CHRISTMAS DAY 2016
In the beginning. These first words of John’s Gospel call us to recognize the two beginnings that shape all human life. The first is the beginning of time when God created the universe through His Word. Thus began the extraordinary creative love of God for this world and all of us, a love that time and again was rejected by fallen humanity. The second beginning we celebrate today: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word is God. For in the fullness of time God sent his son, born of a woman to save all humankind! The wondrous beauty of creation, marred by human failure, surely never merited to receive what now God does for us. The Eternal Word, God’s own divine Son, was made flesh and dwelt among us!
My Friends these are the two truths upon which our lives depend: the world we live in through his creative love, and the son who became one with us through the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Son whose human life brings God’s salvific love into the world. He is the ultimate “new beginning”. 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 whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe!
Today we sing Glory to God in the Highest because we are the heirs to whom the Father sent His Son. The sinful past has been wiped away. The Son comes to us, not in majesty and awe. He comes into the world the way we all did: through a mother, his mother, the Virgin who gave her human nature to be one with his divine being. There are not two Jesus’. There is one God man, fully God, fully man just as you and I are not separate parts. Each of us is a single complete person, soul and body united as one and now made whole through Him. Not just whole but transformed to being true sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of the child of Bethlehem.
Here at the manger, you and I discover our true identity. Here, we gaze at this child, the one who has changed our destiny by joining us in our human life in this world so that we could share in his divine life because he, the only Son of God, became flesh and dwelt among us!
Listen to what John teaches us today! He, this child, was in the world, a world that exists through him but the world did not know Him…But to those who did accept Him – you, me, all our brothers and sisters who make up this Church spread throughout the world – to us he gave power to become children of God!
Now we share his divine life, given through baptism, nourished by the Eucharist, solidified by our life of witness to the world. How great a gift this is. How joy-filled we are. Our destiny belongs with this Child, with Mary, his mother, with the whole Church with whom we are one in the responsibility to bring his life, his love to all the world, to all humankind.
Yes, my friends, the way we accept our responsibility to bring his message into the world is the measure of our living in him, with him and for one another. There are so many ways we can do this that I could never say it all on this Christmas day. But let me call to your attention, first of all, the need for a recovery of civil discourse in our country. Our public debates, and our personal conversations have become base; language that is foul; shouting and posturing that all break down the elements that are needed for us to live in civil peace with respect and mutual understanding. We are a people that has made a mockery of our identity as children of God by embracing positions that contradict God’s plan by separating soul and body and dividing our human nature by misplaced individualism. Our culture has become a drug culture to an extent never seen before. The use of drugs and opoids is pandemic here on Long Island, dividing families and villages and destroying the lives especially of our youth who see their elders and imitate their bad behavior. You and I can help change that. We are called to see one another as persons created in God’s image. We are responsible for encouraging the best in ourselves and in others.
With all our own local and national challenges we do live in a most blessed and extraordinary nation. Yet we can never isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. As Catholics our vision is universal, our vocation is to be brother and sister to all who are suffering, all who are marginalized, all who are in need. Our Holy Father time and again rightly reminds us of our vocation to care for the poor, reach out to the poor, support them and give them the dignity that is theirs as children of a loving God. The Middle East, but also Nigeria and Ukraine and parts of Latin America, face hostile forces and terrorists bent on violence and destruction. Our diocese has been in the forefront of reaching out especially to the Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq. Keep them in your prayers and support their legitimate aspirations for peace for themselves, their families and their nations.
Isaiah had a vision that one day there would come into the world the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news and announcing salvation. Today we know who he is. God identifies him: You are my Son. This day I have begotten you. We know him. We see him in the manger with Mary and Joseph. He is the eternal word now made flesh. He is Jesus, Son of God, Son of Mary!
And the Word was made flesh and made his dwelling among us; and we saw his glory, the glory as the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth! Amen.