2nd January, 2022

violins being played in an orchestra

Second Sunday after Christmas 2022

There are two points and two thoughts that I wanted to share with you after meditating on today’s Gospel, which tells us about Christmas in a very peculiar, mysterious but also very interesting way. As we have just heard, Saint John described everything that happened in Bethlehem in a completely different way than the other evangelists did. He described all these events very briefly: The Word was made flesh and lived among us.

As you may know, one of my favourite prayers is ‘The Angelus’ which we say quite often at St. Edward’s, especially at the end of the weekday Masses. I am sure that not only I, but many of you know this particular prayer by heart, especially those of us who have a great devotion to Our Lady. Personally, I like ‘The Angelus’ prayer for a few reasons: Firstly, because the Holy Father says it every Sunday in Rome with the thousands of people who gather in Saint Peter’s Square to pray with him for the Church and for many other intentions. Secondly, because from my childhood, I remember that my grandparents and parents used to say this prayer three times a day – first in the morning, then at 12 noon, and then in the evening. I also remember that very often they interrupted their daily activities and work just to be with God and Our Lady, and to reflect on all the beautiful truths of our faith, which are in this prayer. And finally, the third reason why ‘The Angelus’ is very close to me is because in a very simple and beautiful way it tells us about: the Annunciation; about the obedience and humility of the Mother of God; and about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem – something we celebrated a week ago.

As you know ‘The Angelus’ prayer consists of three parts. In the first part we say: The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and She conceived of the Holy Spirit, and after that we recite: Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee… Then, in the second part we say what Mary replied to the Archangel Gabriel: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your Word. And then again: Hail Mary full of grace… And finally, there is the most important part of this prayer that may sound most familiar to us, especially today, because we have just heard those words in today’s Gospel: And the Word was made flesh, and lived among us.

Today at the beginning of this New Year 2022, as many of us are making New Year’s resolutions, I would like to encourage you to learn this simple prayer and say it often – maybe not three times a day, as it could be too difficult for us in our constantly busy lives, with our many responsibilities – but maybe at least once a day. Perhaps this prayer will become a good habit and a good routine for us in 2022 – just like brushing our teeth or drinking our favourite morning coffee. And most importantly, perhaps this simple prayer will be a great opportunity for us to deepen and develop our relationship and friendship with Jesus and His Mother. This is something I would like to encourage you to do in the New Year. Think about it…

Now let’s move on to the second part of my reflection. Saint John tells us today about the Eternal Word of God – that is about Jesus Christ – who – as we heard – was in the beginning, and who came into the world, but the world did not know Him because people did not recognise Him.

I remember that several years ago in America, someone had the idea to make a very interesting and original experiment. One day, at one of the metro stations – I don’t remember exactly which town it was – a violinist appeared. He had a violin with him and was performing a piece. Nobody knew that he was one of the world’s greatest violinists – Joshua Bell – and the instrument he was playing, was a ‘Stradivarius’, worth three and a half million dollars. The violin case was open so that people could put money into it. The artist played six pieces of Bach’s music, which took him about 45 minutes. Interestingly, only six people stopped for a few seconds to listen to what he was playing. After performing these six pieces of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music, Joshua Bell found in his case 35 dollars and 17 cents. A few days earlier, the same artist had given a concert at one of the most exquisite philharmonic halls. No one was surprised that all the tickets for that event had run out very quickly – months before the concert took place – and the cheapest one was 100 dollars. Nobody recognized the famous Joshua Bell when he was playing in the subway station.

I think today’s Gospel tells us something very similar, that the Eternal Word of God – Jesus Christ, who was born as a child in Bethlehem, who came into the world 2,000 years ago, was neither recognized nor accepted by people. Today I would like to invite us all to think and ask ourselves how often this happens in our lives. How often do we fail to recognize and accept God who comes to us so inconspicuously and humbly: in the sacraments, in the Eucharist, in private prayer, in adoration, and finally, in all our brothers and sisters in need. Let us humbly ask God that – with the help of His grace – especially in this New Year 2022, that we would be able to recognize, accept, but also confess and proclaim this Extraordinary and Eternal Word, which is Jesus Christ Himself, Emmanuel, God with us, God who came and lived among us.

Fr Gregory