given Him: ‘Emmanuel’ God is with us, God walking with us, sustaining us with His love, His mercy and His forgiveness.”

The theme of the Jubilee Year of Mercy featured prominently in the Bishop’s homily.  He emphasized that “God has come to be with all of us – the good and the sinful – for we all come within the ambit of God, within the embrace of God’s family. God never excludes us even if we drift from Him from time to time.  His heart and love is ever open to us.”  The Bishop encouraged the faithful to reflect on various words from Pope Francis that are central to the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

“The words of our Gospel invite us to walk a path of mercy.  We are invited to walk with our God, draw comfort and support from the God whose love and forgiveness are never withdrawn or closed to us. The shepherds, like us, were invited not to be afraid. It was a comment Jesus repeated many times during His public ministry. All are invited to be enveloped in the embrace of God. May something of His mercy and peace touch you and your families over these Christmas days.”

Here are some photos taken during the Mass of the Lord’s Nativity, kindly provided by John McAuley. If you have difficulty viewing them here, they are also available on the Mullingar parish Facebook page.