God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.
I missed Pope Benedict's "Thought for the Day" this morning - I didn't wake up in time. [ZENIT have the text of the transcript here, in case the BBC page is not permanent.]I did catch Archbishop Nichols speaking on Radio 2's "Pause for thought" just after 9 am. As Archbishop Nichols referred to Pope Benedict's earlier address, citing the strap line - "God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them" - I was struck by the number of different situations I have been involved in over the last year or so to which those words could be applied.
Pope Benedict's address is a straightforward and confident teaching of the event of the birth of Jesus Christ and of its significance for the world. Archbishop Nichols' remarks, the influence of Blessed John Henry Newman very apparent in them, asked those who do not share Christian faith to be open to the intuition, to the instinct, that underlies the Christmas story. That trust in our intution is completely in accord with reason, and not contrary to it.
The full text of Archbishop Nichols remarks is below, and available (but not, I suspect, permanently) on the BBC Radio 2 website:
"Last night I kicked off my shoes and watched the last episode of ‘The Nativity’ on BBC One. I hope you did too. It was such a beautiful portrayal of the birth of Jesus.This last paragraph goes very well with Pope Benedict's own words.
Then, this morning, I was all ears as broadcasting history was made over on Radio 4: Pope Benedict giving his lovely thought for this day, Christmas Eve. He reminded us of his gracious and encouraging visit to the UK in September and he promised to remember us in his prayers.
He also said this: ‘God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.’
These words were dramatically illustrated in the TV Nativity.
We followed the story of Thomas, a young hot-headed shepherd, brimming with anger and resentment at the tough circumstances he faced. He found peace beyond his dreams as he kissed the tiny foot of the baby Jesus.
The three wise men came, searching for the ‘Light of the World’, astonished to find him in a stable. They bowed low to honour him, presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, no doubt prepared for a palace!
And Joseph, too, finding love at Mary’s side, precisely where he thought he had been betrayed. God fulfils his promises in surprising ways!
Of course, some want to mock this story, insisting that faith in God is an illusion, offensive to our reasoning minds. But is love an illusion, or beauty, even if we can’t explain them in terms of reason alone? Certainly not! Christmas is a time to learn again to trust these instincts of ours, to recognise in these intuitions a way of knowing which is neither an illusion nor unreasonable. Then we can come to God-made-man, when he comes to us in poverty and vulnerability for our sake. From him, surprisingly, we too can receive peace, light and love.
Happy Christmas everyone!"