Second Sunday after Christmas 2021

Bethlehem incense holders

Second Sunday After Christmas

I would like to begin today’s homily with a brief reflection, or rather a story, about a boy named Emanuel who was eager to know what language God speaks. First, he asked his parents and teachers at school, but none of them knew the answer to such a bizarre and unusual question. Emanuel patiently asked this question to his neighbours, grandparents, priests and many of his friends, but like his parents and teachers, no one was able to answer him. “There must be someone who knows the answer to my question,” thought the boy, discouraged and tired at some stage of searching for an answer. Emanuel asked himself and others the same question for many years, also as an adult man. And finally, he decided to go to other countries, hoping that at least somewhere far away he will solve this great mystery. He travelled the world for many years, and though he asked many people: “What language does God speak? The answer was still the same – I have no idea! Go somewhere else and ask other people!” One night, however, he reached a small town called Bethlehem. Since he could not find any hotel or shelter to stay overnight, after a long search, Emanuel went outside the town, hoping that at least there – among the shepherds and their sheep – he would find a safe place for himself.

I think that at this stage, each of us can guess what the continuation of this story is. Yes, Emanuel found a grotto where a fire was burning, and when he went inside, he was surprised by such a warm welcome from the people he found. The young mother said to him, “Good evening, Emmanuel, we have been expecting you. You have travelled the world for a long time, looking for an answer to the question of what language God speaks. Today your patience has been rewarded, you have found the answer. Tonight, you can see with your own eyes what language God speaks to us. Today you can see that God out of love gave us His only Son. Yes, God speaks to us in the language of love”. At that moment, Emanuel fell on his knees in front of the little Baby Jesus and cried with joy and deep emotion. From that moment on, no one doubts what language God speaks to us. It is the simplest and the most beautiful language, understandable to all people in the world, regardless of the period of history. Excited by this joyful news, Emanuel stayed for a few days with the Holy Family, helping Mary and Joseph, and then went back home.

It is true that God constantly speaks to us in the language of love, and we have probably heard it many times in all the joyful but also in these difficult and painful experiences of our lives. God spoke to us especially through the mystery of his Incarnation, which we have commemorated in the liturgy in the past few days. He speaks to us through other people, parents, children, friends and sometimes through people we meet by chance on the streets of our town. God speaks to us every Sunday as we listen to and meditate on His Word in the church or in our homes. Sometimes he speaks to us also through what we cannot understand at the present time of the pandemic, what is so overwhelming and what seems to be beyond our control.

Today’s gospel, which is the beginning of the Gospel according to Saint John, and which we call the Prologue, is one of the most difficult passages in the entire Gospel of Saint John. Its author tells us about the Mystery of the Incarnation in a very mysterious language of poetry. But this is exactly the same story of what happened in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. This is exactly the same story about Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, and the great love and care they showed for each other. And finally, it is the same story of lack of love and compassion. It is the same sad story of indifference and rejection that the Holy Family had experienced from so many people living in Bethlehem. Saint John described all these beautiful but also dramatic events in a completely different way than the other evangelists: The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory… He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him…

Today, as we approach the end of the Christmas season, the Gospel invites us once again to reflect on the past few days and what the Christmas story means to us personally. This gospel also invites us to think about all the moments of our indifference when we closed the doors of our hearts because we refused to accept Jesus who is present, real and living in all our brothers and sisters. But Saint John the evangelist encourages us to do something more – to listen, to learn and to use this wonderful language of love in the New Year that we have just started.

Let us ask God that in the new year 2021 we will try to draw our strength and wisdom from the Word of God and – following the example of the Holy Family – that we may speak to others with this wonderful language of God.

Happy New Year!
Fr Gregory