St. Joseph, Buckeystown
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
BNS (Bethlehem University)
Dec. 24-25, 2022
Looking for Happiness
Let me begin by wishing everyone a blessed and joyous Christmas! What a beautiful night (day) as we celebrate the birth of Christ our Savior, the coming of the Prince of Peace, the dawning of a light into the darkness. Does our world not need light, peace, and salvation?
Looking around us and perhaps looking at our own experience, we often get the sense that things are not as they should be — that something is missing. I could recite all challenges and even the tragedies that beset our world, but you know all those things as well as I do. You know better than I the challenges you may have in your own families, and all of us, myself included, may experience struggles within our own hearts. These struggles are very real and sometimes seem impossible to overcome.
But these struggles are not the last word about our existence. There is something within us that longs for an answer, that longs for something or someone who will give our lives meaning, purpose, and direction – something that will make sense of everything … As a result, we go looking for that something or someone whom we think will give us what are searching for. We might seek meaning, purpose, and direction in material well-being, or in success and affirmation from others, or in ideologies or in politics. And we may say to ourselves, “If only…if only I had enough money. If only I had the right position. If only I had the perfect marriage or the perfect family; If only everyone agreed with me … then the world would be a wonderful place and at long last I’d happy. Could this be the peace and goodwill of which the angels sang?
The Fact of the Incarnation
If we’re really honest, we know deep down that none of that works. None of those things can answer the full depth of our desire, the needs of our human hearts – for, in the famous words of St. Augustine, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
But what if there were something or someone who did fulfill our deepest desires? And what if it could be found, not only in the life to come, but here and now? Today, we celebrate that something and someone who does respond to the deepest desires of our hearts for a love that is infinite, for a love that tender and close. That something and someone is the Fact of Christmas, the Fact of the Lord’s birth in Bethlehem on a star-lit night some 2,000 years ago. Christianity is the announcement of a Fact, a Fact that is good for us, Good News: Christ born, dead, and risen–it is not a fairytale or a nice story but something very real.
Think of it this way. When a child is born into a family, this is a fact, something very real. The child needs to eat. Needs a place to sleep. Needs to be cared for. A baby coming into a home is fact that changes the lives of the family in that home. As moms and dads with newborns know, you don’t sleep as much as you used to. You start to care about different things. You plan differently for the future – and all of this because something has happened, something very real, a fact.
The Child whose birth we celebrate is in fact the desired of nations, the fulfillment of the longings and strivings of all humanity. As the Gospel makes clear, the Fact of his birth did not just affect Joseph and Mary, or merely the shepherds, or merely the angels – but the whole of humanity and each person without exception. With the birth of Christ, the world is forever changed. For the Child who is born is the Eternal Son of God who comes to reveal the face of the Father and to show us the depth of his love, and do so by taking on our humanity and by sharing in our experience. This divine Child will henceforth love us with a heart of flesh. He alone gives our lives ultimate meaning, purpose, and direction, for he opens our path to God the Father, to that love for which we are searching. In the light of this love, all our experiences – good and bad – take on new meaning – for Jesus came to redeem every dimension of our human experience, to redeem us to the core of our being, and thus to lead us to the heavenly Father.
In this Child whose birth we celebrate, we discover our deepest identity – the one thing that can and should explain everything about us – and it is this: We are the sons and daughters of God. We are children of God the Father. This is only possible because in the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christ assumed our humanity and thereby made himself our brother.
Communion in Christ
And because Christ became our brother, we are God’s sons and daughters and at the same time, we are brothers and sisters to one another. The family of those who are God’s adopted sons and daughters is the Church, the family into which Christ is continually born, the family that continually shares in his death and resurrection, the family that is held together by the bonds of Eucharistic fellowship.
What we celebrate is a gift that must be shared. If we truly believe that Christ is the fulfillment of our deepest desires, if we really believe that the meaning and joy of our lives is to be children of God, why would not want to invite others into this family of faith we call the Church? And if we are blessed to share in Christ’s overflowing grace and love, how can be indifferent to the plight of the defenseless and those in need? How can we not try in God’s grace to repair broken human relations? How can we not strive, each in our own way, to build a world that is marked by peace and unity, rather than anger and division?
Through Him, with Him, in Him
So let us rejoice and be glad! For he whom we desire most deeply is present in our midst … We see his face. We hear his Word. We receive his Body and Blood. Through him, we have become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters to one another. With him it is possible to find what was lost, to repair what is broken. In him, let us journey together to God our Father.
May you and your loved ones have a most blessed Christmas and may God bless you and keep you always in his love.