The 2nd Sunday Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I found some funny jokes about marriage. One of them says, “my wife and I have the secret to making a marriage last. Two times a week, we go to a nice restaurant and have a little wine and good food with beautiful candles. She goes Tuesdays, and I go Fridays.”

Marriage is challenging sometimes because it requires self-sacrifice and generosity. My brother has a family. He has two kids. They are now 6 and 10. One time I visited his family for a couple of days. The kids were 2 and 6. He worked all day and came home and couldn’t have a rest. He had two kids to play with at home. I saw his fatigue on his face but there were no ways to rest. I thought to myself, “I am sure he has a happy marriage and family but now I can see how much he sacrifices himself to keep it up.” Yes. Sometimes it is challenging and requires self-giving love. But on the other hand, it is also a blessing and a sacrament that God binds. Every time young couples come to me for their marriage preparation, I am happy to see their enthusiastic devotion and commitment toward Matrimony for which the passionate love in Christ is necessary. They love one another. They want to grow the love in Christ through the sacramental bond. How beautiful it is! I am very proud of them. I try to lead them to understand how abundant and countless God’s blessing are in the sacrament of Matrimony through the marriage prep.

Often times, the Bible uses images of marriage to express the relationship between God and us. Today’s first reading takes this metaphor again to show us how much God loves us: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” The Israelites are desperate in the Babylonian Exile. But they are about to be released from that slavery through the mercy of God. The Prophet Isaiah is now singing this mercy and liberation of God in the nuptial bond between the Husband and the Wife. And finally, the liberation prophesy is fully fulfilled in Christ. Christ is the Groom and we are His Bride. This covenant is everlasting.   

We have the wedding at Cana in today’s Gospel. This is regarded as the third Epiphany of the Lord. First, Jesus is made manifest at the appearance of the Magi at Christ’s birth. The second is the revelation of Trinitarian love at Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. Today’s Gospel passage is the first miracle that Jesus performs, and by doing this, He reveals His Messianic power to people. To Mary’s request, Jesus responds at first, “woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His time is not there yet, but by performing the first miracle, He shows His third Epiphany to people for Mary’s request.

The most important thing in the Gospel is that His presence at the wedding feast is the confirmation of the goodness of marriage. Like the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, marriage is an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence (CCC 1613). We are sanctified and grown in the Matrimony through love between husband and wife. Just as Christ brings more good to the wedding feast at Cana through His miracle, Christ’s sacrament of matrimony brings much more good to the natural marriage. What we have in the sacrament of Matrimony is the reflection of the goodness and the truth and the beauty of God.

Actually, I have been wanting to give a homily about the Catholic marriage and its annulment since I was assigned to Holy Cross. I think today is the perfect time to remind you of the Church’s teaching on that.

I hope you listen carefully. A Sacramental marriage is permanent. For a Catholic marriage to be valid, form and matter are required. The form is the right words in the Holy Matrimony rite done by the Church minister in front of witnesses. And the matter is the free consent. A man and a woman must bring their free consent to marry and explicitly express their consent by the words in the right form before the witnesses. Let’s think of it this way. If musicians want to have a concert, they must consent to work hard and practice and intend to play beautiful music in harmony with one another for the entire concert. And they must play the music in a concert hall which is the right form. If a marriage has all of these elements (consent and form), it is valid and permanent. When a man and a woman stand before a priest and witnesses and say freely without any coercion, “I, Mike, take you, Mary, to be my wife. I promise to be faithful to you…” in the wedding rite, it is a valid and permanent marriage. Only death can part them. They love one another in Christ until they go to see God. If you keep this marriage for life, it is a happy ending of the marriage. If I were teaching about marriage to the third grade in CCD, I’d stop here. But you are not third graders, you know it doesn’t always work out that way. Good people with good intentions try hard but they get divorced and have broken and hurtful relationships in their families.

In this case, people get divorced. But the Church still recognizes the valid sacramental marriage even though you are divorced civilly. But there is an annulment process in the Catholic Church. It refers to a Catholic declaration of nullity. This means that the Church declares that there was some flaw in the marriage that kept it from being sacramental in the first place. An annulment just says that the Church recognizes that the marriage was not sacramental because it fell short of at least one of the essential elements that I mentioned a while ago (form and matter).  

I know there are some people in the Church who need an annulment. If you are married now-I am talking about married people--you are okay if you are single. If you are married now and either you or your spouse has been married before, we need to get the previous marriages annulled. I am going to repeat. If you are married now and you or your spouse have previous marriages, please come to me and ask me. I am here to help you, not judge you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me through my email and the office phone number in the bulletin and the website. Let us sit down and talk about your situation and get that solved together. I am going to walk with you. It could take time sometimes or it could be short. But I will help you through it every step of the way. It is going to be confidential. Don’t worry about it.

There is one more thing to tell you. If you are Catholic, you are obliged to marry in the Church. If you are married civilly and don’t have your marriage convalidated yet, please come to me. I am telling you again. If you are Catholic and you have not married in the Catholic Church, please contact me. I will help you too.

And I have one more thing regarding annulments. Please don’t judge others by this marriage impediment. If you are single or divorced, you are okay. Even though you are divorced, the Church still recognizes your first bond. No issues rise until you remarry. You are still eligible for communion. Some people say, “You are divorced. You are not allowed to take communion.” This is not true. But sometimes these words might hurt people and keep them away from Jesus for many years. It is sad. Please come and ask me about that. And please don’t judge each other about their marriage issues.

One more time, if you have any questions about your marriage, please contact me. We walk together. We go closer to God together. We help each other on the way. We all deserve to be loved by God. God wants us to have life within Him. Jesus is still in the midst among us like He is present in the wedding at Cana. If we go to God humbly and place our issues before Him, God will embrace all of us and sanctify us all through His mercy and love. Let us walk together that way and let us make the path of Christ straight in our life.


The Baptism of the Lord Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I remember the first time I baptized a baby in Wasilla. It had been a couple of months since I was assigned to Sacred Heart. It was 2013. A family was scheduled for a baptism in a Sunday mass on a weekend. I was supposed to go to St. Christopher’s in Willow to say a mass that weekend. But Fr. Scott Garrett, who was the pastor of Sacred Heart in Wasilla, told me to be in Sacred Heart and do the first baptism instead of going up to Willow. We decided to switch. He went up to Willow for the mass, and explained to the parishioners why I couldn’t come up. He said, “Fr. Andrew couldn’t come today because he is practicing a child baptism in Wasilla.” Yes. I was practicing the baptism. I got instructed by Fr. Scott how to baptize and read all the words in the rite beforehand in order not to make a mistake, visualizing a beautiful rite of the baptism. The day came and I went to the baptismal font with the family. The baby was so small and cute that I hesitated for a moment to pour the cold water into the baby’s head because I didn’t want to make the baby cry. But I did pour it and of course, the baby cried and I baptized the baby. Everything went well without any mistakes. I was happy about the baby and the family. The baby was reborn in Christ.

I am still very touched by the words in the baptism rite every time I baptize babies. I don’t know if you remember some of the words. Here are my favorite phrases: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit.” We say this after anointing babies with Chrism oil. After we put a white stole on the babies, we say, “(NN), you have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity.” After someone from the family lights a baptism candle from the Easter candle; we say, “this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He or she is to walk always as a child of the light.” All these beautiful words are given to newly baptized babies and reveal the spiritual meaning of baptism. In summary, a baby is reborn as a new creation through baptism, getting freedom from original sin, leading to eternal life, becoming a child of Christ and a member of the Church, and having the Christian dignity to walk with Christ. Basically, these are the sacramental effects of the baptism. Through the sacrament of baptism, we all are united in Christ.

Today we celebrate the baptism of the Lord. We conclude the season of Christmas today and go back to the reflecting on the public ministry of Jesus. As we close the Christmas season, the Church invites us to remind ourselves what our baptism means to us. In today’s gospel, Jesus receives his baptism from John the Baptist. You might want to ask a question at this point. Why is Jesus baptized if baptism removes sins and Jesus has no sins? He doesn’t need to be baptized, but he is baptized because he wants to be equal to human beings and consecrate the water by which we now receive the sacrament of baptism. By receiving human baptism, he establishes a new baptism and elevates it as a sacrament.

After Jesus’ baptism, we find a wonder and a sign that come down from heaven. In the Gospel as Jesus ascends from the water, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and a voice comes out, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” This identification as the Son of God is the second manifestation or epiphany of the Messiah. Jesus descends into the River to sanctify the waters, which are then empowered to give birth to children of God. We become a new creation through the Christian baptism. This is the second creation. We become adopted children of God through baptism.

Through baptism, we gain a new identity. We are reborn as God’s children. Today’s liturgical prayers present this new title obviously. Like I told you last weekend, the Church expresses theology of feasts by implication through liturgical prayers. Therefore, let us take a look at today’s collect. You probably remember the words, don’t you? It says, “Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you.” This identity as God’s children keeps us united firmly with God. Nothing can separate us from God because this divine bond gives us courage to stand up against darkness. This identity brings us to the gladness and divine bliss of eternal life.

Our baptism tells us who we are. We are God’s children. But sometimes, people identify themselves by how much they have. They recognize themselves by what kind of jobs they have: doctors, teachers, nurses, lawyers, construction workers, social workers, etc. They define themselves by what backgrounds they have. But today’s celebration, the Baptism of the Lord, tells us that no matter how much we have, no matter what jobs we have, no matter where we live, no matter what houses we are living in, we are God’s children through baptism. This is very important. Identifying ourselves as God’s sons and daughters is the power to live out Christ’s kenosis which means, ‘Christ’s self-emptying’ and open ourselves to the gladness and eternal life. This identification is what we need before we start to walk with Jesus on His public ministry in ordinary time. And this is why the Church puts this feast at the end of the Christmas season and in the beginning of ordinary time. This is a good reminder of our identity, God’s children through our baptism. I’d like to conclude my homily with today’s preface. It tells us to rise to new life in Christ and spread this wonderful news to the poor as we unite ourselves with Christ in our baptisms. The Holy Spirit will help us. “You revealed with signs and wonders a new Baptism, so that through the voice that came down from heaven we might come to believe in your Word dwelling among us, and by the Spirit’s descending in the likeness of a dove we might know that Christ your Servant has been anointed with the oil of gladness and sent to bring the good news to the poor.”


Epiphany of the Lord Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

In special occasions liturgically like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Ash Wednesday, Corpus Christi, the Church presents beautiful prayers that express the themes of those days most. Today is the solemn Feast of the Lord’s Epiphany. We also have wonderful prayers in the liturgy. Those are a great help to let us know today’s theme. So, let us take a look at today’s preface. Of course, you will all hear the words later in this mass. The preface tells us why the Church celebrates the Feast of Epiphany of the Lord. It says, “For today you have revealed the mystery of our salvation in Christ as a light for the nations, and, when he appeared in our mortal nature, you made us new by the glory of his immortal nature.”

There are two main points in this prayer. First, God sends into the world, His son, Jesus Christ out of His love and manifests His saving plan for all nations and the totality of all creation. The mystery of Incarnation leads to the fulfillment of the Paschal event of Christ’s death and rising, the saving will of God, is revealed and accomplished in all creation. The incredible love of our gracious God fulfilled in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is made manifest today in every corner of the world. Second, there is the effect of Jesus’ manifestation in the prayer. “When he appeared in our mortal nature, you made us new by the glory of his immortal nature.” What does this manifestation bring to us? Jesus’ Epiphany is nothing but a beginning of a transformation of our mortal nature. It’s an elevation of human nature into the glory of the divinity. That is to say, the Epiphany of the Lord is a completion of the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation. Through this manifestation, we are able to gaze toward the glory of God, and enter into the Paschal mystery. Now we are standing at the door of the journey to sanctification. You must have paid attention to today’s collect, the opening prayer in the beginning of the mass. What does it say? It says, “we who know you already by faith may be brought to BEHOLD the beauty of your sublime glory.” We know him by faith and are now invited to look intensely at the Light that shines upon all nations and countries. This is what we celebrate today.

We find this wonderful news in today’s readings that Jesus’ manifestation is revealed to all nations. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah sings in his vision that God’s glorious light shines on Jerusalem but people from every race and nation joyfully flock to Israel bearing gifts and together praising God’s glory. From this gathering, the new Israel is raised and established on the upcoming advent of the Messiah. This universal manifestation is echoed in today’s responsorial psalm: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” God is calling together every king and nation to acknowledge and serve Him in holiness: “the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.” St. Paul also reminds us of this public revelation and to whom this has been passed on. God’s revelation is entrusted to the apostles and their successors. But His grace is dispensed through the Sacraments and the Gentiles are also coheirs of God’s salvation and recipients of God’s revelation. Today we celebrate the manifestation of the revelation to every creature.

We all know God’s revelation is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus’ epiphany to the Gentiles in today’s Gospel is the beginning of God’s salvation plans for all nations like I said. We see how the three kings, the Gentiles, are guided by a star in today’s Gospel. The three wise men search for the King and finally discover a star. They follow the star and finally encounter the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and pay homage and present the three gifts to Him. Through this event, Jesus, the culmination of God’s revelation, is made manifest to all people.

But a question is “who recognizes the Messiah’s birth, the culmination of the revelation?” According to the Gospel, a lot of people know the birth of the King. The scribes, high priests, and King Herod know when and where the Messiah is born. But their response is totally opposite to the Magi’s. Even though they are descendants of Abraham and followers of the Mosaic Laws, they don’t accept the Messiah by faith. Rather, they try to kill the baby. On the contrary, The Magi, even though they are the Gentiles and non-believers, recognize the King of all creatures and pay Him homage. They are right there in the divine place where the mystery of the Incarnation happens, presenting their gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They are pagans. But they search for the Messiah and worship the new born Jesus while God’s chosen people around Jerusalem and Bethlehem sleep unaware that the Messiah has come.

Some people make a joke about the three wise men. If they had been three wise women instead of three wise men, they would have known the directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought disposable diapers as gifts. Whatever the gender of the wise, this story in the Gospel of Matthew challenges us. The Gospel is written for the Jews. Israel considered themselves the chosen people. They hoped and longed to see the Messiah. Yet here are three Gentiles to whom the promise of the Messiah had not been made, who are among the first to see and believe in Jesus.

Today’s liturgy again challenges us to ask ourselves questions: “How do we imitate the Magi, the gift givers?” “How do we become the epiphany of God’s saving love to all nations in the world?” “How do we accept Jesus as the Light to the countries like the wise men?” Like the three kings become a channel to salvation of all nations-even though they are the Gentiles, we are supposed to be open more to the truth, the revelation of God. We might be in darkness unless we are open to the Light of the world even though the manifestation already brings the Light to the world. We need to avoid the way of the scribes, the high priests, and King Herod: unawareness of Jesus’ manifestation.

Therefore, let us be more open to search for Jesus in our lives. Let us follow the star, the Light, that guides us in darkness so that we may encounter Jesus and enjoy the mystery of the manifestation and offer our gifts to Him. We all know there is life in Jesus. Let us open ourselves more to Jesus today. And then God’s salvation will be brighter and closer in our lives.


The Holy Family Homily-Dn. Bill Finnegan

On this Feast of the Holy Family, I pray that all of your families are well and have the survived the 7.0 earthquake and all the aftershocks, including the 5.0 on Thursday.   We were not here on that fateful day, but a deacon friend who watches our house called to let us know that the house was still standing, but that the interior was “a shambles”!  
It was another 2 weeks before we got home for Christmas and got to see the damage for ourselves, and “shambles” was a very descriptive word.  Everything that was on the walls and in cupboards was on the floor, and most of it in pieces, if it was breakable.  I’m sure many of you experienced the same thing.  Fortunately it is all just “stuff” and no great loss.  Our daughter, Cindy, who lives in assisted living here, rode it out pretty well.  With every aftershock, she simply says, “quake”.
You may be wondering why I bring this up on this feast day.  As many of you know I collect Nativity scenes.  Including the ornaments on the tree, I have over a 150 scenes.  Some were on permanent display around the house and suffered some damage.  Two in particular were affected by the quake.  One was a Llardro one piece Holy Family.  I found Joseph off by himself on the other side of the room and it took me a while to realize that it was a clean break and easily repairable.  The figure of Joseph in a Native Southwest multi-piece set was less fortunate.  The stable, which is an adobe hut, survived, as did Jesus, Mary, the little drummer boy and a native girl gift bearer.  Joseph, however, was completely shattered, perhaps beyond repair.  (Dn. Bill told me about St. Joseph statue in St. Andrew’s, ER.)
Again, my reason for mentioning this is the importance of Joseph to the Holy Family, and as a role model for our families who seek holiness.  Without Joseph, there is no Holy Family.  Joseph, the carpenter, is the ever present stability and the protector of Jesus and Mary.  As such, he is a role model for all married men.  Along with all my Nativities, I also have a coffee table book of Nativities from around the world.  The other day I saw a picture of one depicting Joseph standing and holding Jesus in his arms, while Mary sleeps on the hay in the background.  Every young father knows this experience - trying to sooth a crying baby in the middle of the night, while allowing the mother to get some much needed rest. 
During this sacred season we heard and will hear other readings concerning Joseph.  Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Innocents in which we heard that, after the Magi departed, Joseph led his family on the Flight into Egypt to protect the infant Jesus from Herod’s wrath.  Again fulfilling his role as leader of the family and protector of those whom God has placed in his care. 
It is his strong Jewish faith that brings him and his family to the Temple to fulfill their annual Passover commitment in today’s Gospel.  As we heard, on this visit, Jesus is 12 years old and remains behind after they have completed their duty, to be in His Father’s House.  Joseph and Mary, upon realizing He is not with them, return to search for Jesus.  The reading ends with Jesus returning to Nazareth and being obedient to his parents.  That is what each child is called to do - to be obedient to their mother and to their father. 
Earlier in Advent, we heard how, when Joseph learned that Mary was with child, he first decided to “divorce her quietly” to protect her reputation.  But then the same angel who appeared to Mary appeared to him and explained the situation and so he took her into his home.  We often hear of Mary’s great “Yes” to God’s will for her role in salvation history, but Joseph also made the same trusting and faith-filled “Yes” to God.  Each of us is called to conform our will to that of God. Women and girls should use Mary’s acceptance as their model; men and boys should use that of Joseph.
Today’s reading, although it doesn’t mention Joseph by name, is the last reading in the Gospel that references Joseph at all.  Little is known about the timing of his death.  When Diane and I visited the Holy Land a number of years ago, one of the highlights was the trip to Nazareth.  Next to the spectacular Basilica of the Annunciation there is the small church of St. Joseph.  Inside there are three wonderful paintings over the altars.  Over the right side altar is the painting of the “Annunciation to St. Joseph” about the Birth of Jesus.  Over the main altar, the central painting depicts the Holy Family when Jesus is a young boy - perhaps at the age of 12 as in today’s reading.  Joseph has his arm around the young Jesus.  
The third painting is over the left side altar.  It is depiction of the Dormition of St. Joseph - the death of St. Joseph.  Joseph is seated on a rock with Mary standing on his left with her hand on her spouse’s shoulder, and a grown Jesus on his right with His arm around both of them.  As I said, the time of Joseph’s death is unknown, but I presume it is just before Jesus begins his public ministry, since Jesus’ earthly father is not at the Wedding Feast at Cana, when Jesus, at the urging of His mother, performed His first miracle.
Unfortunately, Joseph is often overlooked as a member of the Holy Family.  Indeed, in the reading of the visit of the Magi next week, we will hear that they followed the Star, entered the house and “saw the child with Mary his mother”.  No mention of Joseph, even though we know he was there. 
Even Liturgically, the Church sometimes overlooks Joseph.  In the revision of the Roman Missal that was completed a number of years ago, there are 10 Eucharistic Prayers from which the Presider can choose.  But only 1 of them, Eucharistic Prayer I, contained the phrase “and blessed Joseph, her Spouse”.  When Pope Benedict XVI realized this, he issued a correction to the Missal so that Joseph would be included in every Eucharistic prayer, before the Apostles and Martyrs and Saints.  Many churches made a pen and ink change, or a cut and paste change, but others did nothing, relying on the priest to remember to include his name in the Eucharistic Prayer.  Often, then, St. Joseph is forgotten at Mass.
Under my dalmatic, I am wearing a Christmas tie that depicts the Star over Jesus and Mary, again without Joseph, perhaps depicting what the Wisemen saw when they arrived at the place where Jesus and Mary were.  During this Blessed Season of the year, as we strive to “Keep Christ in Christmas”, let us also strive to recall the important role of Joseph, as the most chaste Spouse of Mary, and as earthly father and protector of Christ.
I conclude with a portion of a prayer to the Holy Family by Pope Francis:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate 
the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families, too,
may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.  …
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.  Amen.

The Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Merry Christmas everyone! Christ is born among us! All people and creatures are rejoicing and praising for the Savior’s birth tonight. Let us rejoice together with all creatures. Would you please say with a smile Merry Christmas to the people sitting next to you? As we celebrate Christ’s birth, I pray that the joy and peace of Christ may fill your hearts and come down upon your families and friends. And may Christ who was born in a humble manger in Bethlehem come to us as the Light shining on the world, expel the darkness and establish joy and love among us. And then we are filled with joy and love tonight.

Why? Why are we rejoicing tonight? In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah is making the best summary about the reason. “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils.” It’s because people who walk in darkness see the light and Christ smashes the burden, yoke, and rods that they have carried. In some aspects, every human being walks in darkness. Every human being is oppressed. Every human being has his or her own burden and yoke. Therefore, we all need God’s freedom and salvation. This salvation is beyond the power of human beings. Christ comes to us and establishes the way to go beyond human nature and reach out to divinity. This is the meaning of Christmas and this is why we rejoice and praise Christ’s redemptive birth and advent.

What are we going to do with this wonderful news? What is the proper response to this joyful news? We have been preparing ourselves for this joy filled moment for about 4 weeks through penance and prayers and charity. We are prepared well. We are spiritually practiced and trained well. We are now invited to more joy and happiness. What are we going to do now? Yes. It is time to share it. We are asked to spread this beautiful news to other people, especially those who walk in darkness for many reasons. We invite them to come and enjoy the happiness that Christ’s redemption brings. This is the sharing of Christ’s love.

There is an elderly lady to whom one of the Eucharistic Ministers in our parish takes communion. She lives in an assisted living home right there on Azurite. The house is close to the church. I bring communion to her sometimes when the Eucharistic Minister is out of town. She is over 90. But her mind is clear and her memory is marvelous. Sometimes she remembers her childhood when she was 8 or 10. She knows what’s going on around the world. She is an amazing smart lady. I went to her to give her communion last week. I wanted to visit her before Christmas and say Merry Christmas. She said, “Thank you for coming Fr. and Merry Christmas!” I said, “Merry Christmas, Miriam.” We just started small talk before the communion. After she received the communion, she suddenly started to talk about her childhood. She went to a Catholic School in Minnesota. When she was 8 or 9, there was a boy in her class. Since almost everyone was poor back then, she only had a piece of bread for her lunch. She didn’t even have jelly or butter. One day she found out that the boy had nothing to eat and had not eaten all day and she took a bite of her bread and gave the rest to him. She continued to say, “we were really poor in my town. I was lucky to have something to eat even though it is a piece of bread. But I couldn’t eat the whole bread after I knew he got nothing to eat. So I shared it with the poor boy.” And then she continued holding my hand with her thin fingers, “you know what? The boy became a priest later and offered mass for me everyday. Is it amazing? I gave a few and received a lot from God.” She didn’t stop smiling with a happy face.

I think this is the most beautiful story of what happens when we share what we have on Christmas. We are filled with Christmas joy and peace tonight. Jesus gave up His divinity and became a human being to share His love and joy. This is the mystery of Incarnation. Jesus’ sharing opens the way to salvation. The whole of humankind enters a new era of God’s covenant that is culminated and completed in Jesus Christ. Likewise, we are asked to share what we have received as the old lady did to the little boy. Jesus’ love and joy never stops spreading as long as we fully enjoy and share it.

In today’s Gospel, the angel of the Lord shares the good news with the shepherds tending their sheep in a field. The angel appears and says, “today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord…You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” This warm and bright good news in the silent night that the Savior is born, is placed into the shepherds’ hearts and they witnessed to the world with enthusiasm by sharing this Light. This is how we respond to the Incarnation.

And then the next question is “how do we share this good news?” What should be our right attitude toward this mystery? Jesus already showed us how. When the Son of God became a human being, He thoroughly embraced our humanity, immersing Himself in the human situation. He refused to be a mere spectator in human affairs. This is the tremendous mystery of the Incarnation; this is the beautiful mystery of Christmas. Jesus gives us a model of self-giving. This is how we share the mystery of Christmas with our neighbors.

I’d like to present to you a priest’s reflection on this self-giving mystery of Christ on Christmas readings. The Gospel of Luke states that there was no room for them in the inn. The inn is the place for strangers, for traveling strangers who stay only for the night. But Christ is not a stranger. He comes to His own. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The inn is not a place for Him to stay because He is not a stranger or distant from us. He belongs to us. His total involvement in our human destiny make him really one with us. He makes His home in each of us. And Luke also mentions that Mary laid him in a manger. The manger is a place of nourishment and sustenance. Jesus was laid in the manger because He is the symbol and reality of God’s support and sustenance of His people. Jesus in the manger points to the reality of being a self-gift in the Eucharistic Bread, the nourishment of His people.

This is a wonderful reflection and description about the mystery of the Incarnation. This reflection shows us how Jesus completely immerses Himself into human activities. And this self-giving advent of Christ shows us how we must share the joy and peace of Christ with our families, friends and neighbors. This is the self-giving sharing. Therefore, let us go and shout to the world tonight, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth to those on whom his favor rests.” And we also immerse ourselves into human beings’ suffering and pains and change them into Christ’s joy and peace by sharing.

Merry Christmas again!! May Christ’s birth fill you and your families with joy and peace tonight.