Today we want to read in silent prayer and contemplation the Gospels of the birth of Jesus which are read at Christmas.
Christmas invites us to let the mystery of God, made vulnerable, surprise us.
Christmas invites us to be silent and to allow the Presence of our Creator and Redeemer fill us.
Christmas invites us to discover His presence in each human face, especially in the children and in the most vulnerable.
Gospel of the Midnight Mass – Luke 2:1-14
This Gospel has two different scenes. Let us contemplate each one of them.
The first scene is the birth of Jesus:
v Luke puts the birth of Jesus in the context of the history of his time. He mentions names and events, that we can find in any History book. Luke wants to tell us that Jesus is a real human being, not a figment of our imagination.
v There is a census, something that all of us are familiar with, because every some years we have a census taken in our country. A census is always about counting people. How interesting it is, to realize that behind the data of the census there are realities that we do not know, joys and sufferings in the lives of those counted, as it happened with the census of Quirinius.
v Joseph belongs to David’s family. According to the way the census was conducted, everyone had to go back to his or her place of origin to be counted. Therefore, Joseph had to go to Bethlehem the city of David. He goes there with his wife who is with child, at a very late stage of her pregnancy.
v The time to give birth came as they arrived in Bethlehem. I leave it to each one’s imagination, especially of the women who have given birth, what this moment means for a woman. Then we may look to Mary and try to discover her feelings.
v There is no place for them at the inn. This can be understood in several different ways:
o There is no place because they are poor
o There is no place because the inn is full.
o There is no place because they do not want to be disturbed by a woman in labor.
o There is no place, because the inn is full of people and this is not an adequate setting for a woman to give birth. Giving birth requires privacy, intimacy, sacredness.
o And the innkeeper, that I am inclined to look at as a good man, offers them the cave where the animals take refuge at night. There they will be able to be by themselves.
v And Luke says very briefly” the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes.”
o An the time came for her, the hour that every pregnant woman expects with joy because she is going to see for the first time the face of her baby; but at the same time she is overcome by anxiety, she does not know what will happen to her, especially when it is the first child, as in the case of Mary.
o Joseph helped Mary to give birth to her son. I like to imagine Joseph, the just man, the good man, with tears in his eyes as the mystery was enfolding in front of him. Tears of thanksgiving and emotion on seeing the face of the Son of God made the Son of man. He would have to be the father of the son of God, his God who had asked him to change the plans he had for his life with Mary, and thus cooperate in the work of the salvation of the human race.
o Mary sees, kisses, and feeds for the first time her baby, who is the Son of the Eternal Father.
o I believe that it is impossible for us to understand the fullness of this mystery, so full of joy and suffering at the same time. Let us contemplate in silence, admiration and unconditional love this mystery.
Let us contemplate the second scene of this same gospel: There are some shepherds watching their flock during the night.
v They live in the fields; they do not live in houses, not even in stables. They take turns in keeping their flocks.
v Shepherds were considered people of not good standing in society: they were poor but they were seen as liars, as thieves, people who had to do many things in order to survive.
v To them the angel of the Lord is sent to announce the good news of the birth of the Son of God among us. An angel had also been sent to Mary, to Zechariah, to Joseph. Let us analyze the message, because it contains several of the dearest themes of Luke:
o Be not afraid. Fear is the natural reaction of the human being in the presence of the Mystery, of God or of his messengers. Jesus will repeat these same words to his apostles on Easter Sunday evening.
o I have good news to proclaim to you, which will be the cause of great joy. The joy of the presence of God in our life, in our society, in our history. God is always a cause of joy. In the Old Testament, Zion was invited many times to rejoice because “your King comes to you.”
o Today, it is the “now” of salvation. Luke uses several titles to describe the child who has been born and who is the cause of joy: Savior, Messiah, and Lord. Jesus is all of that and more, but this is the paradox of God’s work, so different from our works and our parameters, our King comes as a poor and vulnerable baby.
o Poverty, although Luke does not mention the word poverty, he says that the baby was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lay in a manger. These are signs of poverty. God could only be born in poverty, because riches most of the times are void of meaning, and of truth. Real poverty is the same as truth.
o Praise, many more angels join the first angel and they sang “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE… to men and women of good will. Praise and peace, two words that we find more than once in Luke’s Gospel. After the annunciation Mary sings, in the evening of Easter Sunday Jesus greets his own saying: PEACE.
Let us continue now with the Gospel of the Sunrise Mass.
Gospel of Luke 2:15-20
It has been said that Luke was a painter, and that he painted the portrait of Mary; but some commentators say that the best paintings of Luke were painted with his words, not with brushes.
The gospel of the Midnight Mass had two scenes. The gospel for the Sunrise Mass has also two different scenes: the shepherds, and Mary.
v The shepherds decide to do something about the good news they have received, they go to see the truth of what has been told to them.
v Because they go, they see. What do they see? A newborn baby in a manger, Joseph and Mary. We have here another of the themes cherished by Luke, faith. He does not mention the word, but the scene speaks more eloquently than words. They see a baby and they recognize in that vulnerable baby, as vulnerable as any other baby, the Messiah and Lord.
v The shepherds made know the message that had been told about the baby.
v The first scene ends here.
The second scene is about Mary.
v Mary kept all those things, reflecting on them in her heart.
o She kept them, these are her memories. The memories of everything that had to do with the baby:
§ At the annunciation; the reaction of her parents, of Joseph and of the people of Nazareth.
§ The journey to Bethlehem, during which both Joseph and Mary could share their experience about the baby that was in Mary’s womb. The birth, the shepherds… All of these are her memories.
o She cherishes them in her heart, meditates on them. Luke does not say that Mary understands, she cannot understand them, they go beyond our human understanding. But she cherishes them, and believes because she trusts in the God who has made the promises to her. Faith is to trust he who has called us to life and has given us his salvation.
Mass of the Day – Gospel of John 1:1-14
Ø The Gospel for this Mass is taken from the Prologue of John’s Gospel. Luke has painted, described for us four different scenes related to the birth of Jesus.
Ø John leads us into the mystery, he removes the curtain, this is the meaning of revelation, to see what is behind the curtain like in a theatre. He helps us to discover the mystery hidden behind the events and the different characters.
Ø In the two former Masses Luke has narrated the birth of Jesus, called Messiah and Lord.
Ø The Church, the community of the believers and followers, led by the Spirit sent by Jesus to her, has deepened into the theological meaning of the events related to the birth of Jesus. Let us hear what John has to say
o In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God. If we go to the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis the first words are “In the beginning…God created… and God said … God says his Word and the abyss becomes a wonderful and beautiful creation.
o John continues his theological reflection and says that the Word existed from the beginning, that without him nothing came to be. The darkness did not recognize him. Darkness, our own and that of our society, and of our world cannot understand and accept his light.
o John proceeds and says that the light, the Word, was in the world, but the world did not acknowledge his presence.
o He came to his own and they did not welcome him. Sometimes we think that these words are said of the people of Bethlehem; but I believe that we need to enter into our heart, and to discover, in how many ways we do not welcome him into ourselves. Only in this way we will be able to understand the dreadful mystery of the human heart that can refuse to recognize and welcome his or her Creator.
o To those who did accept him… According to some commentators verses 12 and 13 refer to the virginal birth of Jesus, and also to our baptism.
o And we reach now the climax of the prologue AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH
§ The creating Word, the Word who is the Eternal Father’s Son
§ Became flesh. Flesh means the condition of the sinful and vulnerable human being. Without having any sin, because God cannot sin, he becomes like us, to be able to nail to the cross, as Paul says, our flesh and in so doing to give us his life, the life of the Father’s Son.
§ He made his dwelling among us, in some translations he “put his tent among…” This sentence makes us think of the nomads, the pilgrims who do not stay in a same place forever. We are all pilgrims in this world. He puts his tent and lives like anyone of us. John Paul II in the document for the preparation of the Third Millennium wrote: he loved with a human heart, he worked with hands of a man, talked… he was and is one of us.
§ This gospel ends with the words that John will repeat in his I Letter. He is fascinated in awe by the truth of what they had experienced living with Jesus “and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
§ THIS IS THE BABY WE CONTEMPLATE IN BETHLEHEM WITH MARY AND JOSEPH, SURROUNDED BY ANIMALS, GREETED BY THE SHEPHERDS AND PROCLAIMED BY THE ANGELS:
GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE TO MEN AND WOMEN OF GOOD WILL.