Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
During the Day
December 25, 2018 Cycle C

Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Today a great light has come upon the earth” (Alleluia verses).

The birth of Jesus filled the universe with the divine presence. The darkness of the earth gave way to the perpetual light from heaven. The glory of the divinity shone in Jesus’ humanity. God became a presence in the world, to restore our ruined humanity, ravaged cities and broken hearts with the gift of his healing light. Jesus humbled himself to dwell among us because he wants to reach each and every one of us. In the middle of the night, the poor in spirit saw a  glorious light. Like Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, we need humility in order to see the glorious light beyond all telling.

Today’s first reading is about the restoration of Jerusalem. Because the people had abandoned the covenant and turned to idolatry, their city was destroyed and they were exiled to Babylon. They had been faithless and suffered the consequences. Nevertheless, God gave them a fresh opportunity to rebuild the city: “[…] they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem” (Is 52:8‒9).

God came among us to rebuild us, to restore the ruins of the Church and the ruins of our lives. He brings us hope and peace. We are living at a time when the Church needs saints, faithful shepherds and devout lay persons to bring about the needed reforms. We must never forget Jesus’ words: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). In today’s Gospel, we read the following: “He was in the world […] He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:10‒11).

The ravaged Jerusalem received the same glad tidings that we are receiving today: “[…] they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion.” We have not been abandoned. God is truly among us—but do we believe it?

Today’s Gospel says: “[…] the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). The darkness may be great and ostensibly impenetrable but God’s light is infinitely greater. Sometimes, overcome by the darkness of human  failures, we  forget about the light instead of seeking it. We may need to ask those who have already seen the light of hope to help us.

The Gospel says the following about Saint John the Baptist: “He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:8‒9). Like John, we, too, are called to testify to the light, in proportion to the extent that we allow Jesus to illuminate our lives. We are called to rebuild the ruined city. As the prophet Isaiah says: “They will be called oaks of justice, the planting of the LORD to show his glory. They shall rebuild the ancient ruins, the former wastes they shall raise up and restore the desolate cities” (Is 61:3‒4).

Jesus came to us by humbling himself and we need to be humble in order to encounter him. In order to rebuild the ruined city, we must first humble ourselves in adoration and allow God to be everything in our hearts: “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace” (Jn 1:16).

In the Loreto Litanies, we call Mary the Morning Star. She saw the light and became a light herself. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we pray for Mary’s special intercession. May she help us recognize the luminous presence of Christ. May the sweet, kind, peaceful and gentle presence of God made man be enkindled in our hearts.  Amen.

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