Homily on The Nativity of the Lord (Mass During the Night)
Today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord (Lk 2:12).
For us Catholics, the high point of the Christmas celebration is this Mass. I greet all of you with the joy of our Savior’s birth.
Most of you know in the past seven years, this Mass in our parish has often taken place at 10PM on Christmas Eve, but this year it is at Midnight. Some of you may wonder if we got it wrong the last couple years. The answer is no. The title, Missa in nocte/Mass during the Night, indicates that as soon as nightfall commencing this celebration can legitimately take place. This liturgy was scheduled at Midnight this year for a couple of reasons:
A practical one is so that our staff has enough time to clean the church under the health conditions we are in. A more profound reason is found in the first reading today: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Is 9: 1). Beginning this Mass at midnight this year allows us to experience like the People of God did in the Old Testament: walking out of darkness into the light.
Yes, the Israelites had waked in “darkness” and been in the “land of gloom” as the Prophet Isaiah said. These words really describe us as well in the last couple of months. Our “darkness” or “gloom” was confusion, anger, disappointment, and hurt due to many things being adjusted in society and in the church as part of the illness mitigation strategies, and we mourn the loss of things. We are counted among the people who have walked in “darkness” and live in the “land of gloom.”
At the threshold of the Church tonight, however, we see the joyful light of our celebration. The world of the prophet came alive in us again: “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils” (Is 9:2).
Indeed, my dear friends, in this liturgical celebration the Church today, “The grace of God has appeared, saving all” (Ti 2:11) proclaimed St. Paul in the second reading. God has entered this world of “darkness” and “gloom” of ours to train “us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age” (Ti 2:12). God crossed into our world to lift us to the realm of light and holiness of God
The proclamation of the birth of Christ in the Gospel of Luke that we just heard is one of the best-known stories in the Bibles. It has inspired both painting and music down through the ages. Direct your attention to the words of the angels to the “shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock . . .’Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’” (Lk 2:8-12). Let us highlight “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord” (Lk 2:12). Have you noticed that this announcement was the antiphon accompanying Psalm 96 as our responsorial psalm and the antiphon before the proclamation of the Gospel? Why do we focus on the “today?” Wasn’t Christ’s birth a historical event more than 2000 years ago?
It is the “today” because the liturgy actualizes or inserts us into the Kairos/God’s time of salvation. It is, “Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord,” that we sing because our “darkness” and “gloom” uniting with “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” Eternal Word, Son of the Father, assume the human flesh and born of the Virgin Mary. This is the Good News to the entire human race. This Holy Mass inserts us like the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth standing in awe before the commercium sacris/the Holy Exchange: God became man so that human beings can participate in the divine.
Our parish has a custom at the end of this Mass–the Holy Infant Child is venerated and then in procession, we place him in the Manger. Dear friends, as you approach to venerate the Holy Infant Child, let us place all the “darkness” and “gloom” in our heart into the manger of the Lord as well. Whatever the upcoming days might bring into our lives, we know that the Son of God did not disdain our human weakness and frailty in steeping into our world. Let us all be illuminated by the Lord so that our lives truly reflect what Isaiah said today:
“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder, dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, and Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5).
May all see in our lives: This Child is born to us and this Child is the Son of Blessed Virgin Mary, Christ, the Lord. Merry Christmas to all!
Scriptural Readings: Lectionary: Reading 1 Is 9:1-6; Responsorial Psalm
Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13.; Reading 2; Ti 2:11-14; Alleluia Lk 2:10-11; Gospel Lk 2:1-14