Christmas I: Nativity
Mass During the Day
2015 – Cycle ABC
Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”
“And God said, “Light. Exist!””
…and galaxies and stars, planets and moons coursed out across the cosmos like diamonds and darkness and chaos were forever shattered. When God speaks creation dawns.
“In the beginning was the WORD…”
“In the beginning…” and John pulls us back to the first moment of time and the Big Bang. When God speaks, WORD becomes a human being that is life itself: Jesus.
Is that true when humans speak? Do our words create life that shatters darkness?
Do you remember the rhyme we said as children? “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me?” Bullies have been around for a long time. Did you believe the rhyme then? Do you believe that rhyme now? Words have power and they can be used to create, uplift, and bring forth life just like God. Or, they can be used like shards of broken glass to cut and hurt people deeply.
We have been watching a rising tide of words giving voice to anti-Muslim sentiment in our nation and around the world. Words that divide and encourage bigotry. A call to ban Muslims from entering our country. The demonizing and barring of the Syrian refugee and immigrant from seeking security. The stereotyping of Mexicans as criminals, drug users and rapists. The loud silence offered by Western governments in the face of the genocide against Christians throughout the Middle East. The rhetoric against Jews. When Jordan Klepper from The Daily Show asked a representative group if there should be a national registry of Jews some responded in the affirmative. Just words? I think not.
Words have meaning and can be used as weapons. There are people who believe “Muslims Need Not Apply”. Have we Catholics forgotten: “Irish Need Not Apply”? Code for, “Catholics Need Not Apply”. These words of past and present are rooted in fear. Fear which invites us back into the shattered darkness. Fear which gives us the excuse to easily caricature or condemn those who are different from us. Fear which can draw us into silence while other people are attacked.
Words gather momentum. Say a lie enough times and it is transformed – deformed into a false–truth which people believe. And like God, when we speak it has an effect. “Light. Exist! And there was light.” Every time there is a surge in anti-Muslim speech, there is a corresponding spike in acts of hate and violence against people who are Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and South Asian.
After the attacks on Paris and San Bernardino, people are understandably afraid and concerned for their safety. But responding to fear with hateful ideas that result in violence against people diminishes all human beings. To follow the lead of such voices is to slander our neighbors and blaspheme our God in whose image and likeness every human being is created. To follow such voices cause us to turn away from following Jesus who was once a refugee in a foreign land. In following such voices we will ignore the rich biblical commands to welcome the stranger. Therefore, what is most frightening for me are the thousands of people gathering to hear and encourage such speech and ideas.
A fundamental conviction of Christians is that the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Jesus and Mary upholds all time and history. God’s ultimate WORD, Jesus, is that light that shines in the darkness over our lives, over all nations, and over the course of human history. When we abandon this faith we surrender to fear and abandon our God and our sisters and brothers.
John reminds us right from the beginning that Jesus, the WORD that creates and is Life, will be rejected. “[The true light] was in the world…but the world did not know him. [The true light] came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” This cosmic struggle between darkness and light is tangible in our own time. And like Herod, who threatened the life of the child Jesus and in his fear and anger murdered the children of Bethlehem; like Pilate whose fear did not cause him to stop the execution of an innocent man, fear and anger threaten the lives of people today. And silence cannot be an option. The cost of human dignity and life are at stake.
“In the beginning…God said, “Light. Exist! And there was Light.” WORD and Light are one.
In our age, what WORD will you speak; what Light will you shed to shatter the darkness in our world? Because the word we speak becomes flesh: Jesus of Nazareth embodied in our brothers and sisters.