Dearest Sisters and Brothers in the Lord, 

“Say to those who are frightened: Be strong fear not! Here is our God, he comes to save us” (Is 3:4). 

As Christmas 2017 nears, we again approach in awe and wonder the manger of Bethlehem and the presence of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Comprehending the mystic truth of the Word becoming Flesh and living among us (Jn 1:14) requires us to realize Jesus is the third word of God; the first being the cosmic word – the universe; the second being the inspired word – the Sacred Scriptures, and the third word being Jesus, the Incarnate Word (Father Mark Link SJ, “He is the Still Point of the Turning World”). This marks the epicenter of the coalescence of the timeless into time and the divine with the human. We fall on our knees, literally and figuratively, to adore. Our celebration of the Incarnation creates unfathomable joy, immeasurable hope and priceless love. It overwhelms our hearts, enlightens our minds, excites our emotions, elevates our spirits and fortifies our will. It provides a special opportunity to express ultimate praise to the Almighty – Father, Son and Holy Spirit and profound gratitude for our being provided human life in the image and likeness of God himself. It enables us to acknowledge special regard for immediate family and relatives, friends and business associates and all others. It includes both those like us and those different from us, whether by race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, social or economic class or any other way, all who represent neighbor to us. 

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In the midst of conflict and turmoil, division and controversy, unrest and tension of the world, the Nativity of the Lord graces us. It allows us to recall the emphatic teaching of Pope Francis to practice the time-honored Corporal Works of Mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, provide shelter for the homeless, visit the sick, visit prisoners, bury the dead; and the Spiritual Works of Mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, comfort the sorrowful, forgive injuries, bear wrongs patiently, pray for the living and the dead, give alms to the poor. During this time may we joyously herald the Good News proclaimed by the angel and heavenly host: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (Lk 1:13-14). 

Merry Christmas, everyone. Heartiest blessings for the New Year. Affectionately yours in the infinite love of our Divine Savior, </span 

P.S. As many of you know, at the end of this month I will turn 75 and thus, in accord with canon law, will offer to Pope Francis my resignation from the office of Bishop of Baton Rouge. This will only become effective after the Holy Father responds back by giving me the date when it will take effect. There is no way to predict when that will be. Please keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine.

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