Homily on the Nativity of the Lord (Vigil Mass)
They Shall Name Him Emmanuel (Mt 1:23)
Before Christmas, a friend told me a very inspiring story that he came across in the newspaper. It goes like this:
A UPS delivery worker, who had worked in a section of a town for many years, noticed a boy playing basketball with a very broken basketball hoop. His family had probably collected this hoop from one of the dumpsters for him to play with because they could not afford to buy him a new toy. Every day as the UPS worker passed through town, she saw the boy and the ruined equipment. Her heart was moved with pity and decided she must do something. One day when the boy was at the school and no one else was home, the UPS worker quietly installed the new basketball hoop and left a note on the door: “I hope you and your family enjoy the new hoop.” After taking a few weeks off to avoid the publicity, she returned to work. As soon as the boy caught sight of her, without a word, he rushed out to give her a hug, and they then played a game together.
My dear friends, although I am not able to accurately recall all of the details from this story that my friend told me, I remember clearly how this worker noticed the poverty of the boy and his family and her heart moved her to act! This is what makes to story so inspiring and this helps us to meditate on the Mystery of Incarnation. A couple of days ago we prayed one of the great Collects of Advent: “O God, who, seeing the human race fallen into death, willed to redeem it by the coming of your Only Begotten Son, grant we pray, that those who confess his Incarnation with humble fervor, may merit his company as their Redeemer. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. R. Amen.” Just like the UPS worker who saw the challenging conditions of the boy who played basketball on a ruined hoop, decided to act; so too, our God, seeing the miserable condition of the human family due to our sins decided to intervene decisively in sending his Son into our world.
At the Vigil Mass of Christmas, the Gospel proclamation is taken from Matthew 1:1-25 which contains the genealogy. Many presiders in different parishes decide to avoid this Gospel passage and choose instead the one for the Mass during the Night. This is very unfortunate as the four Christmas Masses, and the Scriptural Readings set forth for each Mass, are meant to demonstrate a progression in the experience of how God decisively intervened to save us through the Mystery of the Incarnation. In fact, upon the heels of the genealogy is Mathew’s announcement: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” The list of names preceding this great announcement is Matthew’s way of reminding us of the great prayer: “O God, who, seeing the human race fallen into death, willed to redeem it by the coming of your Only Begotten Son.”
God had watched many generations fall deeper into misery, unable to save ourselves from our sinful conditions. We needed, and still need, a Savior. Now, that Savior has entered in our world a miraculous way: Through the power of the Holy Spirit a Virgin gave birth to this Savior! This is what Emmanuel –God is with us – means as the Angel explained to St. Joseph.
Dear friends, as we enter the season of Christmas, let us keep in mind that Jesus is the reason for this Season. Perhaps, due to the condition that the Church and the world are in, free from the business of shopping and acquiring material goods, let us lift our minds and heart to the reason of this Holy Season: The Child Born of the Blessed Virgin Mary is our Savior, Christ the Lord.
Let us contemplate the Gift that God sent to our world after seeing the human race fallen into death. Merry Christmas to all! Amen.
Scriptural Readings: Reading 1 IS 62:1-5; Responsorial Psalm PS 89:4-5, 16-17, 27-29(2a); Reading 2 Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Alleluia “Tomorrow the wickedness of the earth will be destroyed: The savior of the world will reign over us”; Gospel Mt 1:1-25