Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Mass during the Day - December 25, 2020
Fr. José Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today’s Alleluia refrain says: “Today a great light has come upon the earth.” Christmas is a feast of light. In the Gospel, St John declares: "The light shines in the darkness" (Jn 1:5). God’s presence among us is a gentle light. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fills the universe with mysterious gentleness.
Let us be surprised anew by the mystery of Christmas. In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son” (Heb 1:1). St. Bernard said in one of his sermons: “O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth! Be amazed, and let every creature give praise; but thou beyond others, O man! ‘JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Judah. What heart so stony as not to be softened at these words? What soul is not melted at this voice of her Beloved? What announcement could be sweeter? What intelligence more enrapturing? Was its like ever heard before? Or when did the world ever receive such tidings? […] The heart is oppressed by its mellifluous sweetness, and longs to pour forth its redundant riches, but words refuse their service.”
Only the attentive realize the infinite greatness of what has happened: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). We must overcome the distractions that prevent us from seeing the glory of God: “[…] and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). We must be vigilant, like the sentinels in the first reading: "Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion” (Is 52:8). Only those with the attentiveness of a sentry can see that God has come. The refrain of the psalm says: "All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.”
We often feel that God is distant. The mentality of the world influences us. We think our happiness is to be found in comfort, well-being and pleasures. We are more attracted to such things than to the things of God, which sometimes can even annoy us. Divine life seems to be less desirable than what the world can offer. This is a deception! A barrier is separating us from the life that Christ brought into the world, which must be destroyed through the grace of God and our commitment.
How can we see God? We do not see him directly, as Mary, Joseph and the shepherds did, but the flesh of Jesus lives on in the flesh of the Church. We do not see God directly but we can see his action. He transforms lives, as evident in the lives of the saints. God is always a mystery. He does not reveal himself directly but through signs. God revealed himself in human flesh but only to those who had simple hearts. Only those who truly sought him recognized his presence in the newborn child in Bethlehem.
Jesus assumed our human nature to allow us to participate in his divine nature. We have a magnificent destiny! The Word became flesh so that our human flesh would become divine.
The gentle light that Christ brought to the world reveals us to ourselves. St. John Paul II wrote the following in his first encyclical: “Christ, the Redeemer of the world, is the one who penetrated in a unique unrepeatable way into the mystery of man and entered his ‘heart.’ Rightly therefore does the Second Vatican Council teach: ‘The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.’”
Contemplating the baby Jesus in the manger, we discover who we really are. In dialogue with Christ, we learn the truth about ourselves. God's presence in the world transforms everything. From the moment of the Incarnation of the Word, everything is the same but there is a new background.. There is something different in the air, the silent music and discreet harmony of all things.
God’s glory has manifested itself. God's light, hidden in human flesh, becomes a gentle light illuminating the world. The light of God makes everything gentle, including suffering.
May Mary help us experience the gentleness of God's presence. May the light emanating from the crib fill our hearts with joy and peace. Amen.