Fr. Rick’s Homily – Christmas Vigil 2023

Is 62:1-5; Ps 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Mt 1:1-25

(Is. 62:1-3)  “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.

Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory;
you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD

So, what is vindication and what does it mean to us?

Oxford online dictionary:  “The action of clearing someone of blame or suspicion.  Proof that someone or something is right, reasonable, or justified.”

So Zion, or Jerusalem, Israel is vindicated.  When?  2500 years ago. 

This vindication came most specifically after Israel spent 70 years in the Babylonian desert as captives of the Babylonians.  God allowed this last part of His Holy People to lose their battles with their many enemies because they had lost their identity.  They had become useless as God’s light to the world, because they had forgotten who God was, so of course they had lost almost all sense of who they were and what they were doing on planet earth.

This exile occurred about 1300 years after God called Abram and Sari to be the parents of a holy people.  During this long period God’s people gradually began to understand this personal love God had for them, but regularly they would discard God’s love and leadership. They would try following someone else who promised more options or a quicker road to power and comfortable living.

But I repeat: So what?  I mean, who translated it?  What were the translators’ biases?  Why would it matter to us?

Well, because they were vindicated.  God has a plan of Salvation for His holy people and He would not abandon them.  During the 70 years in the desert they were purified, strengthened and re-educated.  Those who survived would go out stronger than ever to continue their destiny and to pass along the story of God’s presence among them.  They would teach about God’s plan to save them despite their disobedience, confusion and destructive behavior.

Aaaannd?   So what?  Does this really have anything to do with us?  Why should we care?  Well, because we believe this is the Word of God; God’s personal revelation.  If one were to read the whole bible with some good guidance, one would easily see that this is clearly the human story.  In the roughly 2000 years of bible history and then 2000 more years of Catholic Church history, we see most of the same struggles.  We see the persistant presence of the Seven Deadly Sins and their derivatives.  We see similar villains, heroes and heroines, scoundrels, and saints.  We see humans struggling to have happy and holy families, happy and holy tribes and happy and holy nations.  They’re frightened and sad a lot.  But they are vindicated.

The long somewhat tedious genealogy we read tonight from Matthew’s gospel is indeed the story of OUR people.  It doesn’t matter where we came from, our color, our language, ethnicity, marital status.  If we are baptized then this is our family and it is our story.  When we are baptized we receive an indelible mark on our souls that tells us the truth about who we are and where we came from and where we are going.  This is the meaning of our lives.  Baptism marks us at the deepest level of our being.  We don’t need any other indelible skin -deep marks that we just make up or that someone else marks us with.  We are marked by our parents and the 4000 years of tradition that has been passed down to us.

Christmas comes every year to remind us that Emmanuel is still among us.  Our Savior is still here and calling us out of our fear, confusion and destruction.  The world and the nations do not need to sink so low.  We shouldn’t need a full-scale exile where we recover from the destruction of full out war, environmental depletion or intemperate living of all kinds.  We are very much in the process of rediscovering and recalling our story and our mission in the world; the mission that God gave us.  It’s not over until God says it’s over.  That’s why we can dare celebrate our vindication and freedom from exile.  God is with us.  That’s the Good News.

Let us now open ourselves even more deeply to Jesus as we continue on with the Eucharistic banquet.

Jn 1:12-13  (From Christmas Mass During the Day)

But to those who did accept him

he gave power to become children of God,

to those who believe in his name,

who were born not by natural generation

nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision

but of God.