Sunday, 25 December, 2016: With some numbers. Today the Dominican Order is exactly 800 years old! We have been celebrating the Jubilee all year, but on this very day in the year 1216, Domingo de Guzman, a Spanish priest-canon who had been preaching in southern France, got approval from Pope Honorius III to found the Order of Preachers and to go proclaim the gospel everywhere.
It may even be permissible to stay a little longer with historical numbers. Some 700 years before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the Prophet Isaiah promised to Ahaz, a wicked King of Judah, the blessing of a child, who would embody and carry forward the Davidic line (Is. 7:14). Isaiah gave this child the name, Emmanuel, meaning in Hebrew, "God is with us." Then in the first century of our era the Evangelist Matthew, in telling the story of how the birth of Jesus Christ came about, understood this blessing to be connected with the event that we celebrate just now: the virginal conception and nativity of a child who is God-with-us (Mt. 1:18-24).. May these Christmas greetings go out in this name, given to us by the prophet Isaiah, realized in Jesus of Nazareth, proclaimed by our Father Dominic. It affirms what we believe and is the source of our joy.
God with us -- the presence of God in our world and in our lives -- is mystery through and through. And this divine with-ness is wondrous in its variety and extent: fundamentally in every encounter with another human person, created in God's image; most marvelously in our relationship with Jesus himself, the Divine Word made flesh, now Christ the Lord; invisibly yet really in that gift of love poured into our hearts by the Spirit, that we have come to name indwelling (Rom. 5:5). May I wish you, especially this year, a deeper awareness of this manifold blessing of Emmanuel, God-with-us.
In the joy of this awareness there is also the gift of peace, that will move us from within to ask, on behalf of those who find themselves beset by violence, to be delivered from that curse. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Earlier this year, the morning of 29 March to be exact, while cycling on the way to Tangaza College, for Mass and a couple of hours of class in the Institute of Social Communication, I had an accident, and have spent the intervening weeks and months recovering from injuries sustained thereby. In fact one of the doctors who was taking care of me early on said that it might be the end of the year before I would be back in good shape. And so it is! I am most grateful, not only that my life was spared, but that bodily movement is now virtually back to normal. Emmanuel!