Christmas Pastoral Letter 2003

Boundless Hope


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Before my Episcopal Ordination I gave indications to a Salesian Brother to design my coat-of-arm. When he showed me the draft I saw that there are three places in the design that go beyond the framework. I remarked that this was out of the norm. He said, “But you are just that intrusive.” He actually wanted to express my character in the coat-of-arm. The authority of the artists is absolute and I was not allowed to dispute.

Now when I look at the design I discover that I can give it a new interpretation. On the top corner where it goes beyond the framework is the Eucharist. Of course the Eucharist transcends all. Who then can say it is intrusive? At the bottom of the design, two points that go beyond the framework are parts of an anchor. The anchor is a symbol of the virtue of HOPE. Thus it tells us that the virtue of hope should be “out of bound”. I agree most willingly to that totally.

HOPE as a virtue is different from what we usually call “hope”. In our ordinary usage “hope” does not convey a one hundred percent certainty. We mean we “just hope for best”. The virtue of hope is unwavering. Its foundation is faith. It is as firm as faith. Abraham is the father of faith. Thus he hopes in the midst of the most hopeless situations. If it is not “out of bound” it will not be the virtue of HOPE.

The Liturgy of Advent nourishes our HOPE. Time and again in the Eucharist we pray, “Lord, all that we have are your gifts”, “Lord, without you we can do nothing. Grant us the strength to do good”, “Lord, grant us your wisdom and teach us discernment in the midst of the events of this world and to pursue the happiness of heaven”, “Lord, we are ashamed of our sins and we are not worthy to be your followers. Through the redemption by your Son grant us forgiveness and the joy in serving you”.

It is clear the virtue of HOPE is “out of bound”. We are fearless because we trust in God and not in ourselves. I am writing this on Tuesday of the third week of Advent. The first reading of today is from the prophet Zephaniah, “When the day comes…. I will remove your proud boasters….In your midst I will leave a humble and lowly people and they will seek refuge in the name of the Lord”. In the Gospel Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, “Tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you” because they listened to John the Baptist and repented. “But you did not believe him and did not repent.”

Christmas is approaching. May we, like the shepherds and the wise men from the east, like Joseph and Mary, welcome the coming of the Holy Infant. If we feel that we belong to the group of “great sinners” let us not despair. Jesus is born precisely for us. Let us not imitate the inn-keepers of Bethlehem nor the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the people, the cruel Herod. They have closed their hearts. The poor cannot enter. So Jesus will not enter. But we should pray for them and ask God to break open the door of their hearts, to melt the hearts of stone. Because they too are the children of God.


Glory be to God in the highest heaven And on earth peace for those he favours!

The love of God is infinite and HOPE is boundless!

Bishop Joseph ZEN