Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the First Sunday after Christmas, 2019.
It was the theme of my sermon for Christmas Eve to focus on the gift of peace God has given us with the birth of Christ. But to properly receive the gift—which means, ultimately, to order our lives around the gift that has been given, which is the Peace of Christ—and furthermore, in a real sense, embody the gift of peace so much so that we can in our lives—our words and deeds, our relationships with close friends as well as passing acquaintances, and with the countless many more with whom we exchange little more than hello and a smile—that we can in our lives that are embodying the Peace of Christ pass the same Peace on to others; that we can to a lonely world exchange the Peace of Christ and warm the hearts of the lonely—because when the Peace of Christ is present, a person (even if alone) is no longer lonely; to properly receive the Gift of Peace, we have to understand what the Christian faith means by Peace. Then we can share it.
When the Peace of Christ is present, in their hearts the previously person sings along with the prophet Isaiah, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” I do not mean actually says those words, but expresses their meaning in whatever sense their heart is warmed by the presence of Christ’s Peace. The documentary footage, for example, that captured people dying on the streets of Calcutta in India yet who were loved by Saint Teresa—we see in their faces and hear in their voices, despite their dying, sickly bodies, them proclaiming the good news of a great joy: the same good news of a great joy proclaimed by the Angel Gabriel to the shepherds keeping watch over their fields on the night of Christ’s birth. Those persons, the poorest of the poor, exude the peace of Christ, because they have received the peace of Christ through the Outreach ministry of Saint Teresa and her sisters. Saint Teresa and her sisters embody the peace of Christ, and because of that, and only because of that, are they able to pass the gift of Christ’s peace on to those they meet and serve.
But still, what is the Christian meaning of Peace? Some say, it is not the absence of war and strife, but the presence of love. And there is truth to that. But what is this presence of love for Christians? The presence of love for Christian is the presence of love that we read in the Scriptures and in the Gospels that Christ Himself demonstrates. The word “love” for us is better understood as “caritas,” from which our word “charity” derives. It is selfless love of a person, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, voluntarily going to His death for the sins of the whole world. Peace is the presence of this selfless giving of oneself for the world. It is this presence of selflessness that we must have in our hearts if we are to so embody Peace as to give it to others.
And the Nativity of Christ radically illustrates this. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” we hear in Saint John. Let us lift up our hearts to this, brothers and sisters! This Son given to the world is He through Whom all things have been made, this holy Child. This Son given to the world is He Who is the Light that enlightens every man coming into the world, this holy Child. This Son given to the world is He who creates equality of honour between heaven and earth, a way up for all those below to things above. Nothing done by God from the beginning of time was more beneficial to all or more divine than Christ’s nativity.
And the benefits are found when we meditate upon the festival of Christmas. The benefits are found when we quietly sit in contemplation of God’s mighty acts, beginning with the fact that the Eternal Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Let us meditate on this mystery of the Nativity of Christ, that we may imitate what it contains and obtain what the Angels promise: Peace, good will among men.