12.25.17 Christmas Mass at Dawn
1st Reading Isaiah 62: 11 – 12
Letter of St. Paul to Titus 3: 4 – 7
Gospel – Luke 2: 15 – 20
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Become One With God
The first reading from the ‘Mass During the Day’ on Christmas is from the prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation.” (Is.52:7) The words of the prophet speak of the mission of the Messiah: †Jesus has brought salvation to the world. Yet, as God is speaking of the beautiful feet of the Son who will walk among us, for so many people thoughts of this night are more about the gifts they will receive.
A recent study pointed out that only 57% of Americans believe in a religious meaning of Christmas. It seems that the gift-giving Magi have become more essential to the meaning of Christmas than the birth of the Savior of the world. Christmas is more than gifts; more than warm feelings as we think about “a child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12) as we see in the Nativity scenes in our homes.
Pope Francis reminds us: “There is a straight line between the manger and the cross where Jesus will become ‘bread that is broken.’” (25 December 2016) (“De este modo hay una línea directa que une el pesebre y la cruz donde Jesús será pan partido”) (25 Dec. 2016). Have you ever thought about the connection between the manger in Bethlehem and the cross on Calvary? The infant image in the Nativity scene in our homes is the same person we venerate on the cross on Good Friday.
The shepherds keeping the night watch over their flocks” in Bethlehem remind us of the Good Shepherd keeping watch with His disciples that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The heavenly hosts of angels sang to the shepherds: “Glory in the Highest” (Lk.2:14). In the Letters of St. Paul, we are taught: the way to glory in the kingdom is the way of the Cross.
The “infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”, became the Messiah, stripped of all His clothes and lying on a wooden cross.
Prophesying the birth of the Messiah, Isaiah proclaimed: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwell in the land of doom a light has shone” (Is.9:1f). At the Easter Vigil, when the Paschal Candle is lit, we pray: “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”.
So we see this connection between the birth of Jesus and the fulfillment of His mission on Calvary to complete the work of Salvation.
Pope Francis teaches us: “†Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference. Today, too, that same indifference can exist, whenever Christmas becomes a holiday with ourselves at the center, rather than †Jesus” (ibid). Hence, 43% of the population celebrates Christmas as a secular holiday and focus on themselves rather than on †Jesus.
It is up to us to rekindle the ‘living flame of God’s love’ in the world; to continue the mission of the “infant lying in manger”. †Jesus must live in our hearts, both in times of Christmas joy, and in difficult times when we experience the “suffering servant” of God in our daily life. (Jesús debe vivir en nuestros corazones, tanto en tiempos de alegría navideña como en tiempos difíciles, cuando experimentamos al “Siervo sufriente” de Dios.) The Joy of Christmas is not just for a day or for a season. No one can take away our eternal joy if Christ lives within us, whether we are in Bethlehem or on Calvary. The joy of †Jesus is made present within us as a gift of the Holy Spirit. No pain or sorrow can diminish that joy.
As disciples of Jesus we are to become “One with God and One like God”. “Como discípulos de +Jesús, debemos convertirnos en “Uno con Dios y Uno como Dios”).
And on this night, God declared “Emmanuel: “God is with us,” God is with you. God said: “I am the God who is with you. I became God like you, wrapped in swaddling clothes.” God, who created heaven and earth, chose to take on human nature. For all eternity God will have a human nature. The question is: are we willing to become like Jesus? Jesus invites us to become “one with Him” and “one like Him.
There is a story about a family with young children. Early in Advent they put up the manger scene. But, the image of the baby †Jesus was left out until Christmas. A few days later, the mom noticed a Spiderman action figure had been placed in the manger. She wondered which child had put it there. The mother removed it and returned to her child’s room. The next day, Spiderman was back and was joined by a teddy bear. She wondered what the children were doing. She decided to leave them and see what happened. Over the next few days, they were joined by a couple of dolls, then more stuffed animals. There was quite a collection in the manger. Finally, she asked one of her children, why they were doing this? One child replied: “Because you told us that Christmas is for everyone!”
The Christmas story is filled with a variety of characters. There was a teenage girl, pregnant before marriage. There were shepherds, considered outcasts by polite Jewish society. There were Magi, foreigners, who crossed many borders to seek out the “newborn king of the Jews”. There was a homicidal king and his minions trying to kill the infant, †Jesus. Instead they killed many innocent children. There was an “infant lying in manger” who would sacrifice His life for them all. †Jesus was born on the margins of society. It seems fitting that the first to see Him were the poor, powerless, foreigners. (†Jesús nació al margen de la sociedad. Parece apropiado que los primeros en verlo fueron los pobres, impotentes, extranjeros.) It was to them that God sent angels with “good news of great joy” (Lk.2:10).
Look at this gathering of God’s people tonight. We are from different cultures and family experiences and diverse economic levels. We are at different places in our life; some are filled with joy, others are experiencing sadness. Some are living successful lives, some challenging lives. Yet, on this night God took on flesh and would later give His life out of love for us. This night is like no other. It is a night that unites all generations, all cultures, all races, all faiths; all people of good will. On this night the very heavens are joined with earth and we are given the greatest gift from God; we are given His Son.
How do we give thanks for the greatest of all gifts? We become “one like †Jesus”. We live His love, mercy and compassion. We welcome all people. We do not reject anyone because of culture, religion, social status, sexual orientation; whether they are rich or poor, in good health or poor health; disabled, mentally or physically challenged. We must strive to live His Word in our daily life. We must make a gift of ourselves to the Lord and others without counting the cost of such a gift.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given us…They name Him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Is.9:5)
Que tu Navidad se llene con las bendiciones de †Jesus, el Principe de la paz.
May your Christmas, be filled with the blessings of †Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.