Homily, Christmas Day
In my family growing up, I was the youngest of nine kids, and being the youngest, I was never around babies very much. I never really understood all the excitement that people tend to have about babies. They don’t really do all that much, besides eat, sleep, cry, and fill their diapers. So what’s the big deal, I thought? Probably some of my older siblings thought the same thing about me, when I showed up at home. What’s so great about him?
Today—if I counted them correctly—I have a total of 18 nieces and nephews, and as they get older, they definitely get involved in more activities than when they were just babies, but it has still always puzzled me why the Birth of Jesus at Christmas has become such a big celebration in the Church and in the world. All that happens is simply a change in location for the Baby Jesus. For nine months already, Jesus has been in the Virgin Mary’s womb. Now He’s out. But the really momentous event is what happened at the Annunciation, when Jesus was conceived by the power of Holy Spirit, the moment when God first became man and took our flesh upon Himself. That’s when everything changed for us and for all creation. So what’s so special about the Birth of Jesus?
In this world so full of darkness and pain, so full of violence and injustice, when our faith is frequently put to the test, it’s often not enough for us to simply believe that God is with us, even for us to know that Jesus is there, hidden away in the Virgin’s womb. The great desire of all the Saints of the Old Testament is still the deepest desire of every human heart. We want to actually see the face of God. Not just to know Him or to hear Him but to actually see Him with our own eyes. This is what we celebrate at Christmas, that “the grace of God has appeared” visibly to us, that in the features of the Christ Child, we see the Face of God Himself, the visible Image of the invisible God. Come, let us adore Him. Let us stand in silent wonder, that God has finally visited His people, shown His Face to us, and revealed His Glory.
And this is not just a privilege for His Holy Mother Mary, or St. Joseph, or the shepherds at the manger scene, or even all those who would be able to look upon the Face of Jesus during His earthly life. No. If we truly believe what we confess as Catholics, we know that each one of us is given the very same privilege at each and every Mass. That under the humble appearances of bread and wine, we truly look upon Christ Himself, made present to us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Just as He once appeared humbly as a Baby born in a poor stable, so Jesus continues to reveal Himself to us as the humble Host upon the altar, the Victim of sacrifice for our salvation. As we gaze upon Jesus in the Eucharist, as we behold the Lamb of God, He is looking back at us. As we continue on in this world of darkness, and as the world around us threatens day by day to grow even darker, our life of faith needs this visible reassurance. We need to see God, to look upon Him with our own eyes in this Eucharist, every Sunday, even every day, we need His Presence.
In the new year of 2020, why not all of us make one resolution together, together as a parish, as a diocese, as a Catholic Church throughout the world, and a resolution that we’ll actually keep and hold each other accountable for, the resolution to grow in our devotion to Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in silent adoration of His Presence in every tabernacle of the world? To extend this grace of Christmas throughout the entire year and to seek the Face of the God of Jacob, especially every Sunday. Nothing else has the power to bring peace to the world today. No one else can motivate us to a more genuine service and concern for the poor and the abandoned. Nothing else is going to matter quite so much at the end of our lives, as how we responded to the Face of Christ present in our midst. A Child is born for us, a Son is given us. On this altar, our God reveals His Face to us again. Come, let us adore Him.