Homily of Most Rev. Charles John Brown, DD, Nuncio to the Philippines
Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day)
St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Singalong, Manila| December 25, 2022
"While they were there in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn." - Luke 2:6-7
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me so much happiness to be with you this Christmas Day, this Christmas morning, 2022 here in St. Anthony Parish. Here close to the Apostolic Nunciature, to be with all of you on this celebration of Christmas Day - a day in which after two years of Christmas being radically limited because of the COVID pandemic. Now we are back to celebrating almost completely normally, which is really wonderful. It's great.
Christmas is a day of blessing. A day of blessing for each and every one of us. And I'm sure that all of you, after mass, will be gathering with your families, having a nice meal, reminiscing, talking, enjoying one another, maybe opening some presents that haven't been opened already, and having a wonderful day. It's great to be back to a normal Christmas, a normal day of blessing.
But what is the source of the blessing here at Christmas? What is the source of blessing? All of us want to be blessed by God. All of us want to have God's good favor in our lives. Where do we find that blessing? Where do we find that blessing? We don't find the blessing, I will say with all due respect, in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, even though we like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, is not the source of blessing. We don't find the source of blessing in Frosty the Snowman, even though we like Frosty the Snowman, which is a very nice song. We find the source of blessing in the baby Jesus, born for us today in Bethlehem. Jesus, who is God made man. Jesus, who is God come close to us. The Sto. Nino, who has come into the world to be our blessing, to bless us, to protect us, to lead us on the way that leads to heaven.
In a few seconds, in a few minutes after I finish my reflections with you, we will pray the Creed, The Profession of Faith. And on Christmas day, there's a beautiful tradition when we come to the part of The Creed in which we say that ".. The Word became man…" we will all kneel for a moment. We will all kneel for a moment during the Creed as an indication and a recognition of this great blessing that we receive.
The Creed tells us that the baby Jesus is God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. Imagine this, my dear people, God who created the entire universe. I'm sure if you go home to the provinces, maybe you visit your relatives in the provinces and you're there at night and it's dark and you see all the stars in the sky. It's hard to see them in Manila because we have a lot of light, but if you go to the provinces, you can see the stars, and those stars are so far away from us. The universe is so big; it's unbelievable. The light from those stars took years to reach Earth. In fact, when you look at the night sky in the provinces, and you see the stars, you're really looking into the past because those stars that you see, some of them may not even exist today, but the light is now reaching your eye after many, many centuries, many, many years.
We live in this universe. It's so amazing, so big. And in this universe, it is God who has created it. God who has made the universe. But God, who is so big, so powerful, so beyond our imagining, God became a little baby to bless us. God became a little baby to bless us. And all of us on Christmas day, in a spirit of prayer, rush to Belen, Bethlehem, and adore the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ.
You see this beautiful image to my left here of St. Anthony, your patron, holding the baby Jesus. His great tender love for the baby Jesus. We need to have that same love for the baby Jesus. We need to be like St. Anthony, grasping the baby Jesus, allowing the baby Jesus, the Sto. Nino to bless us, to bless us, because remember the first Christmas that we just heard about in the Gospel today, dear brothers and sisters, the first Christmas in Bethlehem 2022 years ago, when Mary and Joseph came on foot with their donkey all the way from Nazareth and they came to Bethlehem as we heard in the Gospel, there was no room for them. There was no room for them in the inn. No one made room for the baby Jesus, who was in the womb of Mary, about to come into the world. There wasn't room for them.
We need to make room for Jesus in our lives. We need to do the opposite of what happened at the first Christmas in Bethlehem. At the first Christmas of Bethlehem, there was no place for the baby Jesus for Mary and Joseph. So after knocking on many doors in the town, they probably went off into the outskirts, into the peripheries, and there in a cave, the baby Jesus was born in the darkness, in the cold, all alone in the cave.
And who are the first people that come to adore the baby Jesus? The first people who give us the image of St. Anthony holding the baby Jesus it's the shepherds, the simple shepherds who are taking care of their sheep in the area. The simple people - they are the ones who recognize the gift. They are the ones who recognize the blessing. They are the ones who arrive at Bethlehem first and receive the blessing of the Child Jesus.
We need to do the same way in our lives. Christmas is once a year. But every Sunday we have the chance to come to mass to receive the gift of the Eucharist, the gift of the presence of God in the consecrated Bread and Wine. Jesus was present here at the altar. Jesus who blesses us, Jesus, who comes into our hearts. Let's make room in our hearts this year for Jesus. Let's not be like the inhabitants of Bethlehem, where there was no room for him. Let's make room for Jesus. Allow Him to bless us. We need His blessing.
As God says, "With me, you can do everything, and apart from me, you can do nothing." With Jesus, everything is possible. We have nothing to fear, nothing to fear. But without God, we are lost. Without God, we are lost. And that's a message not just for Christmas Day but for every day during the year.
So dear brothers and sisters here at St. Anthony, my prayer for you is that this year will be a time in which you draw close to Jesus in which you receive the blessing that He wants to give you. God has a plan for you this year, this coming year. He has blessings to give you. But He can only give them to you if you open your heart to Him if you make room for Him in your lives. So let's remember that. Let's remember that Christmas is one day a year, but God's blessing is 365 days a year.
So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as the representative of Pope Francis, let me conclude this Christmas reflection by asking you to pray for Pope Francis. Whenever I visit him in Rome, I will be seeing him again this coming year; he always asks me because he has such love and affection for the Filipino people, he always asks me, please have the people pray for me. So I'm relaying his message to you. Please pray for Pope Francis. He needs your prayers. He's 86 years old now, and he really relies on the strength of your prayers.
And more than anything, let's make this year a year of blessing for each and every one of us. A year of blessing by opening our hearts, opening our lives, opening our homes to the baby Jesus.
May God bless you.
Transcription by Gel Katalbas