For Christmas the Liturgy has three different Masses celebrated at different times: midnight, dawn, and day.
These gospels are so rich that we cannot let them go without submerging ourselves into their meaning, and without allowing ourselves to be filled with the tenderness, simplicity, peace, freedom and consolation they bring into our lives.
The Lord Jesus is not near, He is in our midst and he comes in the humility of a simple and poor human life. The Baby of Bethlehem is the perfect image of the Father, of his love for all of us. Each one of us can truly say “he loves me and comes to be with me.”
VIGIL MASS – DECEMBER 24
Gospel of Matthew 1:1-25
The coming of the Messiah is the climax of Israel’s history, and the end of a long period of waiting for the one who will fulfill the promises made to the Fathers. The Infancy narratives are found in chapters 1 and 2 of Matthew and of Luke as well. They were written long time after the rest of the gospels were written. They were written to answer the questions that the communities of the second generation of Christians had: Who are the ancestors of Jesus? Where was he born? With the little information they could find Matthew and Luke wrote the Infancy Narratives using as literary style what is called midrash. What is this? The teachers in Israel will explain a text of the Scripture by means of a short story. The difference between the Jewish and Christian midrash is that in the Christian literature they do not start with a passage from Scripture, but from the life of Jesus.
In Matthew the “infancy narratives” are formed by a genealogy and five stories. Jesus is introduced with the characteristics of another Moses.
« The first chapter of Matthew wants to answer the question about the ancestors of Jesus. It does it giving long lists of historical and concrete persons.
« The second chapter wants to answer the question about the place of birth. It does it giving many names of places.
« The Genealogy Mt 1:1-17
o The genealogy is composed by three different groups of 14 generations each.
o The family of Jesus comes from King David’s family, and still more it goes to Abraham, the man of faith in the promises which Jesus fulfills.
o We can draw several messages from this genealogy, from this long list of names of real and concrete men who became fathers. Behind each name there is a real person who believed, hoped, sinned, repented, wanted to love God, and dreamed that they would see the One who was to come to liberate them from their oppressors.
o Together with these names, the text mentions the name of five women. The names of four of them make us think of the universality of salvation: universal in relation to sin and universal in relation to culture and nationality. Let us see each one of them:
§ Tamar. By means of a trick she conceives a son from her father-in-law. (Gn 38,1-30)
§ Rahab, (foreigner) a prostitute that helped the Israelites conquer Jerico (Jos. 2, 1-21)
§ Ruth a Moabite woman, a foreigner who becomes the grand-mother of King David (Rut cc.1-4)
§ Bathsheba the wife of Uriah who conceived, from David, Solomon in a situation on the part of David of adultery and murder(2 Samuel chapters 11-12.)
§ The fifth woman is Mary the mother of Jesus who is completely different from the others, she is Israelite as some of them, but she is full of grace.
o Another interesting thing about this genealogy is that after each one of the names of these men the gospel says “became father,” but after mentioning Joseph it says “the husband of Mary from whom Christ was born.
o Another message besides the universality which we have already mentioned, is that God does not delay to fulfill his promises, although we may experience it sometimes. His promises are fulfilled when it is the right time for us, when we are ready to welcome them. During the long centuries that the people of Israel was waiting, many men and women, probably, desired that the promises would be fulfilled during their lifetime, maybe at the time of de Judges when they were attacked by their neighbors, or during the Babylonian exile, or after returning from the exile. But God knows better.
« The Birth of Jesus Matthew 1,18-25
o Matthew presents to us the experience of Joseph. His role in the birth and life of this child of Mary, the Son of the Most High God.
o Jesus becomes a member of the family (dynasty) of David through Joseph, his legal father.
o We are told that Joseph was a just man. Just in the manner of God. The justice of God is not like our justice. It is a justice that embraces and transforms us. A justice that makes us in his image (God’s) Jesus will always show this justice with love and respect for every human being.
o We see Joseph, as we will see later on Mary, accept the plan of God in his own life. He accepts to change his plans and make room for the plans of God. Let us reflect on what are the changes that Joseph experienced and had to welcome in his life. Lets us look at our life and discover what is God asking from me?
« Luke 2,1-14
o On Reading the first three chapters of Luke we realize that there is a great parallelism between the beginnings of the life of Jesus and of John the Baptist.
o The first two chapters belong to the Infancy narratives and are written as midrash.
o The evangelist mentions a census which the historians have not been able to find in any of the registers and chronicles of the time. It is only found in the New Testament.
o Jesus was born during the governance of the Emperor Augustus. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana, or Roman peace.
o This Roman Emperor cooperated with the Plan of God, without knowing it, in the same way that Cyrus did by the time of the Babylonian exile and return from it.
o Mary gave birth to her firstborn. This does not mean that she had other children, but that her son Jesus had the rights and privileges of the firstborn (Gn 27; Ex 13; Num 3:12-13; Dt 21:15-17.
o She wrapped him in swaddling clothes. This word reminds us that Jesus the son of God and the son of Mary was part of the people, of those who are marginalized, poor, those that do not count in society.
o The manger brings to our mind the words of the prophet Isaiah (Is 1,3.)
o The proclamation of the angels to the shepherds is again a sign that the good news are preached to the poor. Luke will tell us this over and over again in his Gospel.
o A savior has been born for you…. Glory… peace. Isaiah in chapter 11 of his book described the coming of the Messiah with images of a extraordinary beauty to describe the peace that this coming Messiah would bring to us, (Is 11:6-9.)
MASS AT DAWN
« Luke 2:15-20
o Let us go then to Bethlehem to see…. Those who have a simple heart accept easily what God does in their lives, and know how to discover God’s presence in the simple events, here the event is the birth of a baby from a poor couple. Mary and Joseph belonged to this group of persons, they hardly understood what God explained to them by means of the angel, but they knew well only one thing, God loves me and asks something from me, it must be good. “Be it done unto me”
o The shepherds go to Bethlehem. The name of the city means the house of bread. Mary carries in her womb the true bread which comes from heaven, the Bread of the Eucharist
o They found Jesus with Mary and Joseph. We always find Jesus with Mary, she leads us to Him. Joseph has always been considered in the tradition of the Catholic Church as the protector of the Church, which is the body of Jesus.
o Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. She pondered what was the meaning of all these events. In the annunciation she did the same thing and asked the angel for answers. The gospel will say several times the same words “Mary kept these things
o It helps to read that Mary did not understand what God was doing in her. This process of faith will last during her entire earthly life. At the side of her Son Mary was discovering everyday the wonders of God in her son, in her and in everyone else.
o The shepherds went back and told everyone what they had seen. This is to evangelize, to proclaim the Gospel of the good news we have experienced. In the Gospels we will read of other persons who reacted in the same way (Mary visiting Elisabeth, the Samaritan woman, the man possessed by the devil, the man born blind, Philip and Andrew…)
MASS OF THE DAY
« John 1:1-5
o “In the beginning”, these words bring to our memory the first words of the Bible which we read in the Book of Genesis, the book of the origins.
o The creating Word, through whom all things are made is with the Father from the beginning.
o When John speaks of light he speaks of life.
o The light shines in the darkness, the Word of life shines in the darkness of our human reality.
o The light makes itself visible in the world, he has always been in the world.
o But his own did not receive him. Luke will express the same reality saying that there was no room for them in the inn.
o Our society, ourselves, we do not have room for him. We remove the signs of his presence because we do not want to offend others who are not believers. But instead of doing something good for them we do the contrary, since we deprive them of the possibility to come to discover his presence among us, to experience the joy of knowing Him. The same joy that we have.
o And in spite of this he comes to us, stays with us, calls us over and over again. And the WORD, THE ETERNAL WORD OF GOD, THE ONLY SON OF GOD, becomes flesh, becomes vulnerable like us, he comes close to us, lives among us.
o There is one translation that says the Word “pitched his tent among us.” It reminds us of the nomad people who migrate from one place to another, and pitch their tent whenever they want to stop for some time. The Word has pitched his tent among us ,and he will be with us during our pilgrimage, until the end of times.
o John says that “we have seen his glory, the glory of the Son, full of grace and truth.”
o This creating Word is the Redemptive Word which brings to us the salvation. It is JESUS the only son of the Father from all eternity, and the son of Mary in the time.
Let us say with the Book of Revelation:
YOU ARE WORTHY O LORD OUR GOD,
TO RECEIVETHE GLORY, THE HONOR, AND THE POWER
BECAUSE YOU CREATED THE UNIVERSE
YOU ARE WORTHY TO RECEIVE THE SCROLL
AND BREAK OPEN ITS SEALS
BECAUSE YOU WERE SLAINED AND WITH YOUR BLOOD
YOU PURCHASED FOR GOD MEN OF EVERY RACE, TONGUE, AND NATION
YOU MADE OF US A KINGDOM FOR OUR GOD.
Let us end our meditation with the antiphon that we will read in the liturgy of January 1st Solemnity of Mary Mother of God
¡O marvelous Exchange!
Man’s creator has become man
Born of a virgin.
We have been made sharers
of the divinity of christ
Who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
la Biblia de Nuestro Pueblo, texto Luis Alonso Schokel, adaptacion del texto y comentarios: Equipo Internacional.
Ravasi, Gianfranco, Según las Escrituras: doble comentario a las lecturas del domingo, San Pablo 2005.
Comentario al Nuevo Testamento. Casa de la Biblia 1997.
Constituciones Primitivas en Lozano, Juan Manuel, Escritos de María Antonia París.
Claret, San Antonio María, Autobiography.
This virtue (poverty) should be so precious that it was the first one that the Most Holy Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ practiced, being born in a shoddy manger, poorer than all the poor in the world. Oh poverty of my God, who could inherit your riches! Christ Our Lord taught us all the virtues in a heroic degree because it was God’s own virtue, but it seems that he wanted to inculcate Holy Poverty in a particular way (because she was his inseparable companion. He is born very poor, lives in utmost poverty and dies in extreme necessity), as the foundation of evangelical life.
(Venerable María Antonia París, Foundress of the Claretian Missionary Sisters. Plan for the Renewal of the Church, 49.)
On December 25 God infused in me a love of being persecuted and slandered. The Lord even favored me with a dream the following night. I dreamed that I had been jailed on a charge I was innocent of. Because I considered it a gift from heaven to be treated like Jesus, I was silent, as He had been. Nearly all my friends had abandoned me, as had the friends of Jesus, too. One of my friends wanted to defend me, as Peter had wanted to defend Jesus, but I said to him, "Don't you want me to drink the chalice my Father has prepared for me? (Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Founder of the Claretian Missionary Sisters, Autobiography 679.)