Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Nativity Of The Lord (Christmas) - Mass During The Day Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Source of All That We See and Know

Those of us who are 54 years old or older may still remember that in the Mass before Vatican II, that is, before 1962, there was what was called the last Gospel. After the priest gave the blessing to the people he went to the right side of the altar and read aloud the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 1 to 14. When he finished the people answered “Deo Gratias” which in Latin means “Thanks be to God”. And then he left the altar.

That last Gospel was read by the priest every Mass for four hundred years, from 1570 when Pope St. Pius V promulgated the Latin Mass until 1970 when Pope Paul Vi promulgated the Mass as we know it today. This gives us an idea of how important this Gospel is for us. For hundred years years thousands of priests proclaimed this Gospel to all the world.

And this is our Gospel reading today in the Mass for the daylight time, with four additional verses. A very important Gospel indeed because here we have the phrase "the Fathers only Son". The Greek word here is “monogenous” which means “only begotten”. In other words Jesus was begotten by God the Father. Jesus was born of God before time began, before anything was created. As the Nicene Creed states, “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

The second reading has this sentence from the Psalms "You are my son; this day I have begotten you." Jesus is the son of God. In this third Mass for Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus in eternity, before time began.

The evangelist John calls this son of God as Word. This was also the name of Jesus in the Book of Revelation. Here we read "He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was the Word of God" (19:13).

This word "Word" is logos in the original Greek. The word logos is rich in meaning. The Greek dictionary says that it can mean word embodying an idea, a saying, speech, doctrine, story, affair, reason, account. John the writer of the Gospel took this word logos and applied it to Jesus partly because of the use of this word in Ephesus, the place where he lived after he left Jerusalem. In Ephesus four hundred years before John lived there there was a philosopher by the name of Heracletus who taught that the logos was the reason for everything. He and the other philosophers in Ephesus taught that the logos was "the power that puts sense into the world, making the world orderly instead of chaotic. The logos was the power that set the world in perfect order and kept it going in perfect order. They saw the logos as the 'Ultimate Reason' that controlled all things." (ENDURING WORD BIBLE COMMENTARY)

Knowing that this was how the Greeks viewed logos, John the Gospel writer wanted to say in his Gospel, ‘This logos which you say is the Ultimate Reason for all things is Jesus, he was with God and is God.’

But today let us simply reflect on one aspect of the word logos. The logos is the idea behind everything. This is a basic meaning of logos, a word containing an idea, or the idea itself.

We know that everything made by human beings around us began as an idea. This building we are in now began as an idea in the mind of the architect or engineer. The pews before us began as an idea in the mind of a carpenter. The streets outside began as an idea in the mind of an urban planner. The food we cook and eat begins as an idea in the mind of the chef. Our clothes began as an idea in the mind of the tailor or dress maker. All things we see made by human beings begin as an idea.

The world made by God also began as an idea in the mind of God. And this idea is the logos, the Son of God whose birth in Bethlehem and in eternity we celebrate today.

In other words all created reality, seen and unseen, began in the logos, in Jesus. This is what John affirms when he said in our Gospel reading, "All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be."

It is obvious that we too have ideas in our mind. Now we know the source of all these good ideas, the logos, Jesus. In a sense then the reality around us, what we see and know around us, is just the unfolding of logos, the idea of God, Jesus. This is the Word of God who, John affirms, is "his glory, the glory as of the Fathers only Son, full of grace and truth. . . . From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace."

St. Paul the Apostle expresses this truth beautifully in his letter to the Colossians. He wrote of “Christ—in whom every treasure of wisdom and knowledge is hidden”. In other words all the ideas in all the books in all the libraries and other places in the world, all the inventions that have been discovered and still be to discovered, all the advances in science and technology, all the works of artists and sculptors through all the ages, all of these have their source in this one Word of God, this logos, whose becoming flesh we celebrate today. Let us give him all the glory. Let us acclaim him with the Psalmist (139:17-18): “How weighty are your designs, O God, how vast the sum of them. Were I to recount them, they would outnumber the sands; did I reach the end of them, I should still be with you.” Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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