“And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us –“ (John 1:14)
Today, Christmas Day, is the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Today we again celebrate His coming about 2018 years ago, in a small town in Israel called Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread,” where He was placed, not in an expensive crib in a royal palace, but in a manger, or a feeding trough for animals, in a lonely stable.
This is the story of the first Christmas, which we all know by heart.
This event when God entered human history in time as a human baby is the highest expression of God’s infinite love for us: God, the Creator of the Universe becoming man to dwell with us in a visible form on this earth for a time so that we can dwell with Him in glory forever in heaven.
Why God, the Creator of the Universe, has done that: meaning, to go down to our level, the level of our humanity, is a mystery and therefore hard for us to understand. He could have accomplished our salvation by just willing it. But why He had to do this by becoming one of us is something that we cannot really fathom with our limited minds.
John the Evangelist answers this for us in the oft-cited biblical verse “John 3:16”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
And so the Word has come in the Flesh.
The Incarnation, God taking on human flesh, like ours, is where heaven and earth meet. It was the event where Man encounters God.
There is a silent prayer of the priest or deacon at the offertory as he pours wine in the chalice and then puts a drop or two of water, saying:
"By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."
This one –line prayer expresses the meaning of the Incarnation, or Christmas:
God the Son coming to share our human nature, or to become Man like us, so that we his creatures can share in His divinity, or in being “god.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature": And again: "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word, and thus receiving divine sonship, might become sons and daughters of God.
The immense love of God for us did not end when the Infant Man-God grew up, preached to the people for three years, suffered and died on the cross to save us, and that was it.
No, He wants Him to be Food for us to eat. In the Gospel of John, He said that n) that He is the Bread of Life, the Living Bread come down from heaven, and that He who eats this Bread and drinks His Blood will have eternal life and He will raise us up on the last day.
Thus, when we receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion, we are receiving not only a piece of bread and a sip of wine, but the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus, who is both God and Man, there is a one-flesh union between the God of the Universe and us.
This union is much closer than the closest union there can be on earth – the physical union of husband and wife. When we receive Jesus God Himself is present there in our bodies and souls, He wanted to be united with us, and we with Him. And we, as humans, share in His divinity. And as Divinity means holiness, we become more holy each time we receive Him.
What does this mean in concrete terms for us?
What this means is that in the way we live our lives day by day, in our interaction with others, people should be able to see Christ in us.
• If we are aware of Christ dwelling in us, we cannot but be kind and charitable to others
• If we are aware of Christ dwelling in us we cannot but avoid talking behind people’s back, thereby ruining their reputation – called gossip
• If we are aware of Christ dwelling in us we cannot but taking care of our health, including avoiding drugs, because we are temples of the Holy Spirit
• If we are aware of Christ dwelling in us, we cannot but be always ready to forgive those who have wronged us. We know that many family members and friends do not talk to each other, bearing grudges and unwilling to forgive even for years. Remember that Jesus was born and died for them also.
• If we are aware of Christ dwelling in us we cannot but prove it in specific ways through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, show love for others
Christmas is the birthday of Jesus, God became Man Who gives Himself to us in the Eucharist to eat.
How can we know that we have been transformed into Him? How can we manifest that we have become God-like?
If we can answer:
- If we have been spreading the peace, love, understanding, goodwill, and joy that our Lord Jesus brought to the world that first Christmas night.
- If we sharing our blessings with those He loves, especially those who are desperately in need and to take up the cause of those who are most helpless and vulnerable, the unborn children and the elderly.
The Word became flesh, and is dwelling among us. Let our prayer be:
“By the mystery of this water and wine, may we share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”
May the Babe of Bethlehem, born in a feeding trough, who gives Himself body and blood soul and divinity in Holy Communion to us, the Bread of life, grant you and your loved ones the joy of being united with Him now, until we are perfectly united with Him, body and soul in heaven.
* A Homily at St. Columba Catholic Church, Oxon Hill, Maryland -- Christmas Day 2018