We have extracted the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI & Pope Francis I based on the aforesaid Readings to share with you, so that you could similarly be encouraged:
POPE JOHN PAUL II
HOMILY - MIDNIGHT MASS
24 December 1996
1. “In the depths of the night a voice resounds” (Polish Christmas carol). In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:1). The light shone because “to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:5).
The same Christmas carol identifies that voice in the night: “Come, shepherds, God is born for you; hasten to Bethlehem to greet the Lord”. It is the same voice which resounds in the passage of the Gospel of Luke just proclaimed: “In that region there were shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. The angel said to them, ‘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 Saviour, 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’” (Luke 2:8-12).
The Christmas carol continues: “[The shepherds] set off, and in the manger they found the Child with all the signs which had foretold his birth. They adored him as God...”.
2. What St Luke wrote in the Gospel about the birth of the Lord Jesus has been translated into countless songs and works of literature; these make up the rich tradition inspired by Christmas. We bring this tradition with us when we come to Midnight Mass, also called the “Mass of the Shepherds”. At this hour, Bishops and priests throughout the world join me, the Bishop of Rome, in celebrating this Mass.
In every place liturgical and extra-liturgical songs are proclaiming the joy of the Lord’s birth. The angel says: Be not afraid, rejoice! The birth of a human being is always a source of great rejoicing (cf. John 16:21). What great joy then must the birth of the God-Man bring! Isaiah says: “They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest” (Isaiah 9:2). A remarkable harvest! Behold, humanity is ripe for this moment when the Creator is born “of woman”. Man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:27), grows and journeys towards this God-Man, in whom he receives the gift of his own fulfilment and in whom, at the same time, all creation is raised to its fullness.
The responsorial psalm of this liturgy proclaims: “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-2). And a Christmas carol echoes: “Let all creation sing to its Lord”. This invitation to praise resounds with particular eloquence. Behold: all creation, which the Apostle Paul will describe as “waiting with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19), becomes a witness of the revelation of the Son of God in human flesh. At the same time, this is the beginning and the foundation of the revelation of those who have become sons and daughters of God by reason of the divine adoption to which all people are called.
What profound reasons for joy the Lord’s birth gives us!
3. St Paul also speaks of these reasons in the Second Reading: “The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men” (Titus 2:11). The Son of God does not come into the world empty-handed. It is true that in the stable at Bethlehem he receives the gifts of the shepherds, but first he himself brings great gifts. His generosity is indescribable: “The loving Father offers us today ineffable gifts from heaven, as the Eternal Word becomes flesh, by his wondrous power” (Christmas carol).
Precisely that priceless gift which the Apostle calls “grace” — the gift of a share in the life of God, a universal gift, the opening of the path of eternal salvation — is the most profound source of Christmas joy.
With this joy in our hearts, we celebrate the solemn and beautiful night liturgy. We wish to join the choirs of angels who over the stable of Bethlehem are glorifying the Lord: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). We pray today for everyone, Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers alike. For we want to be faithful to the gift brought by God on Christmas night: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, made manifest for all humanity.
From this Basilica of St Peter’s, I send everyone a cordial greeting and I pray that this source of joy issuing forth in human history with the birth of the Son of God will be plentiful for all, so that each person may draw from it and quench his thirst. Yes, the fountain of salvation which God desires to offer to each human being has now been opened. It was for this very reason that he drew near to us and in his Son became like us: true God and true Man.
“God is born, man’s might is amazed. The Lord of heaven empties himself! The fire subsides, the splendour is veiled, the Infinite is encompassed” (F. Karpiñski, Christmas Song). On this night the frontiers of human existence are extended. The Son of God, taking upon himself man’s limitations, opens before our eyes the prospect of God’s infinity.
“Natus est hodie Salvator mundi”.
Today is born the Saviour of the world.
Come, let us adore him!
OPENING OF THE GREAT JUBILEE OF THE YEAR 2000
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II
Friday, 24 December 1999
1. “Hodie natus est nobis Salvator mundi” (Responsorial Psalm).
For twenty centuries this joyful proclamation has burst forth from the heart of the Church. On this holy night the Angel repeats it to us, the men and women living at the end of a millennium: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy... to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour” (Luke 2:10-11). We have prepared to welcome these comforting words during the season of Advent: in them the “today” of our redemption becomes a reality.
At this hour, the word “today” rings out with a unique sound: it is not only the commemoration of the birth of the Redeemer; it is the solemn beginning of the Great Jubilee. We are spiritually linked to that unique moment of history when God became man, taking to himself our flesh.
Yes, the Son of God, of one being with the Father, God from God and Light from Light, eternally begotten of the Father, became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and assumed our human nature. He was born in time. God entered history. The incomparable eternal “today” of God has become present in everyday human life.
2. “Hodie natus est nobis Salvator mundi” (cf. Luke 2:10-11).
We fall down in adoration before the Son of God. We unite ourselves in spirit to the wonder of Mary and Joseph. As we adore Christ, born in a stable, we make our own the faith, filled with astonishment, of the shepherds of that time; we feel their same amazement and their same joy.
It is difficult not to be overcome by the eloquence of this event: we remain enthralled. We are witnesses of that instant of love which unites the eternal to history: the “today” which begins the time of jubilation and hope, for “to us a son is given; and dominion is laid upon his shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6), as we read in the text of Isaiah.
At the feet of the Word Incarnate let us place our joys and fears, our tears and hopes. Only in Christ, the new man, is true light shed upon the mystery of human existence.
With the Apostle Paul, let us contemplate the fact that in Bethlehem “the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all” (Titus 2:11). This is the reason why on Christmas Night songs of joy ring out in every corner of the earth, in every language.
3. Tonight, before our eyes we see fulfilled what the Gospel proclaims: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him... might have eternal life” (John 3:16).
His Only-begotten Son!
You O Christ, are the Only-begotten Son of the living God, come among us in the stable of Bethlehem! After two thousand years, we re-live this mystery as a unique and unrepeatable event. Among all the children of men, all the children born into the world down the centuries, you alone are the Son of God: in an ineffable way, your birth has changed the course of human events.
This is the truth which on this night the Church wants to pass on to the third millennium. And may all you who will come after us accept this truth, which has totally changed history. Ever since the night of Bethlehem, humanity knows that God became Man: he became Man in order to give man a share in his divine nature.
4. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God! On the threshold of the third millennium, the Church greets you, the Son of God, who have come into the world to triumph over death. You have come to illuminate human life through the Gospel. The Church greets you and with you she wishes to enter the third millennium. You are our hope. You alone have words of eternal life.
You who came into the world on Bethlehem night, remain with us!
You who are the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, guide us!
You who came from the Father, lead us to him in the Holy Spirit, along the path which you alone know and which you have revealed to us, that we might have life and have it in abundance.
You O Christ, the Son of the living God, be for us the Door!
Be for us the true Door, symbolized by the door which on this Night we have solemnly opened!
Be for us the Door which leads us into the mystery of the Father. Grant that no one may remain outside his embrace of mercy and peace!
“Hodie natus est nobis Salvator mundi”: it is Christ who is our only Saviour! This is the message of Christmas 1999: the “today” of this Holy Night begins the Great Jubilee.
Mary, dawn of the new times, be at our side as we trustingly take our first steps into the Jubilee Year! Amen!
25 January 2015