Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Homily Christmas 2009

Over the past few weeks…
We have endured the insanity of department store checkout lines
that resemble the queue at a Disney ride
the gridlock that has brought northwest Canton to a halt since Black Friday
the stressful panic of uncertain shipping deadlines
and not finding what we’re looking for in the 7th store we’ve tried.

But now all this has come to an end…
has given way to the moment we have anticipated.

Also reaching its fulfillment tonight is our spiritual preparation
through the Church’s celebration of the Advent season.

We have recalled the writings of the prophets announcing the coming Messiah.
We have celebrated the Virgin Mary’s eager anticipation of Jesus – her son and God.
We have prepared our hearts and souls for the coming of Christ,
both at Christmas and when He should come again in His glory,
through our prayer, our confessions, and our Advent traditions.
Tonight our preparing is done…our anticipation is fulfilled…
and tidings of great joy are announced to us: a savior is born!
We gather in the peace of this night to celebrate that divine gift
that gives meaning to all we have been doing…
indeed that gives meaning to our spiritual life and our humanity…
the moment of the Incarnation.
The extravagant love of God…manifest in the gift of His Son…
is revealed in utmost simplicity and silence.

After all this waiting…after Israel has longed for the Messiah…
like Mary in labor…impatient to give birth…the time has come.
The whole universe seems to collectively gasp…catch its breath…
and pause in silence to adore the simple magnificence of God.

It is indeed the most powerful of pregnant pauses…
in which a virgin gives birth to a child who is our saving Lord.

Tonight is a silent night.

In the Gospel accounts of the Christmas story,
there is no record of a single word spoken at the stable where Jesus was born.
Neither Joseph nor Mary, neither the shepherds nor the wise men,
dare to break the silent splendor of God’s incarnate entrance into the world
with the inadequacy of human utterance.

Tonight we are gripped by the power of this awesome silence.

It was in 1818, on a cold and snowy December 23rd,
that the famous Josef Mohr, assistant pastor of Saint Nicholas Church
in the village of Oberndorf, near Salzburg,
with the help of his church organist,
put his simple poem about Christmas to music.

They wrote a melody that could be sung with guitar accompaniment
because their church organ was in disrepair.
Within a matter of a few weeks, the hymn was being sung across Europe,
for kings and crowds of worshippers alike,
and soon it had captivated the world.

“Silent Night” is a Christmas icon, and arguably the best-loved carol of all time.
Its words speak of the tenderness, the simplicity, the awesome stillness
of that first Christmas night.

All is calm as the world beholds the holy infant, so tender and mild.
Shepherds quake at the sight, as glories stream from heaven afar.
Love’s pure light appears as radiant beams from the divine face
as redeeming grace dawns upon our human sight.

And all creation rests in heavenly peace.

About 100 years after the composition of “Silent Night”
in 1914, in the midst of bloody combat on the Western Front in WWI,
on a snowy, frozen, miserable Christmas Eve,
the German troops began to sing its beautiful words from the trenches.

The British men recognized the now-famous melody and joined in.
Soon an unofficial truce had broken out as the enemy armies celebrated Christmas.
Into the chaos of war, “Silent Night” had indeed brought heavenly peace.

In our own day, Amy Grant has put her own twist on the theme
in her Christmas ballad “I Need a Silent Night.”

Reflecting on the commercial theme with which I began tonight, she sings:
Too many malls, too many storesDecember traffic, Christmas rush
December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Look at us now rushing aroundTrying to buy Christmas peace

What was it like back there in Bethlehem
With peace on earth, good will toward men?

Finally, she concludes:
I need a silent night, a holy nightTo hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noiseI need a midnight clear, a little peace right hereTo end this crazy day with a silent night

All our preparing and planning has brought us to this silent night,
this holy night, filled with the peace and joy of Christ's birth.

Our love for God and His love for us draw us together
to rest for a moment in heavenly peace.

Hustle and bustle is not just a Christmas-time experience.
Every day of the year, it seems, is consumed with overwhelming busyness.
Our hearts long to capture a bit of this night’s beautiful silence,
and we are left begging for a little peace and silence in our lives
amid the chaos and the noise of our world.

This is not nearly as impossible or outlandish as it sounds.
Psalm 46 declares “Be still, and know that I am God!”

In the quiet time we set aside each day for prayer
we can capture the holy peace we feel tonight.

Indeed it is in the quietness of contemplation that God speaks to our inmost being
revealing His love, His direction amid life’s challenges, His will for our lives.

Saint Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
If our hearts are restless…if we have everything and we’re still stressed out…
it is because each of us desperately needs a silent beginning to our mornings
and a silent end to our crazy days.

Trying to live without daily quiet prayer
is worse than a Christmas light display with one bulb missing:
without it everything goes dark.
We cannot possibly complete all that is expected of us on our own.
We need to pause, listen, and absorb the word of God that nourishes and sustains us.

If we begin and end our days in holy silence,
even though the burdens and demands of life remain,
we will accept and fulfill them with the comfort of heavenly peace.

We can truly make the spirit of Christmas live on after the tree has lost its needles
by capturing the beautiful silence of this night
in the beautiful silence of our prayer.

The Lord Jesus breaks through the chaos of our world
in the stillness of our prayer – tonight in this holy Mass and every day –
touching our hearts with love’s pure light
and enveloping us in heavenly peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad I finally got to read this Xmas homily. It was great.