Homily of Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, OMI, Bishop of Hamilton during Christmas Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of Basilica of Christ the King
Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King
Midnight, December 25, 2018
During the darkest time of the year, at the darkest hour of the night – we gather together to remember and, in fact, to relive one of most remarkable events in human history. The message of the angels on that astonishing night has been proclaimed to us once again – and, like the shepherds, we listen and are amazed at what we hear: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord … you will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger!” And if that message wasn’t enough, “a multitude of the heavenly host joined the angel and sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” Like the shepherds, we listen, we are awe-struck, and we wonder what can it all mean. Pope Francis reminded us earlier this week, that our God is a God of surprises – and we celebrate tonight “the unprecedented things of God, or rather,” he went on, “the unprecedented God”!
Their amazement, the amazement of people of faith throughout the centuries, our amazement tonight, changed lives then and changes lives still! We gather tonight because we long to hear again the story of that night – so that it might touch our hearts, and “fan into a flame” the embers of faith that so often weaken because of the darkness that threatens to overwhelm.
The darkness of the night and the darkness of these winter days help us remember that the birth of this child is a light that shines in darkness – so that it is no longer dark. The birth of this child changes minds and hearts – opening them to recognize that we are brothers and sisters called to care for each other – and, like Him and with Him, we bring light where the darkness threatens to wear us down.
How much good has been done in the days running up to this holy night! Festive dinners have been prepared and served so that everybody can enjoy the celebrations. Gifts have been purchased and shared so that everyone feels valued. Greetings have been offered in Christmas cards, over the telephone, and now through new technologies reminding us that we belong, and that we are loved. At Christmas we reach out to others – it is a time precisely to be with others!
When I lived and worked in Newfoundland and Labrador, I remember that women would share their joy that 35 family members, or even better, 42, would gather at the Christmas table! It is when they would work their magic and produce a meal to feed everyone! I can only imagine the love expressed amid the noisy chatter of the children! Here in Hamilton, the Brothers of St. John of God and their Good Shepherd Ministries, supported by 800 volunteers, served a sit-down turkey dinner with all the trimming to over 2000 people, followed by gift-giving, and a visit with Santa Claus – St. Nicholas! The DeMazenod Door at St. Patrick’s Parish serves meals to over 350 people every day! Such stories are repeated in this city and everywhere across the country and around the world. It is a reminder – loud and clear – that no matter what, light is stronger than darkness, love is stronger than hate, and life is stronger than death.
To be clear, it does not mean that there is no more darkness, no more hatred, no more death. It means that they do not have the last word! The birth of this child – and the saving message He offers us – announces that darkness, hatred and death are overcome by acts of kindness, generosity and sacrifice.
It is the simple and radical beauty of such goodness that touches our hearts, that draws us, that overwhelms us.
And in this Cathedral Basilica dedicated to Christ the King – the King of kings – we gather around this table, this altar, and we remember another moment, another meal, during which He gave us His Body and Blood – “for the forgiveness of sins”, he said; and then He reminded us to do this in His memory. So we do – forgiving as we have been forgiven. Such a gift – forgiveness! So many long to be forgiven! We pray for the strength to forgive as He did. And we give thanks for the blessings that we experience year round and especially tonight!
My friends – Christmas is here! No more waiting! Merry Christmas to you! I invite you to stand and offer Christmas greetings to those with you and those around you!