25.12.2009 @ 02:45
Christmas Midnight Mass
General Curia OFM, 24 December 2009.
Br. JosÃ© RodrÃguez Carballo, ofm - Minister General.
My dear Brothers and friends, on this Holy Night of Christmas, may the Peace and Goodness the Savior brings be with you, your homes, fraternities, our families, the young and old, the sick and the healthy, believers and unbelievers, and all men and women of good will.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord (Lk 2:10-11). It is Christmas! There is nothing to fear, â€œThe people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone (Is 9:2). The most High abases himself to the point of becoming one of us, â€œFor to us a child is born, to us a son is givenâ€ (9:6). The Almighty assumes our human condition and his name is â€œEmmanuel, God-is-with-usâ€ (Mt 1:23). Sin no longer has the last word, â€œThe LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victoryâ€ (Zep 3:17).
â€œI bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the peopleâ€ (Lk 2:10). It is Christmas, â€œExult!â€ â€œLet us be glad and rejoice!â€ (cf. Zep. 3:14ss). â€œRejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoiceâ€ (Phl 4:4). There are reasons for rejoicing. Despite our fatigue, frailties, we have, nonetheless, have hope. He whom the prophets announced would come and whom St. Paul contemplated as drawing near, has finally arrived, â€œthe time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son (Lk 2:6-7). He is the Good News of God to humanity. We are no longer alone. â€œIn many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Sonâ€ (Hbr 1:1-2). â€œWhen the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a womanâ€ (Gal. 4:4). â€œAnd the Word became flesh and dwelt among usâ€ (Jn 1:14).
Yes, my dear Brothers, it is Christmas! Our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord and our hearts also glorifies Him full of joy and gladness. It is Christmas and night is becoming clear as day. It is Christmas, for a child us born unto us! The Savior has come and God has shown His goodness and love for humanity (cf. Is 62, 11-12; Ti 3, 4-7). Humanity could have never dreamed of such a thing. When we were expecting a Judge full of power and majesty, a child came instead. When we were expecting days of wrath and punishment, our salvation arrived instead, manifesting the love of God without limits.
It is Christmas! This is the hour in which we must be on our feet and like the shepherds say, â€œLet us go to Bethlehem!â€ Let us not stop walking! Mary, Joseph, and the child are waiting for us there (cf. Lk 2, 15-16). Like Francis did at Greccio let us contemplate Christ and â€œset before our bodily eyes in some way the inconveniences of his infant needs, how he lay in manger, how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he lay upon the hay where he had been placedâ€ (1 Cel 84). Yes, the â€œchild of Bethlehemâ€ as St. Francis so loved to call him. We wonâ€™t find him in a palace, but in a stable; we will not contemplate him wrapped in fine clothing, but in poor swaddling clothes. Everything there speaks of poverty, humility, and kÃ©nosi. This is the deep reality of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God: being rich, he becomes poor; first, he becomes last; being the Lord, he becomes the servant (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). Finally, God has embraced our condition; he makes his own the lot of the last ones; he does not seek human greatness; rather, he simply seeks to be in complete solidarity with humankind. God becomes man with all its consequences. It is precisely in this way that he has become our Savior and Redeemer.
Christmas is a mystery of love, of a madly in love and passionate God precisely because he is love (1 Jn 4:8); he is deeply in love with the human person. It is both a gratuitous and limitless love that made him our Savior, not by virtue of our merits, but by virtue of his mercy toward the creature of his hands (cf. Tt 3, 5). Humanity never would have dreamed such a thing!
This is why Christmas is the feast of the poor like Mary, who was the first to welcome the Savior in her heart as a woman who believed and welcomed him in her virginal womb. â€œBehold the Handmaid of the Lord! Be it done unto me according to your wordâ€ (Lk 1, 38). Among the poor, the shepherds, who are officially poor, were the first ones to bow down and adore the Infant God, recognizing in him their Savior. They were poor like St. Francis of Assisi, who was poor, so poor that all he had was God. Only the one who abandons himself totally to the Divine Plan like Mary; only the one who is aware of his poverty and sin and his need for salvation as the shepherds did; only those who, like the Magi, spend their lives searching the Lord; only the poor of heart, the anawim, can understand the mystery of Christmas and welcome the Newborn King in their hearts.
Those, on the other hand, who do not see their need for a Savior, like Herod, the High Priests, the Scribe or the Pharisee of the parable, cannot understand how God can become man through a totally gratuitous love and want his salvation, an exclusive fruit of his mercy. Let us go to Bethlehem, therefore, and from there let us go out to bring to all the gift of the Good News, making known to all what our eyes have contemplated and our hearts have felt.
In these days, the streets of our towns, cities, and our own houses are filled with lights. These lights, likewise, adorn the Christmas trees and under many of these trees is a manger scene, a tradition that should not be forgotten. All these things are good! We should show publicly our joy over the birth of the Savior of humanity; yet it is not enough. My dear brothers, we need to ask ourselves, â€œHow have we prepared our hearts to receive the Son of God who seeks a dwelling place in our hearts?â€ â€œHe came to his own and his own did not receive himâ€ St. John said (cf. Jn 1, 11). How sad it would be if that were to be our lot! To prevent it from happening, we need to acknowledge our poverty and need for salvation.
Let our hearts exult for joy! Let our lips break forth in praise! It is a feast, the feast of God with humanity, who will no longer be abandoned, but sought out (cf. Is 62, 12), sought out by God in order to save it, sought out to console it, sought out to rescue it (cf. Is 52, 7- 10). We are no longer left to ourselves. The Lord has made our lot his own. It is this certainty that makes the heart of Francis leap for joy at Greccio where three years prior to his death in 1213, he reenacted the birth of Jesus. This is also our surety, the reason for so much joy, so much gladness, and so much feasting.
! Brothers, we need Christmas! Two thousand years have passed since the first Holy Night and yet, there are still wars, terrorism, and the death of so many innocents. We need to welcome the peace that Christ brings to us. We need Christmas! Two thousand years separate us from the birth of the Son of God and yet, many still walk in darkness. Twenty centuries have passed since God embraced our wounded humanity. We need to make our solidarity felt toward those who feel wounded and left for half dead on the side of our roads. Let us receive, dear brothers, the mystery of Christmas, so that today as was done through Francis yesterday, Jesus, who is buried and forgotten or ignored in many hearts, can, nonetheless, rise by his grace. Thus, his image will remain in the hearts of all those who are around us (cf. 1Cel 87). MERRY CHRISTMAS!