Homily on the Nativity of the Lord (Mass During the Day)
How beautiful . . . are the feet of him who brings glad tidings. (Is. 52:7).
The opening lines of the first reading today remind me of a trip that I made to venerate Our Lady of Lourdes in France during my year as a seminarian in Rome. I had one day in Paris; so, I decided to visit a place of importance to my Catholic heritage: Missions étrangères de Paris/Paris Foreign Mission (MEP). For more than 360 years, this institution has played a major role in the evangelization of many countries outside of France, including the country of my birth. I heard so much about the heroic virtues of the missionaries from MEP and wanted to visit the place to pay respect.
After ringing the doorbell and explaining to the guard, I was given a tour of the house by a lady who was probably the housekeeper. As we walked out of the chapel, in which there are many bones of the martyrs – those who were sent to foreign lands and were killed for preaching the Gospel – the lady prayerfully recited these words of Isaiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who bring glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your God is King!’” (Is. 52: 7). She then explained in the past when a missionary priest celebrated his first Mass in this chapel, he would walk out of through these stairs and the people of Paris came to kiss his feet knowing that he was sent proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. She reminded me that my faith in the Lord can be traced back to the witnesses of missionaries from MEP! I bowed down with in prayers and expressed my gratitude!
On this Christmas Day, we really venerate the feet of the Holy Infant Child born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14), as the Gospel passage for this liturgy proclaimed. Sent from the Father and now born of the Blessed Virgin, the Word became man and walked on this earth with human feet, so as to communicate God’s love directly to all of us as the Letter to the Hebrews (our second reading) indicated: “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word” (Heb 1:1-3). With his feet, the Son of God accompanied us in all journeys of life. With these feet Jesus enters our sorrows and joys, and disappointments and successes. This is what makes our God so unique: transcendent and yet imminent; all powerful and yet so compassionate. Jesus is the proto-witness of our faith. Thus, the praise “how beautiful . . . are the feet of him who brings glad tidings” is first given to the Child Born of Mary.
Celebrating Christmas today, we are called to follow the footsteps of the Holy Infant Child and the dedicated missionaries of MEP are examples for us. We are called to bring Good News to others so the saying of Isaiah can become true in us!
In our Roman tradition, tracing back to the sixth century, there is a custom of honoring the Lord’s birth with three Holy Masses: Missa in nocte, Missa in aurora and Missa in die. In my prayers I came across this teaching of the medieval illuding to the threefold birth of the Lord:
The first and supreme birth takes place when the heavenly Father bears his only begotten Son as one with himself in essence and yet also a distinct person. The second birth, which we commemorate today, results from the maternal fruitfulness which the chaste Virgin exercised in perfect purity. The third is in this: that God is truly but spiritually born every day at every hour in a good soul, as a result of grace and love. We celebrate these three births by means of three holy Masses. See Adolf Adam, The Liturgical Year: Its History & Its Meaning after the Reform of the Liturgy (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990)125.
Dear friends, as we honor the Lord in this this third Mass of Christmas Day, may Christ truly and spiritually be born in our soul. This is the way for us to experience that “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God”(Ps 98:3). Our feet too will be included in the praise of the Prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings.”
Merry Christmas to all!
Scriptural Reading: Reading 1Is 52:7-10; Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6.; Reading 2 Heb 1:1-6; Alleluia “A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations, and adore the Lord. For today a great light has come upon the earth”; Gospel Jn 1:1-18.