My dearly beloved in Our Lord,
“The grace of God our Savior hath appeared to all men; instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world.” These are the word of St Paul to his disciple Titus, in the Midnight Mass of the Nativity.
In the second Mass “at dawn” we have heard, from the same epistle: “The goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared…”
Yes, my dear fellow Catholics and children of God: God is good and kind, and He is showing this foremost in the Incarnation of His Son, of whom we are all witnesses today.
God has sent His own Son into this world, like the rich man in the Gospel who, after having sent his servants and having received the most vile and unworthy response to their call, sends his own son (cf. Mt 21,37). So God had sent the prophets of the Old Testament, and the unfaithful chosen people killed most of them. At long last He decided to send his own co-eternal Son – whom we have honored in the Midnight Mass particularly – with the mission and the power to save those of the human race who were of good will.
And God has become man, the Word has become flesh not as a perfect and complete man in adulthood. But He has made himself likely to us in all things, except sin (Hebr 4,15). He has come into this world in order to solicit our adhesion to all that he is: kindness, goodness, meekness, grace… For who is not charmed by the countenance of a little new-born child?! Its innocence and its very helplessness must make the heart of even the greatest sinner or villain tender.
This is what happened in Bethlehem during the Holy Night of Christmas. Not only Our Lady and St Joseph were delighted about the heavenly Child; but also the shepherds and all the simple-minded who have followed them during the days to come, have been won over to the grace of God by “the goodness and kindness of God” who had appeared before their very eyes.
We just need to follow them. We have the devotion to the Holy Infant Jesus, particularly the one venerated in Prague which is close to where we live. We are simple Catholics, and the more simple-minded we are in our Faith, Hope and Charity, the better!
But not all have adhered to God incarnate, quite to the contrary. Heaven had opened to pour forth all its blessings, announced by Angels in Bethlehem and in many other places throughout the world. And there was the strange Star that appeared all of a sudden before the eyes of all. No-one could ignore it for it was shining more brightly than the sun! (cf. Breviary, hymn at Lauds, Epiphany) But only a handful followed the sign which they had recognized to be the “star of Jacob”. Herod, king over a tiny stretch of land, will make himself to be the champion of all those who are of the opinion that God has no right to interfere in this material world. No-one can help them, for God himself has chosen to be powerless in front of the ill will of the angels or humans he creates.
This is why we must confirm and enact our decision for God anew every day. Otherwise we could just find ourselves being part of that crowd and issued with a one-way ticket to Hell; for Hell is the place from which good will is definitely and totally excluded.
The beautiful messianic Psalm 2 from which the Introit of the Midnight Mass has been taken, speaks not only of Christ being the true and co-eternal Son of God. But it goes on to ask: “Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?” There is an obvious reason for these words standing where they stand – because usually the beginning of the Psalm is used for the verse. But really – could Holy Church not have found anything less “combative” and “negative” for the First Christmas Mass? No, by no means! By all means these words are carefully and most properly chosen to figure in this place, at this very solemn moment. For Christ has come as the double-edged sword, he the Word of God (cf. Hebr 4,12). It is futile to think that there is peace on earth – “pacem in terris”, cf. Roncalli/John XXIII. There is no peace for the earth which is a battlefield and which is bound to perish in fire! There is only peace for souls of good will on earth, i.e. during the time of trial and combat of the Christian life.
The disciple is not greater than his master. Christ has been persecuted, even as a little child. We cannot hope to be left alone by the ill-willed men surrounding us, if we choose to adhere to Christ. This we do, and this we hope to do to our last breath.
The only way we can achieve this is by faithfully and fruitfully participating in Christ’s life. He has been born at Bethlehem, “the house of bread”, for he would declare himself to be the true food for our spiritual soul.
May the Christ-child, the Son of God made man, have mercy on us. The true shepherds have deserted his Church for many decades now. Let us pray that his real presence in Holy Communion be not entirely taken from us, as it has been taken from most tabernacles in the nominally Catholic churches, through the wickedness and guile of Christ’s enemies. May each of us obtain and retain the true life that Christ has brought to the world.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
If you would like a copy, you can find it here:sermon 161225EN