The Feast of Christmas A

“God is with us.”

After long forty days’ preparation, we are here to celebrate Christmas, birthday of our lord Jesus. This began as we celebrated thanksgiving, everywhere Christmas decorations, lights and music. As Christians in the Church began with advent prayer, penance and sacrifice. This waiting and preparation picture in lighting different advent candles. Now it is complete. We were very busy doing different things, shopping, cooking, decorating and family coming together. Perhaps, it was wonderful time. This is a beautiful season. On this day, Jesus came to the earth as human beings to make us worthy of God. This is celebration of true God and true man, as our savior and redeemer, born little baby. This is the reason to rejoice.

Tonight’s vigil Mass gospel reading is long. In there, Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy from Abraham. Though we often skip over these lists of names, the Gospel writers took great pains to compile the genealogies and to make several theological points in the process. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom Matthew arranges into three groups: 14 Patriarchs, 14 Kings and 14 Princes. The three groups are based on the three stages of Jewish history: i) the rise of Israel to a great kingdom by the time of David, ii) the fall of the nation by the time of Babylonian exile and iii) the resurrection of the nation after the exile. Strangely enough, the list includes a number of disreputable characters, including three women of bad reputation: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba. Perhaps the Lord God included these women in His Son's human genealogy to emphasize God's grace, to give us all hope and to show us that Jesus is sent to save sinners. Thus, God's powerful work of salvation comes to us under the appearance of weakness. From the beginning, Matthew's account challenges our human expectations as to how God will fulfill our hopes for endless peace, justice, and righteousness. This was done to show that Jesus is truly a man. He had family, as all humans beings he ate and drank. He also felt joys and sorrows, pains and sufferings.

 

This is wonderful to see Christians’ making cribs to prepare themselves for Christmas. In this way, it becomes vivid on the earth the coming of Jesus. It was St Francis of Assisi who assembled the first crib in a cave on an Italian hillside. It was in 1293 that the first crèche was erected in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve. The crib was ready, hay was brought, the ox and the donkey were led to the spot. Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The aim of St. Francis was to make the Christmas story come alive for the people of the locality. His idea was to show them how close it was to them and their lives. And it seems that he succeeded.  St. Chrysostom has said, “The God has become son of man, in order to make us sons and daughters of God.”

But he is also true God. In his gospel, Mathew makes it clear. Before, Mary and Joseph came, she was found with baby. Joseph was confused and thought to divorce her. But in the dream appearing the Angel Gabriel told baby is from above, through the Holy Spirit. We also hear, when Mary went to serve Elizabeth in the hill country of Juda, filled with the Holy Spirit spoke out “How does this happen that to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me.”  Even Baby John leaped with joy in the womb of the mother. At the river Jordon, we hear “You are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Gospel chosen for the morning mass tells us how the word which existed from the beginning became incarnate for us and pitched his tent among us. John tells us that he is the light that shines in the darkness and takes away the darkness from within us. In all gospels, we find testimony of God. Jesus is picture of God on this earth. 

This is what we have to understand as we contemplate the scene in the Christmas Crib. That Jesus is the Son of God who adopted human form and who came into our world in order to submit himself to death by human hands. He did this so that in his resurrection he could turn everything to our advantage and so manifest his forgiveness of every human being. This is what Christmas means and it is of the utmost significance for the entire world. It is something that we celebrate and take joy in but it is also something that we know we must proclaim to all those who have not fully understood what it is really about. Our desire this Christmas is that the real significance of the feast permeates our whole lives and changes us. Our wish is that it makes us better people and turns us definitively away from sin. We also want the good effects it has on us to be transmitted to the rest of the human family.

When we continue our celebration, let us be ready to welcome him, look for him and you shall find salvation. True Salvation to the problem of the world is only in him. He only gives us ultimate meaning of life, pain and setbacks. let us read and listen to the word God, try to truly live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, the Son of God that has come into us. Only then, we shall realize that, together, we could truly build a better world.  

A four-year-old girl went with a group of family and friends to see the Christmas lights, displayed at various locations throughout the city. At one church, they stopped and got out to look more closely at a beautiful nativity scene. “Isn’t that beautiful?” said the little girl’s grandmother. “Look at all the animals, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.”  “Yes, Grandma,” replied the granddaughter. “It is really nice. But there is only one thing that bothers me. Isn’t Baby Jesus ever going to grow up…? He’s the same size he was last year!”

 

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28th Sunday of the Ordinary Time A

10-11-2020

 We have lost a great deal in these Covid19 times. People of faith have missed gathering here in church for Mass. At the heart of Mass is the gathering of the people of the parish around the table of the Lord. For a priest, standing at the altar, or the lectern, without people present is a little bit like eating on your own. We have all been missing the freedom to gather together in other settings apart from the church. We like to share table with people in all kinds of settings, whether it is in our own homes or in restaurants and pubs. There are certain occasions when we especially like to gather, such as when we have something to celebrate. It might be a birthday, a baby’s baptism, a child’s first Holy Communion, a young person’s confirmation or a married couple’s wedding. One occasion when we certainly like to gather is Christmas. It is often the only time of the year when an extended family gathers together around a table. As we look ahead to Christmas, we wonder to what extent will we be able to gather? Apart from large family gatherings, Christmas is a time when large numbers gather in church. It is as if the family of faith feels the need to gather to celebrate the birth of the one who has brought us together as a faith family. We are all wondering to what extent that will be possible this Christmas.

We all know that the restrictions on gathering are absolutely necessary, if the virus is to be brought under control. It is a deprivation but a very necessary one. These set of restrictions will pass eventually. We can look forward to gathering again. As people of faith, gathering is at the heart of the way we express our faith. I am struck by all the references to gathering in today’s readings. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah depicts a wonderful gathering, which the Lord brings about. It is no ordinary gathering. It is a gathering for all nations at a feast of rich food and fine wines, a truly international gathering. This gathering has a quality about it which seems to take it beyond this earthly world. It is a feast of life, where death has been destroyed forever, and the mourning and sadness associated with death has been removed. At this feast, people’s deepest hungers and thirsts, their deepest hopes, will all be satisfied. Those present will say, ‘See, this is our God, in whom we hoped for salvation’. We would all want to belong to such a gathering. This reading is often chosen for a funeral Masses, and we can understand why. It is a vision of our ultimate destiny, beyond this earthly life. The Lord wants to gather us all at such a banquet of life, where death in all its forms is overcome. God created us to be together, and our heavenly destiny is to be together in a way that far surpasses any experience of gathering we may experience in this earthly life.

The image of God that stands behind that first reading is that of a generous and hospitable host. It is there again in our responsorial psalm, which is one of the best loved psalms in the Bible. In that psalm the Lord is portrayed as both a shepherd who leads us to fresh and green pastures for food, and brings us to restful waters to quench our thirst and revive our drooping spirits, and as a host who prepares a banquet for us with cups that overflow. When Jesus spoke about life in the kingdom of heaven, he picked up on that image of an abundant banquet of life that he found in his own Scriptures. On one occasion he said, ‘People will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of heaven’. In today’s second reading, Paul says that ‘God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can’.

The image of the banquet is there in today’s gospel reading, and it is a king’s banquet for the wedding of his son, no less. No expense spared there! In the time of Jesus, only a tiny fraction of the population would ever get such an invitation. Yet, in Jesus’ parable this privileged minority insult their host by refusing the invitation at the last minute, just as the banquet is ready, even though they had earlier said they would come. As a result, all kinds of people who would never get invited to such a feast end up there, the bad and good that could be found at the crossroads of any town. This is Jesus’ vision of God’s banquet. It is not for the privileged few; all sorts are invited. We are all on God’s guest list, which is good news. Yet, the parable also suggests that this privilege of God’s invitation needs to be responded to. God wants us all at his table but God needs us to want to be there and he would like us to turn up properly dressed, wearing our baptismal garment. Paul in one of his letters spells out what such a garment looks like. He says, ‘clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you… Above all, clothe yourselves with love’. This is the garment we are to put on every day of our lives, in preparation for that wonderful banquet the Lord has prepared for us.