December 25, 2002

Is 9,1-6 ; Tit 2,11-14 ; Luk 2,1-14



Homily for Midnight Mass


            This beautiful Gospel from Luke is full of freshness.  It inspired numerous artists throughout the centuries, and most of all it is at the root of all the imagery that surrounds Christmas and in which all our memories of old Christmases were born.  This Christmas night is one in which we can easily indulge in a certain nostalgia.  And why not?  Under the condition, however, not to forget the austere reality of the world in which we live. This is the reason why I invite you, during this night, to meditate not directly on this beautiful Gospel -- so often read and commented upon -- but rather on the first reading that we heard, that from Isaiah (Is. 9, 1-6)


            On this night when all over the world children and their parents visit all the cribs that represent that of Bethlehem in which Jesus was placed at the time of His birth, the fact is that the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, surrounded by tanks, will hardly accessible either to tourists or local residents.  This is an eloquent symbol of the society in which we live and -- let's not forget it -- which we form.  It is not the harmonious singing of the angels that we hear these days, but the drums of war.  A warlike folly has inebriated many and on the roads -- or in the air -- we will probably meet the convoys of arms coming from the West rather than the gold, incense and myrrh coming from the East.


            Nevertheless, we must not let ourselves be crushed or disheartened by that spectacle.  We must rather let ourselves be invaded by the hope that gushes forth from the text of Isaiah : "You have brought them abundant joy...  All the boots of trampling soldiers and the garments fouled with blood shall become a burning mass, fuel for fire." (Is. 9,3-5).


            What is the source of our hope in this moment when so many things tend to make us despair of humanity.  It is that "a child is born to us, a son is given us".  This "us" (in born to us and in given us) is very important.  Jesus of Nazareth is one of us.  He is of our flesh and of our blood.  He shows that human being, if it is capable of the worst is also capable of the best.  In its prophetic enthusiasm, Isaiah gives this child four names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   

            May this "Prince of Peace" make of each one of us lovers of peace and agents of peace.  May he extinguish all the conflicts, small and large, in which we may be involved in our families, our communities, our towns and our countries.  May this Prince of Peace, who is also "Wonderful Counselor" guide the hearts and minds of all in the search for a solution to all conflicts, small and big, local or world wile.  May this Mighty God give strength and courage to the oppressed and the derelict.  May this Everlasting Father make all of us understand that He is our Father and that He is also the Father of His children in Iraq and Kuwait, in Israel and Palestine, in Congo and Rwanda, and that whoever kills is a fratricide.  Then, as Isaiah says, there shall be endless peace.  We are not there! alas! But let's keep our hope alive.  The God-Man reveals that human being is capable of infinitely better than whatever it is in any moment of its history.


            Let's return, finally, for a moment, to Luke's Gospel.  The very first revelation of the Messiah's birth was made not to the powerful and the wise (they will have their turn) but to humble shepherds keeping night watch over their flocks.  Always this preferential love of God for the humble and the little ones !  Let strive to belong to them.