The Holy Father’s Christmas homily

The Holy Father’s Christmas homily

Pope Benedict’s Christmas homily for Midnight Mass was superb. Of course, if you were to read most secular news sources, you’d think the only thing he talked about was abortion and the Palestinians, but that’s not so.  He spoke of God’s everlasting “today” that intersected with our “today” at the Incarnation:

God’s everlasting “today” has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God’s eternal today. God is so great that he can become small. God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendour and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us.

Beautiful. He also spoke of how light is an important theme of Christmas and that the light is the source of life and it enters into the world with Christ. It is also a source of truth, chasing away the darkness of lies and lack of knowledge.

He then said that peace is a third key to the Christmas Midnight Mass, and then went into an exposition of how the verse from Luke has changed from “peace to men of good will” to “peace to those whom God loves” and what that means. Is good will no longer important? And who does God love? Does he favor only some people? He answers those questions by looking at who is named among those whom God loves.

But there are also two groups of people: the shepherds and the wise men from the East, the “Magi”. Tonight let us look at the shepherds. What kind of people were they? In the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court. But really, who were they? To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic virtue. They were simple souls. The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: they were people who were watchful. This was chiefly true in a superficial way: they kept watch over their flocks by night. But it was also true in a deeper way: they were ready to receive God’s word. Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open.

They were watchful and ready to listen and set out when the truth and divine light was granted them. They only needed a light to shine on the path to show the way.

It’s a beautiful and concise homily. Thank you, Holy Father, and thanks for the Vatican web site where can read him unfiltered by the media.

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  • We watched some of it Saturday night, but it’s hard to follow the homily as I can follow Italian and my husband understands it, so we can hear the Holy Father *just* under Abp Foley – it’s really very hard for us to listen to. I actually like Abp Foley in general – he’s not as intrusive as secular commentators and he’s knowledgable – but I do wish they’d put the translation up in subtitles instead, so we could *hear* the Holy Father. Can’t have everything. But you’re right, this is off the mark of what he was actually saying. My husband: “Well, *of course* they’re going to twist what he actually said!”

  • “How the verse from Luke has changed…”????
    “At one time we used to say…”???
    Why not just tell it like it is?
    The angels, God’s messengers, said: “Peace on earth to men of good will”
    But we changed it to “…whom God loves”
    Why do we so often think we can manage things just a bit better than God???
    Parenthetically, I had never heard of “us saying ..” before.  Just where and when and by whom was it changed?  Macey’s per chance?

  • Actually the angels did not say “Peace on earth to men of good will.” It’s likely they said Aramaic. They told others, probably Mary, what they heard. Those others/Mary eventually told still others and St. Luke finally heard it and wrote it down in Greek. That Greek text was copied and copied over and over, so that today we have thousands of copies of the same verse, some of them not agreeing with others. Scholars agreed on one normative Greek rendering that was put into thr standardized Greek text (called the UBS) that all modern translations use as their reference. That Greek UBS was eventually translated by different scholars into English, German, etc.

    My point is that we should avoid being Scriptural literalists because we are several languages and thousands of years removed from the words as they were originally spoken. This is why we don’t rely on “Scripture alone” but read it in light of Tradition and the teaching magisterium of the Church.

    The reality is that the newer rendering is probably a better translation and more accurate to the Greek text than the older English translations based on less accurate renderings of the Greek.