[Christmas Midnight Mass. Assumption Chapel. ADDU. Dec. 24, 2019.]
We began our Mass with a prayer of praise to the Father: “You make this holy night radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ….” The spotlight is on the vulnerable bundle of human flesh and blood in the manger. But the whole night is radiant in its splendor. And praise is given to the Father.
Let us appreciate this radiant night through some images from Sacred Scripture.
Isaiah says: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Those dwelling in the land of death’s shadow – light has beamed on them…” (Is 9:1a). The whole enterprise of liberating humankind from the yoke of oppression, suffering, and sin, this is the work of the Father
But this work he doesn’t do alone. He accomplishes this through his Son. “You make this holy night radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ….”
From St. John, we know: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God And the Word was God. … And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:1. 14).
In our first reading, Isaiah says: “For a child is born to us, a son has been given to us; and leadership is on his shoulders. And his name shall be called wondrous-councilor, divine father, prince of peace, making leadership abound and peace without end” (Is. 9:5).
In our second reading, Timothy says: “The Grace of God has appeared, saving all, and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age.” (Tim 2:11).
The Word became flesh through Mary. Matthew said, “The virgin shall be with child, and they will call him Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us’” (Mt. 1:23).
In our Gospel for this night, Luke said, “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn.” (Lk 2:12).
To the shepherds in the field, the angel of Lord, the Father, appeared, and the glory of the Father shone around them. The holy night became radiant in the splendor of the Father! But this splendor is reflected in and radiates from the manger. The angel said, “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2: 11). But looking at this divine savior in the manger we recall words from St. Paul, “Existing in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped at, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness…” (Phil 2: 7-9). The glory of God is wrapped in swaddling clothes…
My sisters and brothers: the radiance of Christmas today that lights up our lives is not just in the artificial Christmas lights that flicker romantically this night and are put away tomorrow. The radiance of Christmas is instead in the light of God-with-us gleaned in the lives of people who believe in Jesus and live fully in his light. One may say it is a product of the Spirit working within us, enlightening us, making us sources of his enduring light in our world. Sometimes this is very subtle, very silent, at other times it is quite startling, but the light of God-with-us is unmistakable.
I know an erudite scientist who for more than the past year has put a bracket around his professional life to be the primary caregiver in love of his mother as she struggles against a debilitating illness. Now he also takes care of his ailing father. He witnesses humbly to the light of God-with-us.
I know a talented craftsman, a maker of fine leather shoes, who instead of devoting his skills to making himself wealthy, spends his life teaching the poor to make shoes in order to help them overcome their poverty through a productive craft. He is enthusiastic in the light of God-with-us.
I know an engineer whose personal passion is to fight the poverty in Mindanao and to teach students to use renewable energy and innovative technology in this fight. He has a long way to go, but he doesn’t give up. He hopes in the light of God-with-us.
I know a talented and popular coach who works double time to be able each week to share his income with his parents, to build them a simple home, keep them happy and healthy, and once a week, on the Day of Lord, to enjoy a meal with them. He is joyful in the light of God-with-us.
I know a brilliant theologian who has spent many grace-filled years here at ADDU teaching students, young and old, myself included, of the importance of theological rigor and discipline. She is now dying from advanced cancer yet still gives praise and glory to the God who made her the magnificent person she is. She is the light of God-with-us.
I know a young Jesuit passionate about helping his students understand the importance of thinking and experiencing out-of-the-box in order to understand the complexity of their subject matter. He too witnesses to the light of God-with-us.
I know a talented young singer who uses his rare gift of song exclusively to praise and glorify the Lord and to lead others in the praise and worship of God. He sings in the light of God-with-us.
I know a former high ranking military officer, a fierce warrior of the State, who now spends his time laboring for peace in Mindanao under the aegis of a Fraternity of World Peace and Living Together as inspired by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayyeb. He too is a witness to the light of God-with-us. I know of hundreds of Muslim students working to contribute to the success of the BARMM in the name of lasting peace in Mindanao. Their name is Salaam, Peace. They too witness to the light of God-with-us even as they praise God saying, “Alhamdulillah!”
I know a woman of faith who sits in silent solitude each morning in darkness in order to welcome the brightening Dawn. She too prays in the light of God-with-us.
I know of hundreds of students, faculty members, retired teachers, administrators, staff members who after the deadly earthquakes last October, but even after the earthquake that hit Padada, Davao del Sur, last Sunday, came together to gather, sort, repackage and distribute thousands of relief packages for those in need. They too witness to the generous light of God-with-us.
There are many, many more examples I am sure that you are aware of: How your wife has prepared the noche buena for tonight; how your husband has prepared the Christmas gifts; how your children have prepared special ways of showing their love to you and one another; how you are together this Christmas. And how you have not forgotten to share of your bounty with others.
The Father makes this holy night radiant with his Son. To those dwelling in darkness, a light has shone. This is not fantasy; it is real. All you need to do is look around. Or, to look within. Through the Spirit, may you be especially blessed at Christmas – bathed in the radiant light of God-with-us. In God-with-us, may you be a blessing for others at Christmas.