Monday, 28 December 2020 09:30

Homily | Archbishop Charles John Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines - 2020 Christmas Day Mass


Homily delivered by Archbishop Charles John Brown, newly appointed Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines during Christmas Day Mass at the Manila Cathedral on December 25, 2020, at 11 am.

Archbishop Charles John Brown, newly appointed Papal Nuncio to the Philippines delivers his homily during Christmas Day Mass at the Manila Cathedral. | Photo by Rian Salamat/RCAM-AOC

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, let me begin by saying what a tremendous joy it is to celebrate my first Christmas here in Manila, here in the Philippines. Your absolutely magnificent cathedral dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It fills my heart with joy and it fills also my mind with the splendor of this beautiful and wonderful cathedral.

As I said at the beginning of the Mass, I’m very grateful to Bishop Broderick Pabillo for his kind words and very grateful also to Rector Father Regie for having invited me to this Mass today.

I bring you, of course, the Christmas greetings of our Holy Father Pope Francis who as I said in the beginning has a very special love, a special place in his heart for you, the Filipino people.

You should pray during the Mass this morning for the earthquake that took place earlier today in Balayan, in Batangas. We pray to God that there were no serious injuries. When I began Mass, I have been informed that anything serious, so pray God that everyone is safe and sound.

We also pray God for an end to the scourge of the Coronavirus which has certainly affected the way which we live, the way which we interact and did the way which we pray. We need to be observant of the norms of health so that we can protect each other from the diffusion of this virus.

Merry Christmas, brothers and sisters. Last night, some of you perhaps maybe one or two at the midnight Mass.  At midnight Mass, the gospel that we hear is the classic Christmas story taken from Saint Luke. It’s about Mary, Joseph going to Bethlehem, no place in the end, going out…the baby Jesus being born, the angels, the shepherds, all those beautiful symbols of Christmas. That is the story of Christmas.

Today, however on Christmas day, as you just heard, read, the gospel is not the story of Christmas but the meaning of Christmas. Not what happened that day but the significance of what happened that day. The cosmic significance of God becoming man in the baby Jesus. The cosmic significance of all of history, all of humanity, of those advances, that we heard about last night, at midnight Mass.

In a few moments, together we will profess and I saw creed, our profession of faith that we do every Sunday, we will kneel together, approach the words that Jesus by the Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man because today is His birthday. We will kneel during the creed in the moment.

Let me read to you the words that we would pray. Listen to me for a moment.

We pray that Jesus is God from God. He is might from might. He is true God from true God…from substantial from the Father through whom all things were made. Through the baby Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. All things were made for us man and for our salvation. He came down from heaven. On this day, He was born of the Virgin Mary becoming man.

So, the gospel we read today is from the beginning of St. John’s gospel. In the beginning, was the word and the word was with God. That word today is born in Bethlehem. In fact, the beginning of the gospel of St. John is written on this beautiful…that I am preaching you from. Just allow me, only visible to the priests coz it’s on the side facing the sanctuary….in the beginning was the word. That is the Christmas message.

In the beginning, if you think about the beginning of creation, the beginning of everything. Some of us have heard about the Big Bang. The Big Bang, how creation began. God said, “Let there be light and there was light.” This famous Big Bang was discovered or we can certainly say was investigated by a Catholic priest, Fr. George…, a priest working in Belgium, a great physicist, a great study of astronomy, a great intellectual. And he had the theory of the Big Bang, the beginning of creation where God made everything.

Let me say…what people say that the Catholic Church is against Science, it really talking foolishness. Catholic Church has no problem with Science. They believe in everything that is true. Anything is true is for us part of our Catholic faith. It was this great priest who investigated the Big Bang, the beginning of all creation.

In the beginning, was the word and the word was with God and it was the word that created everything. We believe that was something like 14 billion years ago. So, that’s the first moment – creation.

What’s the second moment? The second moment we also heard in the gospel today, we heard those words in the gospel which came to be through Him, through Jesus was life, life. So, the creation of all the universe then much greater, the creation of life on earth. The creation of the universe maybe 14 billion years ago. The creation of life here on earth…3 ½ billion years ago, much more recently that life begin here.

May I also say, Scientists, do not really know how life began on earth. It’s a mystery, even the scientist. If you ask people in the street how life began. People will often time say, Oh, it was because of evolution. Evolution doesn’t say how life began. Evolution says that once life began how it evolved, how it changed, how it developed.

So, with these two moments creation of the universe, then the creation of life on earth, 3.5 billion years ago. And all of us on a natural method we have that life in us. We have physical, natural life that began 3.5 billion years ago. The same life that is in fish, that is in cucumbers, that’s in grass, that’s in trees. Life is all around us.

And on a natural level my brothers and sisters, on a physical level, we are alive because we are feeding on life. Every calorie, some of you are watching your calories, I am too. Every calorie that you eat was something that was alive. Every nourishment that keeps you alive was something that was alive. Whether it is the lettuce you eat or the Lechon that you are eating for Christmas. All of it was life, natural life coming into you. So that natural life is in us. So, creation, life.

And then the third moment. What is the third moment? The third moment we heard in the second reading, in times past, God spoke in partial ways through the prophets but in his last days, He has spoken to us through the son. His last days recently, a new form of life has come into the world because brothers and sisters, the natural life that all of us have will end. We call that end, death. But a new life has appeared in the stable at Bethlehem. A new life in the baby Jesus. Life that will be communicated to us that we will receive, that will fill us through the sacraments of the holy Church. Baptism is the water of life. Just like natural life, we believe it seems to begin in the ocean, in the seas, so super natural life. The life that Jesus brings from his birth in Bethlehem comes into us by Baptism. And that life is fed by receiving His body and His blood from the Eucharist at the altar. Another form of life is in us. That is the most beautiful gift that God can give us - eternal life.

Our natural life brothers and sisters will end. But eternal life that we receive in Baptism, that is nourished in the Eucharist, that life will never end. So, today on Christmas, Jesus opens in the circumstance the way that leads to heaven.

In the gospel of John, one more quotation, “Those who accepted Him, He gave the power to become children of God.” Those who accepted Jesus, He gave the power to become children of God. You have begotten by God. In this new life, we become children of God truly with God’s supernatural life. That is the gift of Christmas. That is the gift that fills us with courage and joy because a new form of life has appeared. Our life that is also described as light, a light, a life, that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Brothers and sisters, the history of the Church is always a battle between life and death. Receiving the sacraments is a matter of life and death. Spiritual life and death, supernatural life and death. And that is why from this history we have martyrs, who are martyrs? Martyrs are people like you and me who preferred supernatural life to natural life. They laid down their natural life, their physical life so that the supernatural life they had received in the sacraments, will carry them into heavenly glory, into the life of the word to come which is what we confess at the end of the creed today. The light shines in the darkness and that light is life. And is in each and every one of us because of the Eucharist, because of the sacraments.

Here on earth, our job is to receive that life and to live in a way that nourishes God’s life in us and in others by being compassionate, by following the teachings of Jesus and His church. Then we receive life and we pass that life to those around us.

Here on Christmas day, we see heaven. Heaven in the baby Jesus. Heaven in the obscurity and the poverty of Bethlehem.

Last night in his homily for the midnight Mass, which is now celebrated midnight but at 9 o’clock by Pope Francis in Rome, he quoted an American poet from the nineteenth century who spoke about finding heaven here on earth. And then if we find it on earth, that heaven will bring us into the heaven that will never end.

Here is the short poem that Pope Francis read actually in Italian about finding heaven here in the baby Jesus.

Who has not found heaven the love, will fail of it above. God’s residence is next to mine. His furniture is love. God’s residence is next to mine. His furniture is love. – Emily Dickenson, an American Poet.

God’s residence is Bethlehem, next to mine here in the Philippines. Jesus is close to us. Jesus loves us. Jesus has come in to the world to give us the greatest gift possible – the gift of supernatural life, the life that will never end. And that my brothers and sisters, is why Christmas fills us with the joy that the world cannot understand. And the joy that the world cannot give. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

A wish you a very blessed Christmas, a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart.

Let us pray for one another. Let us pray for Pope Francis as he always asks and also please pray for me your newly arrived apostolic nuncio who is very, very happy to be celebrating his first mass here in your cathedral on Christmas day. (Archdiocese of Manila – Office of Communications/RCAM-AOC) 

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