Sisters and Brothers! How would you describe grace? If you asked me I would tell you of a little girl I met in our parish school a couple of weeks ago who introduced herself saying: I am Grace. There was something special about her which still stays with me so that when I hear the word grace the beautiful face of that girl comes to my mind. Christian people have had a similar experience when it comes to salvation. Salvation for Christians is not a theory or a definition. For Christian people Salvation has a face. For Christian people Salvation has hands and feet. For Christian people Salvation has a great heart. It is the face, hands, feet and the great heart of Jesus Christ whose birth gathers us today. His very name, JESUS, means GOD SAVES. During those years of the Lord’s childhood every time Mary and their neighbours were calling him by his name they were announcing that God saves.
These days when we experience so much uncertainty of our new Covid normal, which appears so fragile, as the recent development in NSW showed us, we may ask ourselves: What does it mean to us at 2020 Christmas that God saves us? A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, a cloistered Carmelite nun gave me a little statue of the Baby Jesus sleeping on the cross. This year when I looked at it I couldn’t help thinking that the suffering humanity is the cross on which Jesus is born for us and for our salvation today.
In September one of our Oblate seminarians in Poland volunteered to work in a hospital where people who suffer from Covid-19 are treated. He has been there ever since. As you can understand he is not able to socialise with his Oblate community or his family. With permission of his Oblate superior he gave up on being paid for his work. When people ask him why he is still there, in this dangerous situation, and with no payment, his answer is: ‘If you want to understand me first I need you tell you about Jesus.’
Let me tell you something about Jesus too. If we wanted to put candles on his birthday cake we would have 2020 candles. All those candles would remind us of his humanity, of his life as a son of Mary. However when we think of his Divinity, of his life as the Son of God the Father, we need to abandon the idea of putting candles on his birthday cake. As the son of God he is eternal, ‘Born before ages,’ as we profess in the Creed. We would like to be eternal, wouldn’t we? Not to need to face death and suffering is an enticing thought, isn’t it? Why then Jesus would choose to be mortal, a subject to death and suffering? The answer to this question seats on your right and left, in front of you and behind you as well. When you go home after this Mass, look into the mirror, there you will find the answer to this question too. Let it sink deep into your soul. Savour it.
I presume you will have a Christmas lunch with your family. Please accept the Good News of the Salvation, which has the face of the New Born Jesus, as food for your life journey. This Good News will not only sustain you through these difficult times but it will transform you like it did transform that seminarian I told you about.
‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the Town of David a saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’