Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dec. 25, 2014: Christmas, Nativity of Our Lord to hear Audio Homily
Have you ever seen something through the eyes of a child? Perhaps it was something mundane or ordinary, but a child pointed out something new to you that struck you. A parishioner shared this experience while she was setting up her church for a weekend mass around Christmas time. In her church, the nativity set was set up in the gathering space in the back entrance of the church. As the parishioner stood near the nativity, she watched as parishioners entered the area, gave a quick glance at the nativity and went on to their pews. As one family entered - mom, dad and little girl - the mom put her daughter down from her arms and said, ‘yes, you can go see Baby Jesus’. The little girl, about 3 years old, ran to the nativity scene and stood right in front of where the Baby Jesus figurine lay. The child was smiling and her face was aglow. The parishioner walked over and asked the little girl if she would like to hold Baby Jesus. The child was elated! When the parishioner handed the child the nativity piece, the little girl held it as though it was a child. Her face still aglow and eyes cast on the figurine the little girl said, ‘I love Baby Jesus.’ The parishioner’s eyes welled up with tears as she wondered if the little girl was seeing the real Baby Jesus. The child’s mom and dad were standing near by patiently waiting to go to a pew. The parishioner asked the little girl if she wanted to tell Baby Jesus goodbye. The child drew him close to her, kissed him on the forehead and said again, ‘I love Baby Jesus.’ As the little girl handed Baby Jesus back to the parishioner, the parishioner was overwhelmed with emotion because she had encountered Baby Jesus through the eyes and actions of such a small child.

A parishioner told me that one year she received an unexpected phone call on Christmas Eve. Her doctor called, apologizing profusely for delivering the news on Christmas Eve that she had a rapidly growing cancer. She was stunned by the news. She decided not to tell her family until after Christmas. That night, she decided to go to the Christmas midnight mass with her family. As she participated in the mass, many thoughts went through her mind. ‘What will happen to me? How long will I live? How will my family react?’ If Jesus was to gaze in to her eyes, he would have seen anxiety, fear, darkness, and confusion. But she received a grace that night from Christ Child. The First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah described her experience, “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…” After the midnight mass, she went to her family home to witness her nephews and nieces open the wrapped gifts with great joy. That night she realized that the news she received was a gift, needing to be unwrapped. Looking back upon her difficult experience of chemotherapy and years of volunteering at a cancer treatment center, she realized that Jesus gave her a gift of sharing His Heart--a heart whose desire was to bring light and joy into the gloom and darkness.

Tonight, we are invited to hold the Christ Child into our arms like the shepherds and Magi. Jesus knows that we have a busy life and we put off coming to him because we think that there are more important things to do. Yet, as the shepherds and Magi learned, we too will be changed when we allow Jesus to look into our eyes which are filled with anxiety, fear, and darkness.

I have homework for you after you leave mass today. Look at the nativity scene that you have set up in your own home and take Jesus into your arms and gaze into his eyes. Trust that this encounter with Jesus will "train us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ…”