By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Christmas should be regarded as a celebration of the redemption of God’s people, a Vatican official told local Catholics Dec. 9.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, celebrated the opening Mass of the fourth Archdiocesan Black Catholic Congress at the Flaget Center in Southwest Louisville.
During his homily, Cardinal Turkson said the Christmas season has become overwhelmed by “other concerns.” Christmas trees and decorations are up, he noted, long “before we even had a chance to think about why we celebrate,” he said. For the faithful, he noted, this should not be the case.
The days leading up to Christmas should be a time of reflection about what “God is preparing for us,” he said.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, observed Dec. 8, happens at the beginning of Advent for a reason, he said.
The Immaculate Conception feast celebrates the conception of Mary and how God saved her from sin in anticipation of her conceiving the son of God.
“The womb where the son of God was to take flesh had to be without blemish. Jesus then descends into that womb and becomes one of us,” said Cardinal Turkson.
The significance of this becomes clear when we celebrate the feast of the birth of Christ — the incarnation of Christ “assuming our human nature to share with us and to share from what we have,” said Cardinal Turkson.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception is the beginning of the “great action” that leads to the salvation of mankind, he explained.
“That’s what happened when Jesus descended into the womb of Mary and took unto himself the dust we are” and to which we were destined to return, said the cardinal.
Through the resurrection of Jesus, “the narrative of our human existence is no longer ‘dust you are and unto dust you will return.’ ”
The story continues and changes — it becomes “through the resurrection of Jesus we will all be raised,” he said. “So let the tree stand and let the (Christmas) lights begin to flicker, but let us not forget what God is doing for us in these four weeks of preparation towards the feast of Jesus coming to take our human nature.”
Cardinal Turkson visited the Archdiocese of Louisville late last week to address the Archdiocesan Black Catholic Congress, a follow-up to the National Black Catholic Congress held in July. The cardinal also delivered an address at the national gathering.