Advent: Season of Reverence for the Human Person
Dear People of Prince Edward Island,
In this holy season of Advent, we are anticipating the coming of the Christ child as once Mary, His Mother, did long ago. Just as Jesus’ birth is a profound mystery so too the creation of every child is a wondrous mystery. Like the babe at Bethlehem, who was born into a very stressful social, economic and political situation, so today we pray that every new born can spread new life and hope into the hearts of mother, father, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather or adoptive parents.
But respect for the mystery of life cannot be restricted to the newborn person. Reverence is due to all stages of a person’s life; that is to say, to the person yet unborn, the newborn person, the adult person and the dying person.
The Angelic proclamation “Peace on earth” sets a very broad context of reverence for every human person. Recently I came across the following quotation that reminded me of this, “Everyone must consider every neighbor without exception as another self” (Gaudium et Spes #27).
Although this quotation from The Documents of Vatican II is Official Church Teaching for Roman Catholics, it nevertheless functions on the basis of human reason to persuade and guide society towards a noble purpose and a future full of hope. Peace on earth is possible when people respect and revere every human person.
A young priest once told me a story that had happened to him one Sunday morning before Mass. An elderly Asian woman approached the young priest in the vestibule of the Parish Church. She stood before him, face to face. She did not shake hands. She pressed her hands together as if in prayer and then made a profound bow. It made the young priest slightly uncomfortable as she was quite elderly and he was much younger. After Mass, the young priest asked the Pastor who also was Asian, why this woman had bowed to him. The Pastor answered, “When she bowed she was saying, “You are a Mystery to me. There is something of God in you that I cannot know and I cannot touch and I cannot manipulate. All I can do is to wait until it is revealed to me.” The Pastor continued, “She did not bow because you are a priest. You should have returned the bow because her person is also a mystery to you.”
The proclamation of Christian faith during this Holy Season of Advent reaches out to all people of good will to work and live together in an ever growing commitment of reverence for every human person.
I take this opportunity to extend to all Islanders my wishes for a joyful and peaceful Christmas. May each of us reverently encounter our neighbor, like the elderly Asian woman, expecting the revelation of mystery in our lives.
Bishop Richard Grecco
Diocese of Charlottetown