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God has not distanced himself from us

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Christmas Eve Mass at St. Mary Cathedral

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the 10 p.m. Mass, Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2020, at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami.

In every home, under the Christmas tree, there should be a “Nativity” or “creche.” First popularized in the 11th century by St. Francis of Assisi, those Nativities with the baby Jesus in a manger speak silently to our hearts, inviting us to live what they symbolize: Christ’s love, his humility, his poverty. At the end of this Mass, I will take the image of the Baby Jesus and place him in the manger.

On this Holy Night, this Silent Night, we see in his poverty, in his humility, the Child speaking silently of his love for each one of us. The Apostle John would succinctly summarize the Christmas message by writing: “God so loved the world that he gave it his only begotten Son."

This, of course, is the reason for our joy, a joy to the world. Christmas proclaims that the secret of the joy for which the human heart craves is not found in having a lot of things. Rather the secret of joy — proclaimed by angels from on high — is found in knowing that one is loved by the Lord and inspired by this love by making oneself a gift for others by loving them.

Esta Navidad llegamos al final de un año más; pero fue un año inusual y difícil marcado por una triple crisis: una pandemia mundial, dificultades económicas y malestar social. El COVID-19 nos ha afectado a todos, incluso si no todos fueron infectados por el virus. Algunos han sufrido la pérdida de un ser querido, otros sufrieron reveses económicos que resultaron en la pérdida de empleos o incluso de un hogar. Estas pruebas nos recuerdan que esta vida terrenal sigue siendo siempre un “valle de lágrimas”.

Sin embargo, la Navidad nos recuerda que en el Niño Jesús que nos nació, la luz de la esperanza vence las tinieblas de la desesperación. Ese Bebé, a pesar de su entorno humilde, es el centro de todo; él es el corazón del mundo.

Too often we are presented with a sanitized version of Christmas consisting mainly of the warm fuzzy feelings of a Hallmark card. So, we could easily forget that while Christmas celebrates the coming among us of the Prince of Peace, his coming was indeed “a sign of contradiction.” We underplay the fact that the pregnant Mary and her husband, Joseph, were turned away from the inn. We forget the slaughter of the Holy Innocents — and that the infant Jesus was spared their fate only through the hurried flight into Egypt where the Holy Family lived for many years as what today we would call “political refugees.”

Mary and Joseph were not what we would call today “people of influence or affluence.” Yet, as they look on the newly born baby lying in a feedbox for animals, “a manger for a bed,” they are full of joy. They love each other; they help each other, and they know that God is at work in their history, the God who made himself present in the Child Jesus.

Even the shepherds rejoiced — although the Child in the manger would not change the facts of their poverty or their marginalization from the “polite society” of the learned and the wise of this world. Yet, they are joyful because their faith allows them to recognize in the child a sign of the fulfillment of God’s promises. Through Christ who is born on that Holy Night, God and sinner will be reconciled.

Jezi fèt Betleyem – tou pòv. Men, se li menm ki poto mitan tout egzistans nou; se li ki se limyè espwa k ap gaye tout fènwa. Se Emanyèl, sa vle di, Bondye avèk nou. Nan ane 2020, lè pandemi fè youn rete lwen lòt, Bondye pwoche pre nou. Li pat gade distans ak nou. Epi, li rete tou pre nou. Si nou soufri, li soufri avèk nou; si n kriye, li kriye avèk nou. Li samble avèk nou nan tout bagay – sòf peche li pat fè. Epi, li fè sa, pou nou rive samble avè l.

This Christmas, we come to the close of another year; but it was an unusual and difficult year marked by a triple crisis: a global pandemic, economic hardship and social unrest. COVID-19 has affected all of us, even if not everyone was infected by the virus. Some have suffered the loss of a loved one, others suffered financial setbacks resulting in lost jobs or even a home. These trials remind us that this earthly life remains always a “vale of tears.” As the angel proclaimed to the poor shepherds in fields outside of Bethlehem:

“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people."

Yes, Christmas reminds us that in the Christ Child born for us the light of hope overcomes the darkness of despair. That Baby, despite his humble surroundings, is the center of everything; he is the heart of the world.

Even while the pandemic has forced us to practice “social distancing,” Christmas reminds us that God has not distanced himself from us. The abiding presence of the God who became man remains among us. This presence of Emmanuel — God with us — is God the Father’s Christmas present to each one of us. Those creches in our churches or under the Christmas tree in our homes, beckon us: “Come, let us adore him.”

Feliz Navidad! Jyaye Nwèl! Wesoly Swiat Bozego Narodzenia! Merry Christmas!

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