Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

The Midnight Mass

December 25, 2022
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, TX

Isaiah 49:2, 8-10
Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Into this land of gloom, a gloom which so many eyes have grown accustomed to mistaking for light, the gloom of selfishness and sin, the gloom of indifference and ignorance, the gloom of violence and vengeance, the true Light of the World is born and lay in a manger in Bethlehem and shines among the poor shepherds and between the ox and the donkey.

Into this land of gloom in which so many words are shouted, scrawled, and dissembled from elite seats of power, God speaks definitively in the stable in Bethlehem, His Incarnate Word who sleeps silently and wordless, the Word beyond interpretation, the Word beyond parsing, the Word beyond evasion, the Word beyond everything but human embrace: eloquent and true. He is born to give Himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people as His own, eager to do what is good.

Into this land of gloom in which the elite Caesars barter the humanity of the powerless with their decrees numbering individuals equitably with the tax of fitting into their global enrollment, the Prince of Peace is born of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a dank stable and swaddled asleep in a manger. In Christ’s birth we see that God is partial and not equitable in His love because He prefers the humble, the poor, the lowly, those for whom there is not even a spare room. It is on such as these that His favor rests. As the Virgin Mary proclaimed at the Visitation, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.”

God does not make the lowly to become mighty. Rather, as God the Almighty Father, He lifts them to Himself with His might by bringing them into communion with Him through the raising of His Son’s cross. The mighty of the world He casts down that they might become lowly that He might save them by lifting them up not to become mighty but to be redeemed. The mighty of this world are those who impose their will upon the weak. They are those who have no room for God. They are not present in the stable of Bethlehem. In the gift of His Son Jesus, God exalts human beings and makes room for them with Him and enables such a peaceful relationship among human beings to have room for each other.

The peace that the world offers us is an uneasy truce based upon a balance of power and fear. Without God, the best that the world can give is not true peace but a tranquilizer. Tonight, God gives true and forever peace because He gives us His Son. In giving us His Son, He gives us back our humanity, a gift beyond the humanity renounced and spurned by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The gift of His humanity is given for belonging and eternal life, not for enrollment and numbering.

The Prince of Peace whose birth we greet tonight in the darkness and gloom will speak to us at His last Supper, “Peace: I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” The Lord offers us again this ongoing gift of peace as we approach the altar of His Sacrifice of Love to receive His Real Body and Real Blood to be transformed by this peace, the peace that we share in His Light, the Light on whose behalf we are sent to testify eager to do good in this dark and gloomy world.

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