Mass During the Night
Dear brothers and sisters
Given the immense and low cloud cover that has settled upon us lately, the darkness of the night has perhaps felt somehow greater, even as though extended even through the daylight. It has certainly felt – to me, at least – as if we were the “people who walked in darkness” (Isaiah 9:1). The world is so often filled with so much darkness, but not only the darkness brought about by a lack of the sun. There is the darkness of war and hatred, the darkness of broken families and societal decay, the darkness of hunger and loneliness, the darkness of falsehood and ignorance.
There is much darkness, yes, but not only darkness, for “a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:1). This light “has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.” It is this light that has brought us together tonight.
What is this light that we have seen, this light that has drawn us out into the darkness of night? If we reflect for a moment, we have all experience that “where there is love, light shines forth in the world; where there is hatred, the world remains in darkness. In the stable of Bethlehem there appeared the great light which the world awaits.” Yes, indeed, “a child is born to us, a son is given us” and from the Face of that Child shines a very great light, the light of love (Isaiah 9:5; cf. I John4:8)
This light not only seeks to shine, but to speak, for it is a truly wondrous light; it streams forth from the Face of that Holy Child, as the great artists so marvelously portray.
Dear sister or brother, if, as in Bethlehem, the darkness of night overwhelms you, if you feel surrounded by cold indifference, if the hurt you carry inside cries out, “You are of little account; you are worthless; you will never be loved the way you want,” tonight, if this is what you are feeling, God answers back. He tells you: “I love you just as you are. Your littleness does not frighten me, your failings do not trouble me. I became little for your sake. To be your God, I became your brother. Dear brother, dear sister, don’t be afraid of me. Find in me your measure of greatness. I am close to you, and one thing only do I ask: trust me and open your heart to me.”
Draw near to his manger; look upon the Face that dispels the darkness of sin and doubt; look upon the light of love!
The world has tried again and again to extinguish this light, yet always in vain; “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
In that Child lying in the stable, God has shown his glory – the glory of love, which gives itself away, stripping itself of all grandeur in order to guide us along the way of love. The light of Bethlehem has never been extinguished. In every age it has touched men and women, ‘it has shone around them.’ Wherever people put their faith in that Child, charity also sprang up – charity towards others, loving concern for the weak and the suffering, the grace of forgiveness. From Bethlehem a stream of light, love and truth spreads through the centuries.
Because of his love, Saint John rightly said, “in him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). The darkness cannot overcome the light of his love because his love is perfect and complete.
Dear brothers and sisters, when the darkness of this world encroaches upon you, look to the light; when the darkness of the world feels oppressive in any number of its forms, look to the Son of God and Son of Mary and know this: You are loved by God. He became a Child for you, to love you and to be loved by you. In him there is nothing to fear. Draw near to him. Find your worth in him, in his love, and you will never walk in darkness.
J.R.R. Tolkien was right to say that “glad is the world and fair this night.” Rejoicing in the light of this night, let us, with Saint Augustine and with all the Saints “walk in his light, let us exult and be merry in it.” Amen. Alleluia!