25 December – Mass during the day
John 1.1-5, 9-14
A teacher decided to take her class of 10 year olds to visit the crib and she asked them to bring a little Christmas gift for the baby Jesus. At the crib they put in their gifts next to Jesus. One boy gave a whistle, another a bag of peanuts, a little girl put in a small doll and the next little boy put in a small statue of the Sacred Heart. The teacher was curious and asked him why. He replied that he thought it would be good for Jesus to see what he would be like when he grew up!!
It is true for most of us that we like to know what’s coming next, especially as the New Year is so near now. The gospel we just read is like that. It is called the prologue or the introduction to the gospel of John and he gives us an idea of what is to come later in the gospel. But it also speaks to us of our human situation now. It is a gospel of hope and promise.
The first verse tells us very simply, recalling the opening of the Book of Genesis when God created the world. It says that ‘in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
The Word is another name for Jesus. The verse says straight out that Jesus is God and towards the end of the gospel in Chapter 20:30-31 John says that the purpose of writing the gospel was that so we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
You might say we all know this. Do we really? My brother and many of my childhood friends no longer believe Jesus is God. And even for us, it is easy to say I believe that Jesus is God but how real is that in my life? When John says we are asked to believe that Jesus is God he is using the verb ‘to believe’ or the phrase ‘to have faith in Jesus’ in a special sense. He uses the verb ‘to believe’ or faith 94 times in his gospel and it always means ‘to be a true disciple of Jesus, to follow him closely, to do his will, to have a deep friendship with Jesus. So, is that true of you and me? God knows that only by doing this can we really be happy and he will do everything possible to help us develop our friendship with Jesus.
Next he says that Jesus the light shines in the darkness, a darkness which could not overcome it. This is telling us that in Jesus, the light of the World, there will be a struggle with the powers of darkness in his life but that he will be victorious over darkness, sin and death. Is this not true of you and me too? Don’t we know our own inner struggle against sin and the temptations that face us daily? The whole life of Jesus was involved in this struggle and he is reminding us here that if we really ‘believe’ in the sense I have just explained we too will struggle against sin and evil in our own lives. Jesus, delighted with our efforts to please him will give us the courage that we too will finally succeed with him at our side, even if we fail from time to time.
The next part in the prologue tells us the amazing fact that his own people, the Chosen People of God, for the most part would not accept him. But whoever did were empowered to become children of God. The mystery for me is why some people in the same family accept Jesus and others don’t. I know one family which has 2 famous priests in the family whilst the third claims to be an atheist. He is anything but a bad or a wicked person but he says that in all honesty he cannot accept Jesus as God. How grateful are we for the gift of our faith, how often do we thank God for it? Personally I don’t know how I could survive in life without my experience of having Jesus as my close friend. Why he would choose me is another mystery but he does and that is all that counts.
The other main aspect of today’s gospel is that The Word or Jesus became flesh. This incredible statement means that Jesus chose to empty himself to be as we are except that he didn’t sin. This means that God loves us so much he wants to be with us, just like two lovers always want to be close to each other. God is the great Lover of humankind and he desires to stay close to us. Though I ask myself why when I see the way I, we treat him. Often ignoring him, refusing to do his will, going our own way and then when we realise our sins or failings we turn back and there He is so full of joy that we are back that he delights in showing us mercy. God doesn’t give up on us. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Today’s feast is speaking to us again of Jesus who is God, He who comes as the Light to show us the way in the darkness of this world and in spite of having to struggle is victorious. He invites us to join him in the struggle against the evil in our world. He desires greatly that we would accept his offer of friendship unlike many who refuse this. He became as we are so that he knows us from the inside, our struggles, our difficulties and our joys too. And finally he wants us to have the enduring love that he has for his Father so that here and now we may already start experiencing the deep peace and joy he came to bring us at Christmas.
“Lord Jesus. Why did you bother to come and live amongst us when you see how we treat you, often ignoring you or doing our own thing and yet you never give up on us. May we continue to be ever more grateful for your incredible choice of us and your unending love for us. May we be like the shepherds and the Wise Men so that may we continually adore, praise and thank you and offer you the gift you most desire from us, a deep, personal friendship with you.”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA