Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Nativity of the Lord: Mass During the Day

Readings: Isa 52:7-10-12; Ps 98:1-6; Heb 1:1-6; John 1:1-8

My dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, through whom by the power the Holy Spirit, we are God’s adopted children by virtue of our re-birth in water and the Spirit at our Baptism, Merry Christmas! How beautiful it is that we are here together, as Christ’s Body, celebrating the great mystery of His Incarnation; the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, who for us and our salvation came down from heaven.

It’s important, I think, to be reminded that prior to being born in the manger in Bethlehem, Jesus existed from all eternity as the Father’s only begotten Son. When we say in the Creed that the Son- Jesus Christ- is consubstantial, or, perhaps better-stated “one in being with,” the Father, we mean that, like the Father and the Spirit, He is “true God from true God, begotten, not made.” You see, like begets like. Human parents beget human children, lions beget lion cubs, sea horses beget seahorses, and so it goes throughout nature. The divine Father eternally begets His divine Son. This is what Tradition tells us St John meant when he concisely wrote:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be (John 1:1-3)
The great mystery we celebrate here at Christ+Mass on Christmas Day is also concisely and beautifully set forth by St John a little later on in the prologue to his Gospel, which is our Gospel reading today:
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)
The Word becoming flesh for us and for our salvation is what Christmas is all about. This is the Gospel, the good news. Prior to the Word becoming flesh, as the inspired author of Hebrews tells, God spoke in varied yet partial (as opposed to complete) ways. “But,” St Paul wrote in his Letter to the Galatians, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption” (Gal 4:4). In Christ Jesus, the Father, by the power of their Holy Spirit, whose overshadowing resulted in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s virginal conception of our Savior, spoke His complete word. In lyrics composed by contemporary Christian songwriter, Michael Card, the Father
spoke the incarnation, and then so was born a Son/His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one/Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine/And so was born a baby who would die to make it mine
“When [Christ] had accomplished purification from sins,” we heard in our second reading, “he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Heb 1:3b). But He will not remain there because He is coming back to bring to fulfillment what He began in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea. It is because of Jesus’ divinity and humanity that we have received “grace in place of grace” (John 1:16).

Nativity by Rembrandt, 1654

Through Moses, God gave the law, which ultimately only served to move the chosen people farther from God, not nearer. Jesus came to bring God’s grace and truth, God’s salvation. The name “Jesus” means “God saves.”

In his homily for Christmas Day 45 years ago, Bl Pope Paul VI said,
God could have come wrapped in glory, splendor, light and power, to instill fear, to make us rub our eyes in amazement. But instead he came as the smallest, the frailest and weakest of beings. Why? So that no one would be ashamed to approach him, so that no one would be afraid, so that all would be close to him and draw near him, so that there would be no distance between us and him. God made the effort to plunge, to dive deep within us, so that each of us, each of you, could speak intimately with him, trust him, draw near him and realize that he thinks of you and loves you… He loves you! Think about what this means! If you understand this, if you remember what I am saying, you will have understood the whole of Christianity
In Christ, God comes near to us. We could never bridge the chasm, the gulf, between heaven and earth through our own efforts. Only Jesus Christ, true God and true man, could bridge the gap. It is as the bridge to this gap that St Catherine of Siena saw Christ in one of her mystical visions. In short, you can’t save yourself.

Because He loves you, the God who made came to save you. Just as Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, drew near to us by being born of the Virgin Mary, wrapped in rags, and laid in an animal’s feeding trough, He draws even nearer to us in this Eucharist. He is not content merely to draw near to you, but desires to live in you and through you.

In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we heard,
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!” (Isa 52:7)
Christ’s feet are beautiful because they still bear the marks where He was pierced for you. His wounds are His most beautiful feature because they show you how much He loves you. As we read in the third chapter of St John’s Gospel:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17)

2 comments:

  1. The precise dating in this passage sounds like a textbook on creationism. If we focus on the time frame, however, we miss the point. It lays out the story of a love affair: creation, the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the rise of Israel under David. It climaxes with the birth of Jesus. From the beginning, some scholars insist, God intended to enter the world as one of us, the beloved people. Praise God!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a curious comment. There is nothing about the dating of any of the passages of Scripture found in lectionary in this homily. I think I capture the love affair quite well.

    The Incarnation certainly relies on its historicity, it's actual happening.

    ReplyDelete