*Note: Today’s Gospel selection is the reading for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) Mass During the Day
The wisdom of Jesus is awesome, everlasting, astounding, surprising, transformative.
Merry Christmas. May the peace and joy of the infant Jesus reign in your heart and bring you new hope for whatever challenges and burdens you face in your life at this time. Welcome to Radical and Relevant. It's been a wonderful journey through Advent to this Christmas Day, where we've been exploring the enduring wisdom of Jesus in the Gospels. In today's scripture, from the first chapter of John's gospel, we read about Jesus as the beginning, Jesus as the Word, Jesus whom all things were made through, Jesus who overcame the darkness, and Jesus who was in the world, but not of the world.
"In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him. Yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. Full of grace and truth. We have beheld His glory, glory as of the Son from the Father.
John bore witness to him and cried, 'This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me. And from His fullness have we all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.'" No one has ever seen God. The only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known. This is one of the most studied passages in all of the Scriptures. It is so rich with meaning and symbolism. But you and I are looking for a word or a phrase or an idea to help us live the Gospel in the midst of our daily activities today. This is the practical approach we have taken to the Scriptures on our journey through Advent this year. And I hope and pray this technique will serve you for the rest of your life. I hope each Sunday at Mass you find yourself searching for a word, a phrase, or an idea to anchor the wisdom of that reading in your heart and in your life.
The word that strikes me today is Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The word Word is important. And our words are important. Our words matter. I met an old priest on one of my first visits to the United States back in the '90s. He said a person can become a saint just by governing his or her speech. This sparked a conversation that lasted for hours. I thought it was a fascinating idea. He spoke about using our speech in positive and negative ways.
Speaking when we should be quiet and remaining silent when we should speak up, charity in speech, gossip, and rumor spreading, how easy it is to assassinate a person's character with our speech. He spoke about prideful speech and humility in speech. He spoke about rushing to judgment, tone of speech and moody speech, profanity, and obscenity, complaining, using negative humor to put others down, courtesy and speech, arguments and the right ways to disagree with speech, and the constant challenge to be rigorously honest. It was one of the most extraordinary and fascinating conversations of my life. And so as we celebrate the Word becoming flesh this Christmas, let us resolve to use our speech more positively and productively going forward. The phrase that caught my attention in today's gospel is, "He was in the world."
You and I are just passing through this world. We may forget that at times but the reality is we are just passing through. But we aren't tourists. We are pilgrims on a holy journey headed for a holy place. Jesus was the perfect example of being in the world, but not of the world. He repeatedly said to people, "My kingdom is not of this world," which means our ultimate home is not of this world because we belong to His kingdom. Being in the world, but not of the world, creates real challenges. There are many things we are called on to do or participate in, things we feel obligated to do that are not important to us personally, but they may be very important to someone we love. And if they do not lead us astray, then they become an opportunity to grow in all sorts of virtues. Many people experience just this during this Christmas season.
There is a way to deal with such things gracefully and a graceless way to ruin such things for other people. The idea I'm drawn to in this reading today is children of God. Many of the saints have said or alluded to the idea that if we came even close to comprehending what that means to be children of God, we would not be able to speak or move. And an endless stream of joyful tears would stream down our faces. What does it mean to you to be a child of God? How much a part of your identity is it? When someone asks you who you are, do you think I am a child of God? People who have famous and powerful parents in this world draw a certain pride and identity from being the children of their parents. We have all seen that at work. Multiply that by infinity and take it to the depths of eternity and we still have barely a glimpse of what it means to be a child of God.
And so this Christmas, may we be renewed in our identity as children of God, not children of this broken world, not children of our wonderful, broken, selfish, imperfect, or abusive parents, but children of the living God. Today's virtue is hope. Christmas is the ultimate experience of hope. It is God saying to all of humanity, "I see you. I hear you. You are worthy. I am with you. You matter. I care. Rest a while. You are safe here with me." May God bless you and all those you love this Christmas. And may we each, in our own way, continue to astonish the world by allowing God's goodness to flow through us in every situation we find ourselves in every day of our lives.
Thank you, Ambassadors. You are changing the world. Have a great day. Bye-bye. Simon, come sit. I love you. Have a great day!