Homily: Christmas Vigil Mass, Sacred Heart Cathedral

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Isa 9:1-6; Ps 96:1-13; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

On this Holy Night, the Liturgy invites us to celebrate with joy the great event of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. As we have just heard in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is born into a family poor by material standards, but rich in joy. He is born in a stable, for there is no place for him in the inn; he is placed in a manger, for there is no cradle for him. He comes into the world completely helpless, without anyone's knowledge, and yet he is welcomed and recognized first by the shepherds, who hear from the angel the news of his birth.

As we approach Bethlehem this night our memories of past Christmases surface, our emotions are touched by the grace of the season and the reality of our lived experiences bring about a combination of our dreams, our hopes and fears, our struggles, and our expression of love, gratitude and a sense of renewal, hopefully with our family and dear ones and also with those we serve.

Tonight “a great light” shines forth (Is 9:1); the light of Jesus’ birth shines all about us. How true and timely are the words of the prophet Isaiah which we have just heard: “You have brought abundant joy and great rejoicing” (9:2)! Our heart was already joyful in awaiting this moment; now that joy abounds and overflows, for the promise has been at last fulfilled.
Joy and gladness are a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God. There is no room for doubt; let us leave that to the sceptics who, by looking to reason alone, never find the truth. There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something. The Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart.

Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. This is the reason for our joy and gladness: this Child has been “born to us”; he was “given to us”, as Isaiah proclaims. The Saviour of the world comes to partake of our human nature. The light shows us the path to Bethlehem. We must not be laggards; we are not permitted to stand idle. We must set out to see our Saviour; the little babe of Bethlehem!

This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God’s glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart.

This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, “to reject godless ways” and the richness of the world, in order to live “temperately, justly and devoutly” (Tit 2:12).

In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly; in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential.

In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God’s will. Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer.

The peace of which the gospel speaks will only be realised in our world, it seems to me, when each and every one of us lets go of any vestige of resentment or unproductive anger in our own hearts and when we learn to live in harmony with and respect for all Earth’s beings.

On this day, joy was reborn into the world, - may we share the joy of Christ with everyone

On this day, hope was reborn into the world, - may we bring the hope of Christ to those who are poor.

On this day, love was reborn into the world, - may we bring the love of Christ to our family and our world.

Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God.  ‘Venite Adoremus’ : Come , let us adore him, Christ the Lord!