Friday, December 14, 2007

Dec. 25 Christmas Day - Mass During the Day

By: Fr. Carlito Reyes
Professor of New Testament
Divine Word Seminary
Tagaytay City, Philippines
Reading 1: Is 52:7-10
Responsorial Psalm:
Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
R. (3c) All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Reading II:
Heb 1:1-6
Gospel: Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14

Powerless word. Henri Nouwen says that we live in a century when there are a lot of words. If one drives from Manila to Tagaytay, one sees a lot of words. You see them on big billboards, on the sidewalks, on the bodies of jeepneys and buses, you see words everywhere. You do not only see words, you also hear them a lot.

Many people complain that they say the same things again and again to their children or partners and yet they still remain the same. Their words are falling on deaf ears. Nouwen relates this reality with the law of supply and demand. When the supply of words is greater that the demand for them, words becomes cheap!

The second reading for today tells us that in the past God spoke a lot through the prophets. Maybe he saw that his words are failing on deaf e

Now he decides to speak differently: he sends us his Son, the eternal Word made flesh. Powerful word. Timothy Radcliffe, the former master general of the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans, invites us to observe adults talking to infants. He wonders why adults talk to infants who cannot understand them. Radcliffe says that they talk to infants not to communicate ideas, not to solicit bright insights, but to give life to them. Indeed, infants become alive when adults talk to them.

The Gospel reading is too theological, something very difficult to understand. However, just listen and receive the words of the Gospel. We will be like infants receiving words from our father. We may not understand him, but we will be alive. Today God give us his word. His word is powerful! Silence is also a way of giving power to our words.

Harold Kushner, the author who became famous because of his book entitled When Bad Things Happen to Good People, writes in his Book of Letters that the first word in the Hebrew alphabet is a (aleph). It is never pronounced. It is the sound which one makes to begin a sound. He says that it is the first letter of the 70 mysterious names of God in the Old Testament, like Elohim or El Shaddai, the first letter of the word Adam, the first letter of the first commandment. He opines that it is not accidental that these words begin with aleph: most important words begin with silence. Now we understand why we want our audience to be quiet when we want to say something important! Powerful and important words begin with silence. Now we understand why we sing Silent Night, Holy Night as we welcome God’s word becoming human.

The word became flesh. Gerald O’Collins, a popular Australian-born Jesuit systematic theologian, says that Christmas is a time to fill our senses. Our eyes enjoy seeing the different crèches, multi-colored Christmas lights, beautifully decorated Christmas trees. We hear joyful Christmas carols, bells waking us up early in the morning, the laughter of Santa Claus. We smell the roasted chestnuts, the incense in the church, the pine trees. We taste foods that appear only on Christmas, fruit cakes, Italian Christmas bread panitone, special hams and sausages. Finally our skins feel the cool breeze of the season.

Added to this is the reflection of Joyce Rupp who says that we do a lot of walking during this day: we walk an extra mile to reconcile with our enemies, we walk to the church and participate well in the service, we walk to our friends, relatives, and to the poor to bring them gifts. As the first reading says: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who. . . brings good news.” In short, all our senses are alive on Christmas day. Gerald O’Collins says that “By being built out of what we see, smell, taste, hear and feel, all these symbols and rituals correspond convincingly to what Christmas faith essentially means.” The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us!


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