December 25, 2015 Midnight Mass
Reading I Isaiah 9:1-6
Psalm Psalm 96
Reading II Letter of St. Paul to Titus 2:11-14
Gospel Luke 2:1-14
“Today a child is born to us.” That was said for each one of us on a certain day in a certain year. We celebrate our birthday every year. We celebrate our anniversaries every year. Why? Why don’t you do it once and forget about it? Why is it so important that you were born on a certain day, or, that you got married on a certain day? The church is telling us: The reason we do it is because if we don’t, we might forget who we are. And if we don’t do it, we might stray away and forget that we belong to someone else.
A few years ago there was a gentleman who was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He was known throughout the city to be an atheist. The editor called him in one day and said, “I would like for you to go into the inner city and visit a family and do a story in preparation for Christmas.” This reporter had no idea what was going to take place.
The editor said, “Here is the name of the family and where they live. Go there and get to know them.” And so he went out to the tenements of Chicago on the South Side and knocked on the door. A woman 60 years of age was living in this one room raising her two granddaughters, ages 10 and 12. The man walked in and saw that the only thing in the room was a table and three chairs. The only clothes in the room were three outfits: one for grandma, and one for each of the girls. The girls had one sweater to wear when it was cold. When they walked to school one girl wore the sweater half way, then her sister wore it the other half.
The reporter sat there and he listened to this story and then asked, “How do you do it?” And the grandmother said, “We have faith in God.”
The reporter went back to the office and wrote a fantastic story. The people of Chicago responded and sent clothes and furniture and food and thousands of dollars. When it came to the day before Christmas he decided to go back to the apartment and see how things were going. He thought to himself, “Because of the huge response shown by everyone this shows that I am a fantastic reporter. I have taken a family living in the slums and written a story about them and the whole city of Chicago is responding.”
So he went back to see grandma and the two girls. When he got there he was just stunned because grandma and the girls were wrapping up everything and giving it all away. He said, “How can you do this? I wrote the article. You were given all these things, you ought to be happy.” The grandmother responded, “We can’t receive these things — not when our neighbors have nothing. It’s not right.” The man went back and finished his last story for Christmas Day. It wasn’t long after that that he met Jesus and his life changed.
That’s why we celebrate Christmas.
It’s for us to realize: “If we are children of God, everyone in this world is my sister and brother. I can’t sit down and have a fantastic meal knowing that someone sitting right there with me has nothing to eat. I can’t just think of myself and know that someone else is sick. I can’t hoard money when I know someone else needs the money.”
If we only celebrated Christmas one time, you and I might be like the reporter. But because we celebrate Christmas every year, because we celebrate our birthdays every year, because we celebrate our anniversaries every year — we awaken in our own hearts what it’s all about. We cannot forget, and we celebrate because we have faith. Someone makes it all happen. In life there has to be a repetition. It’s the mother of all learning.
During seven o’clock Mass many parents brought their children. One little girl walked over to the Nativity set and I asked, “Who is that?” The little girl answered, “That’s Jesus.” I pointed and asked, “Who’s that?” The little girl answered again, “That’s Mary.” I then asked, “Who’s that?” She said, “That’s Joseph.” The mom said, “It’s just like the Nativity set we have at home, all the same people are in it.” The three-year-old child can tell me who they all are. I guarantee that when she grows up, and as she grows up because there is no magical age to any of it, she will know why we celebrate this moment and that when we are given a gift God says, “Then you are forced to share the gift.”
The Christmas season started at midnight and will go until January 10. And so tonight, while we are celebrating the joy of the Christmas season, when we leave church we need to remember we have a few days to live out this joy. God is saying to us, “Always remember what is given to you. I gave you my son so that you could have love. I am asking you now to receive my son so that you, too, will have love. And love is what will change the hearts of the entire world. No one will be forgotten, no one will be thirsty, no one will be hungry, no one will be alone, and everyone will know how to appreciate all they have.”
Then in one voice when someone asks, “How do you do it?” We respond, “Because we have faith.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0025)