Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Mass (Daytime) Homily

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 His Son.

Merry Christmas! It's wonderful to be able to celebrate my first Christmas Mass as a priest here with all of you, especially as we welcome so many of you back from college and as you visit families and friends here in Canton.

As we come to Mass this afternoon our hearts are filled with great joy at the mystery of the Incarnation – God becoming one of us, to live among us, and to share His own life with each of us. But as we hear the readings this afternoon, we may be surprised to hear no mention of shepherds and angels; we don’t hear the story of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem for the census; we don’t hear of the newborn babe lying in a manger because “there was no place for them.”

Instead, we hear deep and mysterious poetry and prophecy: words from the Prophet Isaiah, from the beginning of the Letter to the Hebrews, and from the beginning of the “Last Gospel,” the Gospel of St. John. Has the Church forgotten that today is Christmas? Shouldn’t we hear about the Birth of Jesus Christ? Shouldn’t we take time to hear the Christmas story?
After all, our own celebration of Christmas – the Nativity scenes, the gathering of families, the decorating of the tree, and the exchange of gifts, and so much more – relies on the truth that God has become a man. So why don’t we hear about it today? And what do the readings of today’s Mass teach us about Christmas?

The Church hasn’t gone completely mad in choosing these readings today; in fact, we did hear St. Luke’s gospel and the famous Christmas story yesterday evening, as we watched and waited with Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. I strongly encourage you and your families to take out the family Bible when you get back home today, and read together as a family the first two chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel. Ponder anew the mystery that is contained in those words.

But the Mass during the day changes our focus from earth to heaven, in a way. We jump to the eternal meaning of the events of that first Christmas, some 2000 years ago. Through the eyes of St. John, we delve deeply into a world in darkness. And we go even to the very beginning of time itself: in the Beginning. In the beginning, the Word was with God and the Word was God. Everything that exists has come to being through Him; He created the world. The entire universe cannot contain the infinite God. And now we arrive at the mystery of Christmas:

This infinite God has become one of us. The Word was made flesh, and “pitched His tent” in our midst. The sheer magnitude of the mystery overwhelms our minds and our hearts! As St. Augustine says, “the Son of God became a man, so that in turn men could become Sons of God.” Our Lord takes a human nature so that we can share in His Divine nature. At the heart of this mystery is a remarkable exchange of gifts, far better than any present we may receive this Christmas. No iPod, no Osterizer, no Cuisinart, or even the biggest big-screen television can match this gift.

The Son of God, God Himself, through whom everything was created and whom the universe cannot contain, was made a man in the womb of the blessed Virgin. He sets aside His divinity, as it were, to share our humanity. The sights and sounds of the Nativity remind us of just how humbling this is: no place for Mary and Joseph to rest; no real bed, so a feed-trough must suffice; no recognition from the world, just a band of tired shepherds.

Why does God do this? Why does He come to us, from a Virgin-Mother? Why does He come, God Himself, as a little Child? Why do only shepherds, and not the royal court of every earthly kingdom, come to pay Him homage?

The answer to this mystery is found in the joy that fills our hearts today. Joy at the truth that God is not content with His creation; joy that we are not left alone; joy that He is now one of us, forever. This joy arises in our hearts when we realize that one, and only one, reason could exist: Love.

We discover this truth later in St. John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son” (3:16). But this truth is shouted from every word of the verses we just heard. “And the Word was made flesh and made His dwelling among us.” In this moment, eternity is transformed. God has visited His people and set them free. Nothing about humanity remains the same. God has reached out, not just to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds; we come and adore Him in the manger; our sufferings, pain, and distress are borne by Him; our hopes and dreams, desires and ambitions, goals and purpose become His own. God Himself desires to share His infinite abundance with each of us.

He establishes His relationship with each of us, because He now shares our humanity. So if you look to your left or your right, you also see one for whom Jesus became a man. No-one, no matter from where they come, what nationality or citizenship, is separate from the Love of God in Jesus Christ. Rich or poor, saint or sinner -- Christ has become a man for each of us. God is one with his people.

This Christmas, while we meditate on the mysteries of our Faith, whether in St. John’s gospel or St. Luke’s, God asks for a gift in return. You won’t find it on sale at Kohl’s – or even Ikea. It isn't an item at BestBuy, or Meijer's or even at a Super WalMart. In one sense, it isn’t much, but on the other hand … well, one of my favorite Christmas carols tells it best.

The song is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” written in the 19th century. The last verse tells it all:

But what can I give Him, poor as I am;
If I were a Shepherd, I would give a lamb.
If I were a wise-man, I would do my part.
But what can I give Him: give my Heart.

Give your hearts completely to Jesus this year, as never before. He has given Himself to us, unconditionally; may we open our hearts and our homes to receive the joy of the Christ-child today and every day, throughout this Christmas Octave, and every day after that until we meet Him face to face.

What can I give Jesus this Christmas? I will give Him my heart.