My brothers and sisters in Christ, today, more than two billion Christians around the world is celebrating Christmas. This celebration is not simply a time for us to dine, drink and dance because it is a public holiday. While it is good to gather as family, friends and relatives to dine, drink and dance, let us not forget “Why we are doing what we are doing.” The meaning of the celebration of Christmas is clearly expressed in the Gospels.
At last night’s Midnight Mass, the Gospel of St Luke 2:1-14 tells us of “the first-born of Mary . . . wrapped in swaddling clothes . . . lying in a manger because there was no room in the inn . . . and how the Angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds in the fields during the night and announced to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”
Today’s Gospel of St John, that we just heard, proclaims that this Christ-Child that is born in a manger, is the Word; the “True Light” that enlightens all peoples . . . He came to His own domain and His own people did not accept Him. But, to all who accepted Him, He gave power to become children of God . . .”
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, when we celebrate Christmas, we are first and foremost celebrating the Coming of Christ, our Lord and Saviour into our world, into our homes, into all relationships and into our hearts. Christmas is a celebration of the “True and Divine Light” that wants and will enlighten us and make us Children of God, but if and only if our hearts are willing to accept Him as our Saviour and Lord. God does not and will not force us to love Him.
However, this Christ-Child deeply desires to be born into this world of darkness and sin; wants to live in the intimacy of our homes, become part of the relationships we treasure, and more specifically, and particularly today, this Christ-Child wants to develop a personal and intimate relationship with each and every one of us.
Last week, Jack and Jane (not their real names), both migrant workers whom I know were going through great trials in their marriage. Jane’s first marriage had failed, and she is supporting her teenage son of her first marriage. Moreover, Jane is also financially supporting fully his aged parents (with her father suffering from cancer) and seven other siblings in all their daily needs and education.
A few days ago, Jane found out that Jack has been keeping a girlfriend for the past several years. Jane was so distressed and depressed that she wanted to commit suicide by attempting to jump to her death from the apartment of her employer. However, fortunately, Jane has a very good and exemplary Catholic employer Joyce (not her real name). Joyce being so caring and concerned about Jane, managed to talk her out of her intention to commit suicide. However, Joyce was not sure whether Jane would commit suicide when she is not around to watch her, and there was no way she could be watching her at all times. So, she called me and her daughter who is presently overseas to talk to Jane and Jack. To make a long story short, Jack willingly admitted his wrong and was willing to part with his girlfriend. Even as Jane was deeply hurt and felt betrayed by her husband, she was willing to forgive him and start anew.
However, the following morning, Jack in spite of all his promises, phoned Jane to say that he still wants to keep his relationship with his girlfriend. This phone called totally shocked Jane, but again, her Catholic employer Joyce and I continued to persuade her to continue to pray and beg God for the strength to persevere in her crisis. We reminded Jane that her aged parents, teenage son and seven siblings are all dependant on her financially. Who would support them if she is to end her life? What would happen to them? Does she want them to suffer like her? Jane finally began to accept that her life is beyond just her and her husband and that she also has very great responsibilities to provide and care for his parents and not to give up on God even though she is in a darkness that is filled with despair, helplessness and hopelessness. Joyce urged Jane to pray and together they prayed the Rosary and begged God for light and strength and hope.
One day later, Jack’s employer phoned Jane to say that her husband is not able to work and is shivering and shaking; that he is depressed. Jane refused to talk to Jack. However, Joyce convinced her to meet up and talk to Jack. Jane reluctantly went . . . to make a long story short, Jane and Jack has now reconciled and Jane is willing to give Jack another chance; both of them are calmer and are able to get back to work . . .
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jane and Jack’s story is one of thousands and millions of other similar tragic stories in the world. We live in a world that is filled with much suffering and pain. Our human experiences tell us that we are all weak, fragile and sinful. We each have a tendency to become self-centred in our choices and as a result cause much pain and suffering to others.
The celebration of Christmas is a celebration of True Hope in God who has come to be with us in our pain and suffering, darkness and desperation. The celebration of Christmas is a celebration of the “True and Divine Light” that wants and will enlighten us and make us Children of God.
The true story of Jane and Jack are real; in fact, many of us here know of family, friends and relatives who are also going through the same trauma that Jane and Jack is going through. Perhaps, some of you here are going through similar experiences like that of Jane and Jack.
If you are, then remember never to give up on God for God the Christ-Child wants and deeply desire to be born into this world of darkness and sin, wants to live in the intimacy of our homes, become part of the relationships we treasure, and more specifically, in our celebration of Christmas, this Christ-Child wants to develop a personal and intimate relationship with each and every one of us.
If you are not, then remember those family, friends and relatives whom you know who are suffering from such traumatic situations. God wants to use you as His instrument of Reconciliation, Peace, Love and Hope in this Christmas season. Through Joyce, the exemplary Catholic employer, Jane was not just a domestic helper. To Joyce, Jane is a human person who is suffering, and more importantly Jane is a child of God . . . Jack too is a child of God, and every single person; even a stranger is a child of God.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, You and I are precious in God’s eyes and we are each a child of God . . . If we ourselves are going through much pain and suffering, then the Light of Christ at Christmas wants to dispel the darkness and restore His Peace, Love and Hope in our hearts and homes.But, of others are in darkness and despair, then God wants us to reach out to them . . . to be His Light of Reconciliation, Peace, Love and True Hope to them. This is precisely why God sent Joyce into the life of Jane and Jack. What about us? . . . Will we accept God’s invitation to be like Joyce to those whom we know who are in need . . .?
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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