Father MIKAEL SCHINK S.J.
Homily for Christmas Day Mass
2022-12-25, St. Eugenia Catholic Church
+ Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Why did God become incarnate? We may fittingly ask this question today, for although the incarnation took place some nine months before the events of the current feast, the birth of our saviour is the culmination of the annunciation, when Christ became man in the womb of the virgin Mary.
Why did God become incarnate? Saint Thomas Aquinas asks a similar question at the very beginning of his treatise on Christ. The answer is worth to meditate on. He writes that ‘it belongs to the nature of goodness to communicate itself to others. Hence, it belongs to the nature of the highest good to communicate itself to creatures in the highest possible way. And this is particularly brought about when he unites created nature to himself as one person’ (ST III, q. 1 a. 1 co.)
The main reason for the incarnation is therefore that God wishes to communicate or unite himself with us. Although he has no need thereof, it lies in the nature of God as the greatest good to communicate himself to us. He does this not only by creation but in the highest way possible through the grace of the incarnation.
By joining himself to the Christ child in one person, God however not only communicates himself to that specific individual, but through the grace of Christ, also we are united with the Holy Trinity. We can therefore fittingly consider the solemnity that we celebrate today as a feast of communion and a kind of sacred friendship with God.
We have been preparing for the coming of the Lord throughout the time of Advent, so that he may find a dwelling in us when he comes. We have said our prayers in eager expectation for the Lord. We have heeded the voice crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight’ (Mark 1:3; Is. 40:3).
Saint John the Baptist, the precursor to Christ, is the one who has called on us to do everything in our power so that the Lord may find a worthy dwelling in us when he comes. He has called us to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And so many of us have gone to confession and done penance during the time of Advent to prepare for the arrival of the Lord.
The importance of preparation for the advent of the Lord is manifest in the peculiar circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ as recorded by Saint Luke, namely that ‘there was no room for them at the inn’ (Luke 2:7). This is certainly a correct description of our times, when many people are withdrawing from the Church and from a Christian life altogether. Thus, the cross is foreboded already in the nativity of Christ: just as he was not welcomed at his birth, so he was abandoned by nearly all of his disciples at his death.
But also we ourselves must pay attention so that we are not caught up in a worldly attitude. One reason for the lack of room for Christ in our hearts can certainly be that we are entangled in worldly affairs so that our desires are directed towards material and temporal things rather than spiritual. And so, we find ourselves in a situation where we do not have any profound longing for Christ, because our heart is set not on God but rather on the goods of this world. If we therefore fill our mind with worldly affairs, there will not remain much room for Christ when he comes.
The celebration of the nativity of the Lord is a time of rejoicing: paradoxically, the darkness and cold of the holy night also contain a great joy. Ans so, the angel says to the shepherds: ‘I bring you news of great joy’ (Luke 2:10). With our hearts enkindled by this joy of the Holy Spirit, we want to follow the shepherds to see the new-born Christ child and give our homage to him.
Together with Joseph and Mary, we want to fall down before the child in adoration. We want to see God having become man for our sake. But the contemplation of the Christ is no easy matter, since the Christ child is like every other child in every natural respect. But we wish to pass through the natural to the supernatural; we wish to see and contemplate the divinity through the humanity of Christ. We want to unite ourselves with God by seeing the child Jesus.
Let us therefore inwardly turn our mind to the God-child and recollect ourselves so that through the eyes of faith we may get a glimpse of his divinity. Let us turn to God in joy and hope and ask him for an earnest desire to unite ourselves with him in prayer and meditation. And let us ask him for the blessings of his nativity, that he may fill us with his holy presence and so lead us back to himself through his divinizing grace. +Amen