First Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7
Second Reading: Titus 2:11-14
Gospel: Luke 2:1-17
Second Reading: Titus 2:11-14
Gospel: Luke 2:1-17
Last year at this time, all the hype about the Mayan prophecy served to divert the attention of many people. In our part of the world at this time of year, every year, the diversion of shopping occupies people’s attention. Today’s first reading contains another diversion, one of omission. The omission is of this verse: “For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.” This verse is immediately precedes the announcement of the child who has been born to us, named Wonderful Counsellor, and Prince of Peace.
People of faith must address people’s fears about apocalyptic diversions like Y2K and the Mayan prophecy. This takes time away from raising people’s awareness of very real impending catastrophes such as global warming and dwindling potable water resources.
Seasonal and consumerist diversions aided by lectionary omissions, enable us to remain in darkness about unfair labour practices, the oppression of people and the environment, and the warriors and the bloodied garments of the victims of our world’s ongoing wars. Some of us caught up in the joy of the season are unaware that for some, this is an especially difficult time of year. When we see the TV ads for the starving children in faraway lands, let us also remember to be a compassionate presence for our brothers and sisters closer to home.
But darkness is not permanent for us, as our first reading tells us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.” What is that light? It is the light of remembering that our Creator is with us, calling us to cooperation in working together for justice and cooperation rather than acquisition and conquest. God is calling us to see our oneness, that our oneness is an outgrowth and sharing in the oneness of God, and, therefore sharing in God’s joy. The foundational premise of Catholic Christian ethics is that God wants us to be happy.
The second reading reinforces that, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, telling us that Jesus Christ came to mould us as his own, to make us eager to do what is right; to teach us to live lives of humility, compassion and justice. In so doing, we will have abundant joy.
In the Gospel, Joseph and Mary, whose pregnancy is near term, go to register for the compulsory census ordered by Rome. When the time came for Mary to deliver, she gave birth to her firstborn son and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Let our hearts not become inns that don’t have room for Jesus to be born in them. Pope Francis says in the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”
But through our faith, we have been called out of complacency and darkness. Again, Pope Francis reinforces our hope. He says, “Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good.”
Seeking the good of others does not mean neglecting ourselves but it is as the Joan Baez song says, “Just take what you need and leave the rest. But they should never have taken the very best.” In other words, we can consume less so that others have enough to survive. It means working to see that it indeed comes to pass that, “all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.” In other words, work towards peace, towards the time when war are not longer fought so that some can have more and more, while others have less and less.
So this Christmas, every Christmas and throughout each and every year, let’s let the inns of hearts expand as we reach out to others and seek their good. We love God by loving the world, and all its human and non-animals, minerals and plants. The more we love, the more our hearts expand to be filled by the lushly blooming God-Seed within us. Today in us is born our Saviour. Glory to God in the highest, peace and good will toward all God’s creation! Amen!