‘Seeing the Face of God’ — a Christmas message from Bishop Louis Tylka
Once again, we find ourselves prepared to welcome Christ in the celebration of Christmas. We have decorated our tree, wrapped the presents, and prepared our homes and meals. But more importantly, we have spiritually readied ourselves to welcome the truth of this holiday — our Savior has been born!
Each time we delve into the events of salvation history, the remarkable birth of Jesus in Bethlehem inspires anew the awareness of what God has done for us. Though we are familiar with the Sacred Text, we continue to be filled with awe and wonder as we encounter God’s revelation. It is precisely in the encounter — the coming of Christ into our lives — that we experience true joy and authentic love. God desires to be with us, humbling Himself to take on our humanity.
As our favorite native son, Venerable Fulton Sheen, said: “It is not man who is on a quest for God. It is God who is on a quest for man.” In a certain sense, God’s quest is fulfilled in the Child of Bethlehem! Never before had such an intimate encounter with God been possible. The child Jesus offered to us the grace of seeing God face-to-face. Think of the experience we have in seeing a newborn infant, and then imagine how much greater the experience of now seeing God look at us through the eyes of Jesus! How overwhelmingly awesome this is — how truly special the encounter.
The joy and hope of Christmas continue throughout the year, for we not only encounter Christ in the celebration of Christmas — we also encounter him in our daily lives. Christmas is “ground zero” for what we are called to witness in our lives each day! Across our diocese — in the fields and cities, in our churches and schools, among the clergy and faithful — Christ is present among us. And as we experience his presence and enable others to do so, the joy and the hope of Christmas are renewed.
The Second Preface of the Nativity of Our Lord states:
For on the feast of this awe-filled mystery,
though invisible in his own divine nature,
he has appeared visibly in ours;
and begotten before all ages,
he has begun to exist in time;
so that, raising up in himself all that was cast down,
he might restore unity to all creation
and call straying humanity back to the heavenly Kingdom.
This Christmas, it is my prayer that we may see the face of God in everyone we encounter. May this wonder-filled moment of inspiration that comes in celebrating Christmas be lived throughout the year in our many encounters of God’s love.
+ Bishop Louis Tylka
Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria