CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT MASS 2016
Tonight is a night of joy. I see it on your faces, hear it in our prayers and songs watch it as children gaze at the manger and as we receive with awe the Body and Blood from the altar. JOY. YES. TRUE JOY!
Joy is such a wondrous part of our lives. Think of the joy you feel when encounter your spouse whom you love. We priests see it when you bring your children to be baptized. We love our families and the encounter with family and friends at times like Christmas: a joy that springs from our hearts and enriches our lives.
Tonight’s joy is all that and even more. Let me go back a little to a time before the first Christmas in Bethlehem. Nine months earlier the angel Gabriel calls Mary and asks her to agree to God’s plan that she be the human mother of his divine son. Her fiat, her yes, changes the direction of all human life. Luke says: then the angel departed from her. Because the angel told her of her elderly cousin, Elizabeth being pregnant, Mary set out in haste… where she entered the house of Zachariah and greeted Elizabeth. St. Ambrose explains this. When Mary heard this, she hurried off to the hill country. This was not because she disbelieved the oracle or was uncertain about the messenger, or doubted the precedent offered, but because she was overjoyed with desire, eager to fulfill a duty of piety and impelled by gladness
But look what took place! When the two women met and embraced, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit! The human joy of two women embracing each other in this beautiful moment of heart speaking to heart is made even more beautiful because their joy was enriched and transformed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Theirs is a human joy. But that human joy is now filled and made even more wonderful because human happiness has a share in God’s divine love. Jesus is there. Jesus is part of their encounter. In fact human joy gains a totally new and ever richer and new dimension! God’s love dwells in human joy and human joy, all the joys of our lives that we share joy with one another are at the same time filled with the Holy Spirit. Human joy and divine love are united. The Christ child now shares our happiness and our happiness carries within it Christ’ love.
All this is ours because of what we celebrate here together this night. The human birth of Jesus brings divine love, the love of the Father and the Son into the world through his human birth. God’s divine Son is now and forever, now the human Son of Mary. Mary gives her human nature to Jesus who now shares human life with us. He belongs to us and we belong to Him. No one is left out. No one is excluded. The Father wants us to be saved and only God can do that. Only God can save. But he wants us to be saved by sending the son who can know us humanly. Jesus is one with us so he can understand us humanly, share our human joys and sorrows with us, understand from the inside what our lives are about. From that manger till he returns to the Father, Jesus pours out God’s love into our hearts to transform our lives, to make us joyful in our human life and love. Divine life and love meets human love in all its dimensions of joy and of struggle. They embrace,. They now are one!
No wonder the shepherds heard the angels singing! Who would not sing, knowing how merciful and loving the Father is who sent his son to be one with us. The singing is what caused those shepherds in the fields to “go over to Bethlehem” to see what caused this happiness. And what did they find? A mother! A very happy mother! A mother cradling her son as all of you mothers have cradled us, your sons and daughters. A mother, who had the courage to say yes. To say yes to God. To trust that the God who called her would give her grace to say Yes and thus His plan is fulfilled because of her YES.
But it did not end there. Her “Yes” is what made us partakers in God’s plan for us all. When divine life and love entered the world that night, it was not just for one night but for all time! And that life and love come to us tonight, this night at this Mass but not just now. It is forever!. Here at our crèche, at home with your family crèches and in our villages where Jesus is loved and embraced, we gaze at that moment that changed the world and changed our destiny. When the Holy Spirit, God’s divine love came upon her, Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit. From that moment on, the same spirit Jesus has given to His Church. Love dwells in and guides our Church. That love dwells in us through Baptism and nourishes us this night in the Eucharist.
How right was Isaiah, inspired by that Spirit to prophesy that he would be called:
WONDER COUNSELLOR, GOD HERO, FATHER FOREVER, GOD WITH US, PRINCE OF PEACE!
Yes, God with us. CHRISTIANS RECOGNIZE YOUR DIGNITY! The one through whom we all were created is now one with us. The eternal Son of God is now the Son of Mary. He is our brother. He is our savior. He is one with us now and forever. Paul is right: The grace of God HAS APPEARED, SAVING ALL…TO DELIVER US AND TO CLEANSE FOR HIMSELF A PEOPLE OF HIS OWN.
We are that People! Tonight with the angels, with the shepherds, we have seen the Lord lying in a manger being nursed by a loving and joyful mother, watched over by Joseph, their protector and our guardian. Allow me to say again what we just sang:
I PROCLAIM TO YOU GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY.
TODAY A SAVIOR IS BORN TO US; CHRIST THE LORD!