Catholic Schools week is starting! We have been blessed to have our school a part of our parish & community for 91 years. We are the only Catholic school remaining in Hillsdale and Lenawee Counties. We are so grateful to our principal and teachers and all those who make our school the gem that it is.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, after the long wait and expectation during the Advent season, today finally we come to the great celebration and joy that is Christmas, celebrating together as the whole Church, the occasion of the birth or the nativity, of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world and all of us. Today marks the day when more than two thousand years ago, our Saviour was born in a stable just outside the small town of Bethlehem, as prophesied throughout the Scriptures.
Today, we are called to return to the true roots of our Christmas joy and celebration, that is by putting Christ once again in the center of all of our merrymaking, celebrations and joy. We are called to remember the love by which we have been generously given by God, our loving Father and Creator. Then, we are also called to show the same love in our actions and interactions with those who are around us.
The true joy of our Christmas should be shared with those who have little or no opportunity to be joyful in this blessed time of Christmas. We should be sensitive to their plight, and be moved to help them just as the Lord had shown the same love and compassion towards us. And that is how we appreciate and live the true joy of Christmas, not the excesses and selfish desire to satisfy our own ego and pride and greed, but in the sharing of our joys and blessings.
We must walk this earth with our gaze fixed on Christ and our hope lifted to heaven. We must live in the light of Christmas, which is faith. We must act in the warmth of Christmas, which is love. We must rejoice in the radiance of Christmas, which is purity. We must walk in the brightness of Christmas, which is truth. We must focus our minds on the heart of Christmas, which is Christ. That is the way to live according to the sense and purpose of Christmas.
Jesus is counting on us. We are among those who believe in him because of the Apostles. And he is counting on us to make known his love to others. Jesus gave us his love and his Gospel. He is counting on us to live the good news and to transmit it to others to all people. When we do that, we shall be spreading the message, the beauty, the joy, and the benefit of Christmas to our fellow humans around us.
Today, let us open our hearts and minds, with a renewed faith and love, day after day, from now on, that we will no longer close ourselves from God Who is willing to enter into our lives. Let us all turn towards Him filled with a newfound love for Him, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. May the Lord, Who was born into our midst more than two thousand years ago, in the town of Bethlehem, because of His great love for us, continue to love us all, and that we may also love Him in the same manner, from now on. May God bless us all.
Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
for he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hand of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Today’s readings remind us that Jesus is reborn every day in ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the willingness to respond to God’s call and the openness to do God’s will. They suggest that Christmas should inspire us to carry out God’s word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect obedience to His will, in cheerful kindness and unselfish generosity.
In the first reading, the prophet Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem He will send them the long-expected ruler. The second reading, reminds us to be thankful to Jesus Christ who offered the perfect sacrifice of obedience that liberated us from sin. By his willingness and eagerness to do God’s will, (“Behold, I come to do your will”), Christ gave Himself in the place of all the other ritual sacrifices offered as the means of sanctification. In the Gospel Mary, the Mother of Jesus teaches us how to accept the Lord when he comes. There is joy in the encounter, Mary and Elizabeth encounter each other. It is not simply a meeting together. In their encounter, an exchange takes place, a mutual understanding a meeting between two persons. Both of them did not think of themselves as the most important people. Rather they praised God, Elizabeth praises Mary, Mary praises God. Both of them sing His greatness and mercy.
We too meet various persons in our life. Sometime they wait for us. There are people who do not need our money and goods but just our love and friendship. Our nearness can at times bring solace and healing to them. The more we give ourselves to others, the more we receive in return. The more we make others happy, the more we ourselves rejoice.
Perhaps this is the time given to us to come to understand our true selves, to turn towards God, and open our hearts and show generosity to others. Then we too will experience the thrill of the encounter with God and with one another. Only such an encounter can usher in true peace about which the prophet Micah spoke. Peace without reserve and without imitations springs from truth, benevolence and justice.
We need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did. We can make a real difference in the lives of others by carrying Jesus to them. However, we cannot give what we do not possess. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us. Thus, he enables us to share his love with all whom we encounter by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate caring.
The Visitation of Mary reminds us that, through his holy ministry, Christ continues to be present among his people. The same Christ “dwells among us” in the Bible, in the Sacraments, and in the praying community. What is expected of us during this Christmas week is the readiness to say “Yes!” to the Father, “Yes!” to Jesus, “Yes!” to all that we will experience in the coming year and “Yes!” to every call that God makes and will make on us.
Mary’s pilgrimage should be our model: As we journey with Mary to the hill country, let us continue to contemplate our own life’s journey — its joys and sorrows, its triumphs and its tragedies. Our Christian journey began in Christ at the Baptismal font where He joined Himself to us forever. Our journey continues with Christ as he nourishes us along the way with the food of his Word and the food of his Flesh. We were loved into being, and the One who sustains us each day will in the end give us fullness of life. As well as the birth of Jesus, at Christmas we celebrate our own birth also — birth into a life in this world that flows towards final resurrection.