Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) Mass at Midnight

Reading 1: (Isa 9:1-6)

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David's throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Reading 2: (Tit 3:4-7)

Beloved:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

Gospel: (Lk 2:1-14)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
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.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: The Christmas’ Good New is God’s love.

            A 93 years old man who was regarded as a successful person in society, had many possessions and the total about 100 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. When he looked back at his family’s past and meditated about his family’s future, he sadly concluded: “Hard-working all life long leads me to no where. I am financially stable but I failed to educate my family according to the Lord’s way. Some of them had broken family, some lived far away from God. Many times I advised them to come back but they didn’t listen. If God doesn’t interfere, I don’t know how many of my family’s members shall be with Him in the next life.” It is fortunate for him to recognize the darkness was covering his family; but how can he bring his family back to God?  

            The elder’s situation might also be our family’s situation. When we were fortunate to settle down in a prosperous country, we blindly emerged ourselves in it by working long hours to earn money for living, without a second thought about damages of the capitalism. Many parents sacrificed themselves for their children by working two jobs, with the hope that their children will be successful in education, and when they find good jobs they shall support them back as they have supported them. After more than 30 years of struggling in the foreign land, many parents now had a chance to evaluate their efforts. They probably draw the same conclusion as the elder: their family is financially stable; but their chidren are living far away from God and them. Their chidren became doctors, dentists, pharmacists, lawyers; they made lots of money but never think about paying back to parents. Worse of all, they don’t pay attention to their teaching any more and many times were irritated when they repeated. Many of us also drew the same conclusion as the elder’s: Sacrificing our whole life to receive an underired result!

            The question many of us asked: What did we do wrong? How can we save ourselves and our family from this culture of death? The simple answer is we didn’t love and worship God above all things. We overestimated the importance of material things by putting our whole effort in making money and forgot God’s warning: “You can’t serve both God and mammon” (Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13). We didn’t pay attention to the building up of our spiritual life, our relationship with God, but only to eating, drinking and making merry. We forgot God’s warning: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). We ran after and worshipped worldly values such as fame, power, pleasure; and forgot about God’s warning: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Mt 4:10).

            In a word, we didn’t live according to what God wants; but lived exactly what the devil tempted Christ. If we, leaders and parents, didn’t live according to God’s teaching, how can we wish that our children shall live according to God’s standard? If we didn’t teach our children to fear the Lord and our family didn’t live according to God’s ways; we shall live according to the modern standards: selfish, materialism and pleasure seeking.

            Tonight readings provide hope for us. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah showed us the benefits when people possessed the Messiah: He is the light that shines over those who are living in the darkness of death. He liberates people from slavery for sins. He bestows on people wisdom, strength, love and peace. In the second reading, St. Paul taught Titus, his disciple that the grace of salvation teaches us to renounce immoral life and worldly passion in order to live righteous and pious in this world. Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to save us from all sins and purified us to become his people, a people who are eager to do good things. In the Gospel, the Christmas Good New was announced to human beings: The Son of God was incarnated and born in a manger of a stony cave. The shepherds were the first people to hear the Good New by angels and to recognize their salvation.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: Salvation is achieved by the Son.

1.1/ The difference between those who have and don’t have the Messiah: Starting with the first Sunday of Advent, the Church asked us to meditate to recognize the difference between those who have and those who don’t have God. Tonite, the prophet Isaiah also invited us to examine ourselves to recognize our situation and the necessary of the Messiah in our life. Isaiah gave us two situations:

            (1) Light and darkness: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” The Jewish situation at the prophet’s time and human situation before the Messiah’s coming are completely pessimistic and hopeless. The Northern and Southern kingdoms are about to be destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians and all people shall be on exile. People were surrounded by the darkness of the ignorance of God, they didn’t know how to do good and sins were multiplied. The most danger of living in darkness is people were going to die.

            It is fortunate for the Jews and for humanity because God has given them a light which is His only Son. This light shall help people to see and to understand God’s mysteries, especially he shall bring salvation for people by bestowing on them the eternal life.

            (2) Joy and suffering: The prophet connected light with joy and darkness with suffering, he said: “Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.”

            We can sympathize with the Israelite’s sufferings on exile: they lost their country, their family were broken up, the Temple and God’s presence were no longer existed, impoverished life, maltreatment by enemies... All these sufferings will be taken away when God liberates them and let them return to their country to re-establish their country and to rebuild the Temple. This is only possible by God alone, not by human effort. The prophet reminded people of Midian victory when God wanted Gideon the leader to sent his soldiers home; lest them think the victory was caused by their military forces.

            God increases the nations and the joy by announcing the Good New to the Gentiles so that they can also inherit His salvation. Both the Jews and the Gentiles didn’t do anything to be deserved of salvation because all have sinned. The cause of their salvation is completely from God.

1.2/ The Messiah’s titles: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Name is the person; we need to understand these titles in order to wish to have God’s Son in our life.

            (1) Wonderful Counselor: A counselor must be wise, he must see what others cannot see. This Son is the Wonderful Counselor for men because he has God’s wisdom; he can counsel for all and needs no one to be his counselor. If we have such a counselor in life, we shall have no fear of anyone.

            (2) Mighty God: Even he has a form of a weak human being, but God’s immense power is hidden in him. This Son can do all things, and nothing is impossible to him. If we have him in our life, he shall help us to achieve all.

            (3) Everlasting Father: The father’s nature is to love, to educate and to care for children. This Son is God Himself, the Everlasting Father of human beings. By incarnation, he continues to love, to educate and to care for every human being. In the Old Testament, God used prophets to teach His people; in the New Testament, God Himself teaches His people.

            (4) Prince of Peace: To have peace, a leader must love peace and has ability to bring forth peace. This Son has ability to reconcile people to God and people to people. Only when we have this Prince of Peace, we truly have peace.

           

1.3/ The Messiah’s age: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”

            While worldly kings and leaders increase their power through war, the Son increases his kingdom by peace. We can see this point through the Church’s development: the number of the faithful in the Catholic Church is increased every year, not through war, but by the proclamation of the Good News and the Holy Spirit’s transformation of human minds and hearts. The more worldly kings and leaders persecuted the Church, the more is number of the faithful increased. The kingdom of God is no longer limited in Israel but spread out to all nations in the world.

            The prophet Isaiah connected David’s with the Son’s kingship. As God promises with the forefathers and prophets, the kingship in David’s lineage shall remain for ever. This promise can only be achieved by the Son who was born in David’s lineage. He shall keep the kingship in David’s house for ever because he lives for ever.

            While worldly kings and leaders confirm their kingship by force and oppression, the Son confirms his kingship by justice and righteouness. Oppression and force can only keep people in line for a short time; but justice and righteousness shall attract them for ever (Lk 1:32-33).

            The main agent of the increase is God and His eager love, not by human virtue, talent or strength. God loves the world so much that He gives His only Son (Jn 3:16); and in this Son, all of God’s promises to human were fulfilled.

2/ Reading II: Salvation must change the faithful’s moral life.

2.1/ Salvation helps people how to live: People do everything for a purpose. When  Christians clearly know the purpose of life is “awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ;” they must correspondently prepare for that day. St. Paul advised the faithful: (1) Negatively, they must renounce irreligious life and worldly passion; because this way of life prevent the faithful to reach the ultimate goal of their life. (2) Positively, they must live temperately, righteously, and piously in this world. These virtues shall help them to reach their ultimate goal.

2.2/ Salvation shall liberate people: By incarnation, Christ sets people free: (1) Negatively, he sets people free from sins. (2) Positively, he transforms them to the kind of people who eagerly do good things. Because of this, people are deservely called God’s people.

3/ Gospel: For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

3.1/ The Messiah’s birth: Not like other events of Jesus’ life, the Messiah’s birth was briefly reported only by Luke as follows: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

            The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 80 miles, and the transportation at that time are either by walking or riding animals. Bethlehem is very cold in winter because it is the shepherds’ field and only a few miles from Jerusalem. It has many caves which merge deep underground and still exist today. These caves are ideal places for shepherds because they can keep their sheep safely inside and avoid cold weather.

3.2/ The angel announced the Good New to shepherds.

            Shepherds are also called Bedouins, still remain in Israel today. They don’t like to settle in a city or to live in a certain place; but to wander around everywhere with their flock; wherever they can find green pasture and water, they shall live there until grass and water are run out. They are despised by the Jews because they are dirty and can’t fulfill purified laws.

            Why were the shepherds first people to know the birthday of the Infant Jesus? To answer this question, we need to reverse the question and to ask: Who shall be the people that easily welcome the Chistmas Good New in this situation?      

            We learn from the first Beatitude which said: “Blessed are the poor because the kingdom of God is theirs.” God chose for His Son to be born in a poor manger, not in a royal palace. He wanted His Son to experiment the most lowly situation of human life. Because Jesus was born in such poor condition, only the poor shepherds could recognize and sympathize because the child was in their same situation. Moreover, the poor (anawim) are those who put their trust in God, not in themselves or in any power; therefore, they were more ready to welcome the Christmas Good New. The song of the heavenly host praising God and saying,"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" also confirms this explanation. God has compassion and cares for the poor.

            The Good New was announced for the shepherds as follows: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” They believed in the angel and started immediately on the road to looking for the child. They found and worshipped him.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - God so loves the world. We must feel His love for us through the mystery of Incarnation. The purpose of this mystery is to wipe out human sins and to bring salvation to humankind; without this mystery, people shall die in their sins.

            - The most precious gift that God could give us is Jesus. Through His Son, we are lacking nothing in our earthly life. We must respond to God’s love by having Jesus and keeping him with us all the days of our life.

            - Salvation must become the ultimate goal of our life. We must renounce the immoral life and worldly passion, and live temperately, righteously and piously in this world.

            - God is the Lord of heaven and earth. He chose to be born in poor condition is to teach us a lesson: By living a simple life, we are easily to rely on God and to recognize others’ needs.

            - We wish the Christmas Good New shall liberate our family from the darkness of death and lead us to the area of light, peace and joy. Come! Lord Jesus.

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