Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas and the poor Christ

Yesterday after lunch with the bishop (after he had confirmed about 235 people in three locations), I mentioned to my pastor that I would be coming to the 11 pm “Midnight” Mass today in the town of Concepción. He asked me to preach.

I am going tomorrow for a 9:00 am Liturgy of the Word with Communion in the aldea of San Isidro La Cueva and will be preaching there, but this will be something quite different, but in both places I will be preaching of the birth of our Savior in the midst of the poor.

A few days ago, I read these words of Saint Clare in her first letter to Saint Agnes of Prague:
If so great and good a Lord, then, on coming into the Virgin’s womb, chose to appear despised, needy and poor in this world, so that people who were in utter poverty, want and absolute need of heavenly nourishment might become rich in Him, possessing the kingdom of heaven, be very joyful and glad. Be filled with a remarkable happiness and a spiritual joy! 
Saint Clare is, in part, reflecting the words of Saint Paul (2 Corinthians 8: 9):
For you know the grace of our Lord, Christ Jesus: he was rich, but for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
At Christmas we worship a God become poor.

Another insight came to me last night. Before going to bed last night, while reading a few chapters of Goodness and Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, published last year by Orbis Books, I came across a marvelous sermon of Hans Urs von Balthazar, “Into the Darkness with God.” (I highly recommend the book and the sermon.)

What struck me was this quote, which I didn’t expect from this theologian:
It is, therefore, in order that he shall find God, the Christian is placed in the streets of the world, sent to the manacled and poor brethren, to all who suffer, hunger, and thirst to all who are naked, sick, and in prison. From henceforth this is his place; he must identify with them all. This is the great joy that is proclaimed to him today, for it is the same way that God sent a Savior to us. We ourselves may be poor and in bondage, too, in need of liberation; yet at the same time all of us who have been given a share in the joy of deliverance are sent to be the companions of those who are poor and in bondage.
As this poor Christ came to accompany us, so we too are called to accompany the poor.

All this brings me back to one of my favorite Christmas quotes, from the December 24, 1978, homily of Blessed Monseñor Oscar Romero:
No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need of God — for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.

We are called to become poor, to be humble, to bow before the Lord made flesh, made poor, in our midst and to bow in loving service and accompaniment of those who are poor around us – not merely helping them, but befriending them, and walking with them in the light of the Kingdom of our God, made flesh.


This photo was taken on December 5, 2004, at the entrance to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. To enter and reverence God become human, most of us must bow down. But it may have been constructed this way so that war horses couldn't enter the church. To enter and adore the Lord made flesh, we must leave behind all our weapons, all our weapons, entering disarmed and poor. 

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