CHRISTMAS HOMILY: The Challenge Before Us
the gathering together of family members and friends, all make up the wonderful memories of Christmas.
I have many beautiful memories of Christmases past. From early childhood, I remember how our entire family always attended Christmas morning Mass at our parish.
Inevitably, somewhere along in the liturgy, the choir would sing Silent Night. As the beautiful hymn filled the church with harmony, my grandmother would begin to weep uncontrollably. Once, as a child, I asked my grandmother why she wept so much. "God loves us so much," was her immediate answer.
This Christmas memory of my grandmother fills me with sadness at times, but then I remember how she died a number of years ago. As she lay in bed taking her last breath, she said, "Dear God, I love you." I am sure that now in heaven she contemplates the eternal face of the God made man born in Bethlehem.
There is another Christmas memory that fills me with profound joy, the memory of the first time that I celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a newly ordained priest.
Yes, I was given the amazing privilege of celebrating my first Mass on Christmas morning after having received the inestimable gift of the Catholic priesthood on December 24, 1987, twenty five years ago.
My family and friends gathered together with me in Rome at a beautiful basilica dedicated to our Blessed Mother, as I celebrated my first Mass at an altar containing relics from the manger of Bethlehem.
Most of our memories of Christmas are beautiful indeed; however, many people have memories of a Christmas past permeated with sadness, times of difficulty and distress.
Why does terrible evil exist in the world? Why doesn't God put a stop to it all?
This world is not a fantasy world as if we were immersed in a Harry Potter movie. God does not fly around the world like Super Man or like a wizard stopping bad things from happening.
The gospel tells us that the wheat and the weeds grow together. God respects our freedom and many times our choices are bad. There are periods of history where it seems that the weeds outnumber the wheat.
Despite the tragedies that man inflicts upon man, the goodness of man prevails because the God-Man Jesus Christ overcame evil. The tomb is empty.
Tragedies exist; evil exists; bad things happen precisely because man rejects God. Our modern times are marked by a general rejection of God thus causing the terrible chaos that we see in the news each day.
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils" (Isaiah 9: 1-2).
If we live as autonomous beings as though God does not exist, we will be unable to recognize our need for a Savior simply because we will be incapable of recognizing ourselves as sinful creatures needy of redemption.
Christmas is all about the Savior who came to save us from sin. We need to open our minds and our hearts, and allow this Savior to possess our entire being. As Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote: "The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience."
Whatever language we may speak as we contemplate the Christ child lying in the manger of Bethlehem, God speaks only one language and that language is the language of love.
The terrible problems that challenge the world this Christmas are not really a God problem, they are our problems. How do we respond?
The answer is not a what, it is a whom. "I proclaim to you good news of great joy; today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord" (Alleluia, Mass at Midnight).
Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Challenges, Hope, Joy, Benedict XVI, priesthood, Christmas, homily, homilies, Jesus, Father James Farfaglia, Pope Benedict XVI, challenges, evil, tragedy, free will
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