Following is Bishop Jaime Soto's Homily given on Tuesday, December 25, 2018 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento during the midnight Mass of the Nativity of the Lord.
In the first two chapters of the gospel according to Luke the angel of the Lord appeared three times. He appeared first to Zechariah in the temple to announce that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son. Zachariah was to name him John. Then, the angel appeared to Mary of Nazareth to announce that she would conceive and bear a son. She was told to name him Jesus. In tonight’s gospel, (Lk. 2.1-14) the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds keeping night watch over their sheep. To these, the angel announced that “a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” The angel told them that this was a great joy for all the people. This joyous announcement was given to them and it was intended for all the world. As in the first two appearances, the angelic message had a mission. “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
The shepherds received the good news of the angel. The gospel story goes on to say, “They went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.” (Lk. 2.16-17) All three of these angelic appearances announced great joy. In all three instances, this joy had a mission.
Joy is at the heart of the Lord’s Nativity. Joy is the fruit of God’s mercy. God so loved the world that he sent his only son. That is the cause of our joy this night. Joy is defined as possessing that which we love. Jesus came so that God’s mercy could have a face. He came so that this mercy could be wrapped in swaddling clothes and held in Mary’s arms. Jesus came so that sick could touch him, the crippled could hold his hand, the sinner could embrace him, and so we could find our joy in him. He came because he loved us. His coming allows us to love him in return so that in loving him as he has loved us we may find the fullness of joy.
That is why the angel’s announcement was a message of great joy. The message is also our mission. Our embrace of the Lord Jesus this Christmas night brings us joy and commands us to be his joyful messengers here in Sacramento and in the world.
The gospel of Jesus is good news for all the people, for every woman and man. Tonight’s feast reminds us that God’s mercy saves us through his son, Jesus. Christianity is not an ideology. It is not a political party. It is not personal preference. The heart of the Christian faith is a personal encounter with divine mercy in the person of Jesus, then following him because he has become our joy. The world should see in us what the shepherds found in Bethlehem. They should find the joy of Jesus.
Jesus reveals the amazing grace of God the Father who created each of us out of love.
Jesus shows us that we are made for heaven and nothing in this world will substitute for that one eternal joy.
Jesus made us his friends so that we could love others as he loved us.
With Jesus we find the joy of forgiving as he forgave us.
Jesus took on our human nature to reveal the beauty of being women and men, created in the image and likeness of God.
With the eyes of Jesus we learn to reverence the dignity of each person whether in the womb or in a prison.
Jesus teaches us to pray and gives us the joy of praying with him to the Father.
Jesus died for us on a cross so that we might die to sin and live only for God.
These and more are all the joys we find in the love of Jesus.
May we come to embrace Jesus and all that the radiant beams of his holy face reveal to us. Then, we, like the shepherds long ago, will become the messengers of that “great joy that will be for all the people.”