The Nativity of Our Lord – Fr. Pete Iorio
December 25, 2019 – Midnight Mass at Christmas
Don’t be afraid! for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Maybe you did instinctively feel fear when the lights went out. Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. This kind of fear can paralyze our lives and make us turn in on ourselves. It can also have the opposite effect make us lash out at the perceived threat. Fear is a great problem and is the major source of much human dysfunction. Look at it effects in our world today. Shootings in schools and churches and synagogues and mosques. Building walls to keep unwanted people out. Fear of not being the best causes people to do horrible things to the perceived threat of losing. Fear can also keep us from asking for forgiveness or forgiving someone who hurt us.
So on to our Gospel – When the heavenly beings burst in on any scene, they exhort those who hear not to be afraid. I was impressed that the children at the 5 PM Mass knew the answers of our Christmas story… that Gabriel announced this to Mary. Do not be afraid. Joseph was told in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife instead of his plan to divorce her quietly. And tonight, we hear the angels announce to the shepherds not to be afraid of seeing the angels in glory, something that would be terrifying because of their unusual beauty and appearance in the night sky. Rather than be afraid, they should rejoice at the great news of the savior, Christ and Lord. And a boy named Simon said: that message is for us too.
Just because something out of the ordinary has instinctively made you afraid, move from fear to surprise. Do not be afraid, but trust that something is coming of wonderful significance. Be aware not to make decisions out of fear. It is possible to grow in this practice. Instead, choose to make decisions out of love.
Christmas means that God is with us, that God is one of us, that God is closer than we even know. Since that is the case, we no longer have to be afraid. The divine reassures us that no matter what happens, love overcomes fear. God’s love it seems has a preference for the lowly ones, not the rich, proud, powerful and great ones.
The baby Jesus was born in the darkness. Some of us are going through our own dark times… we are feeling down and out. The mother with 3 children whose husband has left; couples who so desperately want babies and cannot conceive; a husband who just lost wife; families who are undocumented have fears and worries, a mother or father who just lost their job, the poor feel out of place when they see the splendor of others. Some are struggling with addictions. It is important to call to mind these folks, some here among us tonight who dwell in a kind of darkness. Christmas is for them/for you. Christ embodies the very good news that God dwells among us. He enlightens our darkness. The infant laid in the manger will one day be laid in tomb. Darkness met its match when Christ was born. He will transform darkness by love.
In Jesus, we can see God made flesh. We may be tempted to think or feel that God is out there or even that God does not care about me. NOT TRUE. There are immense implications of the mystery of the incarnation. God is always with us by the gift of the Holy Spirit. God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small, and dependent. God is where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the elderly, the addicted, the powerless. If our focus is on success, greatness, influence and power, how can we come to know God? I increasingly believe that our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need.
Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. The Savior of the world comes to partake of our human nature; no longer are we alone and forsaken. The Virgin Mary offers us her Son as the beginning of a new life. The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are – God’s beloved children and that means that we must put away all fear and dread, for the light shows us the path to a little nothing of a town called Bethlehem. Let us not be sluggish. Let us join the shepherds in setting out to see our Savior lying in a manger. This is the reason for our joy and gladness: this Child has been “born to us”; he was “given to us”, as Isaiah proclaims (cf. 9:5).
Do not be afraid to encounter him anew. Do not be afraid to gaze in awe and wonder at the Child who is God. Let Jesus lead you to light, mercy, and everlasting love. We are giving you a gift this year. It is a book called: Rediscover the Saints: 25 questions that will change your life. Saints are people just like us who discovered something amazing in Jesus and his way of love. Each saint is different just like we are all different. Each saint found the light and love of Christ a motivation and a springboard for their own lives. Let this book be for you a continuation of this night’s midnight mass. Gaze again on the child in the manger and let him take claim of your life anew and grow in His love. Christmas blessings to all.