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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

122517 xmas mass 2CHARLOTTE — Christmas remains a time of great joy for Christians, even as many people around the world suffer for their faith in Jesus. That was the message from Bishop Peter Jugis as hundreds of people welcomed the birth of Jesus during midnight Mass Dec. 25 at St. Patrick Cathedral.

“We are a joyful people because Jesus is among us, Jesus has come to save us,” Bishop Jugis said. “He has come to live among us, preach His Gospel, live and die for our salvation, and be risen from the dead. That is cause for joy. Nothing can destroy Jesus.”

Referring to the Gospel of Luke (2:1-14) proclaimed during the Mass, the bishop noted, “This beautiful account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea, which we have just heard, landed a Catholic priest in jail in India just this month.”

He recounted the recent news of a Catholic priest who staged a Christmas pageant in the small village of Satna, in north central India where he is pastor. He and others with him were arrested and charged with proselytizing, as the majority Hindu region is one where missionaries need government permission to preach and try to convert people.

There have also been calls by extremists to attack Christians in churches during the Christmas season, Bishop Jugis noted.

“All of this reminds us that Jesus is still met with rejection and even with violent opposition today in the world,” he said. The Body of Christ, the Church, faces threats just as Jesus did from King Herod.

“How fortunate we are to be here in the United States where we have – at least most of the time – freedom of religion,” he said, “but we do have to be careful of very subtle attacks or rejection of our Christian faith and of our love for Jesus.”

122517 xmas massBishop Peter Jugis prays before the Nativity scene inside St. Patrick Cathedral, moments after laying the baby Jesus in the manger at the start of Mass at midnight Dec. 25.The secular world roundly rejects Jesus and His Gospel message, the bishop said, and celebrations of Christmas have lost their focus on the birth of Jesus.

“We don’t hear much talk about Jesus out there in the secular world. There is much talk about all of the periphery of Christmas – about Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman,” he said.

Nevertheless, Christians – especially those who face persecution – continue to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and they do so with joy.

“When will people ever learn that persecution does not destroy the faith?” the bishop noted.

“The only thing that destroys the faith is apathy,” he continued. “Apathy of Christians towards Jesus, apathy regarding the practice of their faith.”

“That apathy, that lukewarmness, is really the worst,” he said, “because it comes from within.”

Christians must hold fast to the joy of the good news announced by the angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born, he said.

Christmas is a time to renew our commitment to Christ and live our faith joyfully, he said, regardless of attacks or rejection.

Share the joy of Christmas and the love of our faith with others during this season, he also encouraged. Joy is a “hallmark of Christmas,” he said.

He wished everyone a joyful holiday and prayed for God “to bless you and your families this Christmas, that He may keep all of you in His loving care, and that you’ll go forth joyfully from this celebration to be the followers of Christ that He’s calling you to be.”

— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor

Pictured at top: Bishop Peter Jugis and Father Richard Sutter, parochial vicar at St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte, distribute Holy Communion during Mass at midnight Dec. 25.