Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Open Our Hearts

Manger Scene at St. Francis Church, Granada, Niacaragua
Gospel Readings for December 25/ Christmas:
(Vigil) Matthew1:1-25
(Midnight) Luke 2:1-14
(Morning) John 1:1-18

Today we celebrate the great turning point in the story of salvation. For centuries the Jews had been waiting for the Anointed One, the one to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven and at His coming among them as a child they were filled with joy who looked upon Him. So, too, are we filled with joy today because we, like they, recognize that salvation has indeed come to us. Salvation is here in our very midst, as a child. A child is born to us! The one who is all-powerful makes Himself helpless for us. He Who is clothed in glory in Heaven comes wrapped in swaddling clothes. The One through Whom and in Whom all things exists comes among us and finds no place to lay His head. He who lives eternally in Heaven comes to dwell in a cave. The Bread of Life comes is laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, as a sign that even from the first moment of His existence among us He is meant to be consumed by the world that life might come to us and all of creation.

We come to celebrate the King of kings and Lord of lords who comes to be with us. That is the mystery we celebrate today, that God’s love for us is so great that He would stop at nothing to draw us closer to Himself in this life and eternity. If we grasp even the smallest bit of that love, we would surely die of joy.

I wish there was more time to speak of the beauty of the scriptures that we read for the Christmas Masses. For each of the Christmas Masses here at the parish there is a separate reading and there is so much that could be said about those passages. But I will limit myself to reflecting upon the gospel passages from each of the Masses.

Matthew’s Gospel passage illustrates how Jesus was truly born of human flesh, as we read the genealogy. This being born of human flesh is emphasized by the fact that Matthew highlights the person of King David in this narrative. King David was the one who a millennia before received the promise that an heir from his lineage would rise up as king of Israel and would reign gloriously, never allowing the scepter of power to be taken away. The people looked for centuries for this king and many had almost given up hope as they kingdom of Israel was divided and ultimately fell under the rule of foreign powers. But in the person of Jesus Christ, Matthew points out, the promise to David is fulfilled – a king is born from his line who indeed is to reign forever, both on earth and in heaven. Additionally, the genealogy includes four women, which was not done in Jewish tradition. This showed that Christ was indeed calling forth all people to be part of the Gospel. What’s more,  those women weren’t all Jewish, so even Gentiles were included in the mission of Jesus.

John’s Gospel is a bit more heady and theological, as it was written later with that intention in mind. He speaks of the eternity of the Word, how all things came to exist through Him. He helps us to understand that while Christ comes as a small child, He is also at the same time entire different from us. He is God; eternal, all-powerful.

Luke’s Gospel, with which we’re all more familiar, gives us the more historical account of how Joseph and Mary went to register for the census and while in Bethlehem Our Lord is born and placed in the manger. This again emphasizes the universality of the faith, including even – and especially! – those who are poor and lowly. The poverty of the Holy Family and the inclusion of the shepherds, which was a lowly task, highlight the call that all are important to God, loved by Him, and called to relationship with Him.

Each of these Gospels shows us a different aspect of the Lord. They have different authors, audiences, intentions, details, and yet they all come together to show us a beautiful picture of the Savior. In this we can see the beauty of the diversity of the Church. But even more, we see that God comes to us as individuals. He comes to each of us personally because we are all different. He knows, more than we do, that we are all at different places in our lives, have different needs, have different struggles, and are at different places in our relationship with Him. He knows all of these things and for this reason He comes still to be with us and to love us as we need to be loved. But He needs us to open up to Him. Certainly we’ve said yes to Him and opened up before, and we’ve already done so to some extent in that we are all here to celebrate this Mass. And yet He wants to have us open up that He might not only visit for a bit but truly remain and abide with us.

And so He comes to us, that little child who longs to love and be loved by us. Notice the beautiful image of Our Lord that we carried in tonight, the infant Jesus with arms outstretched, reaching out to us that we might pick Him up and in truly receive Him into our lives once more. He longs for us. He didn’t come simply to be among us for a time. He came to ransom us to Himself that we might be with Him forever in Heaven. Going back to Luke’s Gospel, we see that familiar story of how Christ is coming among us and yet He has no place to stay because there is no room in the inn. As He comes to us once more, He comes looking not for an inn but a dwelling place in our hearts. Let us open wide the doors of our hearts, that He might find a fitting dwelling place where He will indeed love and be loved.