is the fulfillment of the Father's plan, the only source of eternal
life. Listen: Can we not hear the angels praising God? They glorify
Him for His saving will, revealed in the Babe of Bethlehem. They
set the stars on fire and fill the night skies with a song of joy
for us. The Creator of the universe delights in us; His favor rests
on us. He loves usall of us and each of uswith an everlasting
love, and Jesus is that love incarnate. No matter how great our
sin, Jesus has come for us. No matter how deep our loneliness, Jesus
has come for us. Were we the only persons to ever sin, or to ever
exist, still God would send His only son to live and love, suffer
and die, for us. That is the depth of His love for you and me.
Today is the
birth of our Deliverer. Brothers and sisters, my family in faith,
let us rejoice together.
Let us go Over to Bethlehem
the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to
one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that
has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went
with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told
them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what
the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering
them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising
God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Luke
of the Judean hills were rough and simple men. But perhaps only
in their simplicity could they hear the message which drove them
urgently toward Bethlehem. They received the words of the angel
with joyand without fear. They acted on the revelation of
God with faith, and that faith led them to Mary and Joseph and the
child. When they had found Him, they understood, and they made known
the message they had been told about this child. And all who heard
them were amazed.
Today, in our
lifetimes, we must hurry in the footsteps of these shepherds. We
should beg God for the grace to be amazed and astonished as we draw
close to the manger, because the truth of this child is beyond anything
we could hope for, or expect. We should beg God for the grace to
be simple and pure of heart, as they were; to radiate the excitement
and joy of their discovery, as they did. Let us behold the Messiah.
Let us adore Him. Let us be overcome with amazement and go in haste
to make known to the whole world all that has been revealed to us
about this child.
He has done for us. He frees us from the slavery of sin and the
fear of death. He comforts us. He encourages us. He teaches us.
He walks with us in our sufferings. He fills us with hope. He offers
us lifeeternal lifefree, without charge or obligation.
Far from violating our freedom, He restores it, dignifies it with
His own incarnate holiness, and then adds immeasurably to it with
His victory over death on our behalf, won by dying for our sins
on the cross and then rising from the grave. He gives us His Spirit,
who breathes new life into our hearts and enables us to love one
anothereven our enemies and persecutorsas He loves us.
Let us go over
to Bethlehem to see this child. And then let us proclaim Him to
Woe to Me if I do Not Preach the Gospel
of these Gospel passages from Luke, announced at Midnight Mass and
Christmas Mass at Dawn, fills me with joy and a tremendous trust
in God's love for all of us. Each of us can say with Mary that,
"the Mighty One has done great things for me" (Luke 1:49). I thank
God every day, but on this Christmas Eve especially, that He sent
His only son for me and for you, whom I treasure as my family in
faith. It is easy to understand why God loves the people of northern
Colorado, and the clergy and women and men Religious who serve them.
I arrived here in April as a "stranger in a strange land"; but you
welcomed me as a brother, encouraged me, surrounded me with generosity,
humor, good counsel and support, and took me into your hearts. Now
you are also in my heart, and at the center of my daily thoughts,
work and prayer. What a grace it isunexpected; overwhelming
at first; but now such a blessing for methat God called me
to be your servant.
sisters, the weeks I spent in Rome this fall for the Holy Father's
Special Assembly for America taught me a great deal. It was a time
of "good loneliness." In my eagerness to be back home in Colorado
among you, I reflected often and deeply on how much good work has
already been accomplished by the Church in northern Colorado, and
how many outstanding people in our parishes work selflessly for
the Gospel. I also thought and prayed about the very many things
that remain to be doneand how pressingly we need to do them.
But in working
with my brother bishops and the Holy Father, and in walking the
streets of Rome, so rich in the witness of centuries of martyrs
and saints, I came again and again to the simple truth that what
we are called to accomplish first and foremost is not projects or
plans or programs, but the preaching of Jesus Christ, in season
and out of season. If we do that well, everything else will follow,
for the Church Jesus founded on the first apostles is a missionary
Church. Without each of us responding to Christ's call to be evangelizers,
the Church loses her identity. Where the Church ceases to be missionary,
she ceases to be herself.
I return from
Rome absolutely convinced that the Church must dedicate the fullness
of her resources to a new evangelization (cf. Redemptoris Missio,
No. 3). This means all my resources as archbishop, all the resources
of the pastoral center and its staff, and the full commitment of
our parishes, our schools and all the faithful. My task as bishop
is not primarily to be a manager or an executivethough sound
stewardship of our resources is obviously vitalbut a pastor
and a missionary. So too, the people, clergy and Religious of our
local Church share the missionary task Jesus gave us all, to "make
disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). If we love Him, we must
share Him with otherscompellingly, persuasively, with all
our ingenuity and passion.
That is because
the good news of Jesus Christ is decisive: Souls depend on it; all
creation depends on it. Jesus alone, and no other, is the answer
to humankind's longing for God. His Gospel must be announced, heard,
received in faith and retold. It is meant for all people; in fact,
evangelization is the sign of a living faith. It is never completed.
And all of usincluding bishops; and perhaps sometimes especially
bishopshave an ongoing need to hear the Good News.
In Rome, many
of my brother bishops voiced this same hunger to recover a radical
missionary zeal within the Church. By "radical," I mean oriented
toward the root, for the times in which we live leave no room for
the lukewarm. Zeal cannot be delegated. But it can be shared, and
when shared, it multiplies like a spreading fire. This is God's
will for His Church in every time and place, and especially today
on the threshold of the third Christian millennium. This is God's
will for me as archbishop, and God's will for all who are baptized.
Radical missionary zeal is the fruit of conversion, a gift of the
Holy Spirit. Let us take to heart the first words of Jesus in the
Gospel of Mark: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of
God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).
Likewise, on the first Pentecost, Peter said, "Repent and be baptized,
every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness
of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"
missionary zeal must be at the core of our life in Christ. All of
our pastoral plans and activities, every budget, every hiring decision,
indeed every one of our institutional structures, must be reviewed
and revised in light of this primary mission of the Church. Our
handbook for mission effectiveness is not modern organizational
theory, valuable as that may be. Rather, it is the Word of God.
If we sincerely
wish to prepare the Church for the third millennium, we should turn
first to the Acts of the Apostles. That is what we must become again.
Toward the Great Jubilee
As I write
this pastoral letter, the Church has begun her second year of immediate
preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, as outlined
in the apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II, As
the Third Millennium Draws Near. My sincere hope and intention
is for the Church in northern Colorado to be ready to celebrate
the fullness of Jubilee, now that the transition of my predecessor,
Archbishop J. Francis Stafford, to Rome is complete and my own arrival
and opening months of ministry have concluded.
not merely a calendar date. It is much more than that. It is a holy
year of conversion, forgiveness and renewal rooted in Hebrew Scripture
and celebrated by the Church throughout her historybut never
more urgently or significantly than in 2000. Jubilee is the manifestation
and celebration of joy which God pours into the hearts of those
who believe the Good News and trust His promises. It is a joy to
be shared by all people and with every nation. It is the joy which
filled John the Baptist in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth; the
joy of Mary's heart as she sang her Magnificat; the joy the shepherds
experienced as they beheld the child in the manger and told everyone
of the angel's message; the joy of Simeon as he encountered the
child who fulfills God's promise of salvation. It is the joy of
the man blind from birth who receives his sight from Jesus; the
joy of Mary Magdalen meeting her Rabboni in the garden of the resurrection;
and the joy of the travelers on the road to Emmaus who recognize
the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread.
Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and the Return
of the Lord in Glory. Jubilee is Eucharistthe fullness of
Word and sacrament, worship in Spirit and in truth.
In our archdiocesan
preparations, I wish to acknowledge first, and thank in a special
way, the discernment done by the Emmaus Committee throughout 1995
and 1996. Their recommendations for preparing for the Great Jubilee
remain a valuable resource for the local Church. I ask all parishes
to review the Emmaus Plan's excellent materials on the Jubilee and
adapt these wherever possible to their particular needs.
In light of
the Emmaus recommendations, I further ask all pastors who have not
already done so to appoint a millennium/Jubilee coordinator for
their parishes no later than March 25, 1998, the Solemnity of the
Annunciation, with the task of bringing the message of As the Third
Millennium Draws Near alive for the local community. On that date
also, it is my intention to appoint an archdiocesan Jubilee committee
to assist my office in our Church-wide Jubilee preparations, and
I welcome the recommendations of the people, through their pastors,
of suitable persons to carry out this work.
I ask our archdiocesan
communications staffthe Denver Catholic Register, El Pueblo
Catolico, The Catholic Hour, along with our radio, newsletter and
internet effortsto begin, with the help of my office, an ongoing,
weekly presentation of the themes of Jubilee preparation, continuing
through the year 2000. Many very useful materials on the millennium
already exist at the national level. It is my hope that our communications
tools, beginning in January 1998, will refocus even more clearly
on the task of evangelization. An important part of this refocusing
will be providing parishes with an awareness of the resources available
to prepare fully for the Jubilee.
In like manner,
I ask our archdiocesan education staffagain, in concert with
my officeto provide our schools, parish millennium coordinators
and parish religious education programs with the resources they
need to integrate Jubilee preparation into their apostolic work
with Catholics of all ages. It is my hope that in addition to pilgrimages
and gatherings of Jubilee celebration, various lectures, seminars
and courses of study on critical documents of Vatican II, the work
of Pope John Paul II, and other materials relevant to the Jubilee
will be made available to the general public.
But our Jubilee
preparations will neither succeed nor fail at the archdiocesan level.
They can only bear fruit if they are lived by our people, clergy
and Religious at the parish level. Therefore, in whatever we do
to answer the Holy Father's callno matter how elaborate or
simplewe must never misunderstand our Jubilee preparations
as just another program or another pastoral burden. The new millennium
should be a new encounter with the person of Jesus Christ; it is
He whose birth it marks.
In that light,
I ask pastors of the archdiocese to open their parishes to all which
the Holy Spirit desires. New ecclesial movements and charisms are
works of the Holy Spirit and signs of Jubilee; it is my hope that
pastors will welcome these groups and movements so that our people,
families and parishes may blaze with the fire of the new evangelization.
zeal is radical availability to the Holy Spirit. This is the foundation
of Jubilee. This is the faith and witness of the Virgin Mary, Our
Lady of the New Advent. She is the perfect disciple, the model of
every virtue. She is our guide star to the Jubilee.
As we resume
our journey to the Great Jubilee, I entrust this local Church and
all our plans and aspirations to her maternal intercession.
May God bless
each of you and your families this Christmas season. May He fill
you with the joy of the shepherds throughout the coming year. And
I ask you to pray for me, your brother, as I pray daily for you.
Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver
Vigil of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord
December 24, 1997