CHRISTMAS 2017 MASS AT NIGHT
Homily of Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI
Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King in Hamilton
Christmas is here! After several weeks of Advent preparation, we have arrived at the celebration of Christmas. For the world, Christmas marks the end of something. There will be no more Christmas carols on the radio or in the stores after December 25. For the Church, Christmas is the beginning of a season – a time when we start singing Christmas carols, a time to reflect on the incredible importance – the underlying meaning – of the incarnation in our lives!
(Selena Fresco has sung the “Proclamation of the Birth of Christ” – a beautiful text found in the Roman Martyrology for December 25.) We have listened to the very familiar excerpt from the Gospel of Luke – the story of the decree of Caesar Augustus calling for a census – taken most likely to determine Roman military strength in this foreign territory under their control, and to determine who might be taxed. It is the story of the pregnant Mary, and Joseph to whom she was engaged; the story of the baby born and laid in a manger. It is the story of an angel announcing the birth to shepherds – to shepherds – not to the Roman Emperor, not to King Herod, not to religious or political leaders – but to shepherds, considered dirty, impure and unreliable – to shepherds, who lived on the fringe of society, and were ignored, poor, and treated with contempt.
Christmas is here – and people pack into Churches throughout the Diocese of Hamilton, indeed across the country and around the whole world, to pray in thanksgiving for so great a gift that has brought such blessing to our lives. People travel from near and far to be with families and friends. I am pleased and honoured to welcome good friends from Rome who arrived just yesterday, Archbishop Arthur Roche, who works with Pope Francis in the Vatican Curia, and Dominican Father Paul Murray who is a professor of theology at the Angelicum University in Rome, and who has written many books, and preached many retreats, including a retreat to the Ontario Bishops in Assisi last March.
One of Father Paul’s books is entitled In the Grip of Light, in which he teaches us that the experience of God’s presence in our lives is always the experience of light in the midst of darkness; that it is often at the darkest moments of our life, when we have nowhere else to turn, nothing left to do, when we feel at our weakest and most vulnerable, when we know we can’t do it alone, it is precisely at such times that God comes to us – and we realize that we are not alone, no longer alone. It is the experience of consolation – we are rescued from our isolation – God-is-with-us – consolation!
This is, I believe, the significance of today: in this child, God comes to us. When we cannot or do not go to God, God comes to us. God comes to us in a way that we can receive Him – welcome Him – love Him. He comes to us as a baby – vulnerable and dependent.
We have come here to pray our thanks to God – for coming to us in the darkness of our lives – for helping us see that there is light and HE is that light.
We remember that on that day God came to us in an explosion of sound and light - angels announcing the good news of great joy – to you is born this day in the City of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord!
Our God, the God in whom we place our trust, comes first not to kings – the great ones – rather he comes to shepherds, making Himself even more vulnerable and dependent than the shepherds, so that they might open their hearts to welcome Him. This is not to say that He does not come to great ones. Of course He does – but he comes to the little ones first – to those who need him most.
God comes to us so that we will not be afraid of Him – rather so that we will be amazed and be consoled. The experience of mercy and forgiveness, of being valued and cared for, of being wanted and loved – this is the experience of God’s presence in our lives; it is the experience of light in the midst of darkness. Because of God’s presence, we can face any challenge, overcome any difficulty, and be better on the other side.
If there is a phrase I want you to take away from today’s Mass, it is precisely that “God comes to us!”
In a few minutes, we will gather around this altar, and remember just how Jesus Christ continues to come to us – in His Body and Blood. We will receive Him – and we will be transformed to be like Him. Like him, we will reveal the presence of God by our words and actions toward others who may be in need.
So … if you visit the hospital today, or if you visit someone in jail, or if you reach out to someone who might be alone this Christmas, or if you offer food to the hungry, -- you do it TO Him, you do it FOR Him, you do it WITH Him, and you do it LIKE Him. And when you do it, you reveal God’s love for the other, and you participate in God’s grace. For the other, you have become LIGHT!
Be light today and every day! – God comes to us, to you. So be generous – God comes to others through you.
Let us begin right now – let us stand and wish those around us a Merry Christmas!