Feast of the Holy Family, December 28, 2014
Christmas Midnight Mass, December 24, 2013
Homily of Pope Francis
- “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas Night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.
Walking. This verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country towards the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. Because he is faithful, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.
In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11). A people who walk, but as a pilgrim people who do not want to go astray.
- On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Tit 2:11).
The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.
- The shepherds were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’ birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks. The pilgrim is bound by duty to keep watch and the shepherds did just that. Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.
On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). As the angels said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid!”. And I also repeat to all of you: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is mercy: our Father always forgives us. He is our peace. Amen.
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Thanks. I’d like to thank all those who worked so hard to make Advent and Christmas so special this year. In particular the choir, cantors, musicians and Elisabeth Turco for all the beautiful music. The Youth Group, especially for their work on the Senior Lunch and Breakfast with Santa. All the adult volunteers who worked on the Senior Lunch (particularly Patty Miller). The Knights of Columbus, especially Grand Knight John Crennan, for all they did in so many ways. Nena Brennan and the other sacristans, for all their work in preparing the sanctuary. To Rosario Méndez and Julie Mullen and the flower committee, for the fantastic job decorating the church. To the ushers who helped make everything run so smoothly. To all those who contributed so much in time and treasure to the Giving Tree. To all those who assisted in special ways at the Mass, especially the altar boys, lectors (led by Phil Bettwy), extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (led by Barbara Aldridge and Christine Spengler). A special thanks to our dedicated staff, Maria Ammirati, Mary Butler, Paul DeRosa, Patti Eckels, Monica Montanaro and Kirsti Tyson. And finally, to my brother priests, especially Fr. Joseph Kenna, Fr. Paul Quang Nguyen and Fr. Jerry Daly, for their dedicated service. I know I’ve left out lots of groups and names; my apologies. Thank you all.
Year End Donations. If you are looking to make year-end charitable donations I would recommend: the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic Charities of Arlington, House of Mercy, Project Rachel, Gabriel Project, AAA Women for Choice, Mary’s Shelter (Fredericksburg), the Poor Clares, Angelus Academy and, my personal favorite, St. Dominic Monastery in Linden, VA, my dear cloistered Dominican sisters. And of course, St. Raymond’s still has a little more debt to pay off ….
New Year’s. I look forward seeing all of you on New Year’s Eve or Day (Mother of God, a holy day of obligation). Maybe you’ll join me at Midnight Mass: it’s always a pretty small crowd and we keep things simple, but it’s a great way to bring in the New Year. As we begin the New Year 2015, I pray that the Christ Child shower you with His grace, that His Blessed Mother keep you in her tender embrace. Blessed and Merry Christmas, and Holy and Happy New Year!
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles