HOMILY: CHRISTMAS MASS OF THE DAY 2018
As we celebrate Christmas this year, we must surely be praying more fervently than ever for the Light of Christ to come and heal and redeem our world. This past year has been so overshadowed by the darkness of war, especially in the Middle East; and perhaps even more so by the darkness of anger and resentment that has overtaken the public life of so much of the western world. Most notably, in the United States and in many European nations, as well as in our own country, there has been an increasing fragmentation of society: the gulf between those who govern and the people they are meant to serve appears to be getting ever wider. Tragically, something of the same malaise is also afflicting parts of the Church. The point has come when the darkness of mutual suspicion and incomprehension seems seriously to threaten the well-being of society in so many parts of the world.
Now in today’s Gospel, St John solemnly proclaims the truth about the Word of God, who is the true Light that enlightens all men. And St John insists: The Light has come into the world, because God has miraculously humbled himself: ‘The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his, as the only Son of the Father’. The healing and redeeming Light of Christ, St John teaches us in his Gospel, is essentially the fruit of humility. Yet tragically, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the true Light, was in the world….and the world did not know him. He came to his own domain, and his own people did not accept him. They chose darkness, rather than light.
For our present ‘dark times’, St John’s message is for us to recognise the singular importance of the grace of humility. Humility is an unpopular virtue. But it is at the heart of the Mystery of the Incarnation – God humbling himself to come among us and calling us in turn to learn to be humble and so to reflect and to live ‘in the Light’ that he has brought to us.
Now one of the tests of humility is willingness to listen to the other person; which is precisely what is not happening for the most part in so much of our present day society and culture. The ever-widening gulf between those who claim to exercise leadership and those whom they seek to lead has so very evidently come about through a general contempt for all that humility stands for. This means on the one hand seriously bad leadership and on the other, the anger of populist revolt.
Yet as Christians we are pledged never to let go our hold on the truth of the victory of light which St John proclaims in today’s Christmas Gospel: Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the true Light: ‘All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower’.
The task before us – to change the way our society behaves – may seem beyond us. Yet it is also true that the family, in God’s purposes, remains the fundamental building-block of society. And humility is something we can at least try to practise in our own homes, in our families and among our friends this Christmas. Christmas and New Year are times that are notorious for family upsets. Darkness can descend so readily and so quickly. So let us try to ‘live in the light’ and bring light wherever we are – by being willing to listen – by respect for others whose views contradict our own – so that we may share in the grace and truth of the word made Flesh and play our part in advancing his healing and saving purposes.