What is it that we celebrate on Christmas? It is nothing less than the almost incredible miracle of the eternal Second Person of the Blessed Trinity’s taking to Himself our human nature so that he might destroy the power of sin and death and redeem all mankind from the power of Satan.
God the Father sent his Son to confirm the dignity of each and every human being in spite of our sinfulness. Jesus came to announce good news: If we open our lives to him, he will take away our sins and enable us to reach the full freedom of the children of God.
Jesus came to share our sufferings in order to cure them and above all to enable us to convert suffering into redemption, our own and that of others. His lowly birth expresses his desire to share the hardships of the poor in order to be with them and all of us, bringing the joy of true life to our imperfect earthly existence.
Even though we mark the entrance of God into our world on December 25th, that remarkable event might more properly celebrated nine months earlier — on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. It was at the announcement of the Angel Gabriel and the faith-filled fiat (“let it be done”) of Mary that God became man.
God wanted His Divine Son to be present from the moment of conception in Mary’s womb in order to sanctify the entire process of gestation from conception to birth. At the same time God wanted to make clear to all mother and their unborn children His loving presence with them.
Even before the conception of Christ, the Old Testament gives evidence of the existence of a human person prior to birth. The psalmist affirms: “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works” (Psalm 139:13-14).
Sacred Scripture contains no explicit treatment of the human embryo in its biological reality. But, St. Luke testifies to the active, though hidden, presence of two infants in their mothers’ wombs. He recounts the meeting of the Mother of Jesus, who had conceived Him in her virginal womb only a few days earlier, with the mother of John the Baptist, who was already in the sixth month of her pregnancy. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb” (Luke 1:41).
As the Feast of Christmas approaches I feel a special urgency in asking all the faithful of this diocese and, indeed, all people of good will to renew their efforts to face the truth about the beginning of the human person. We have been in crisis for 46 years with a situation of law and a cultural environment that has made possible the killing of more the more than 60 million babies by direct surgical or chemical means, as well as the killing of countless others by abortifacient contraceptives.
For most people Christmas does not occasion this kind of reflection, but our times demand that we contemplate the full meaning of the incarnation of the Son of God. The dignity of the human person derives from our creation in the image and likeness of God, and from our redemption by the Son of God who took our humanity as His own. We must not cease to proclaim the meaning of the human person in a world that has forgotten this sublime truth.
May the Christ Child bless you in every way and strengthen you to bear witness to his Gospel of Life. You and your loved ones will be remembered in the Christmas Mass I offer at St. Mary’s Cathedral.