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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: December 25, 2019
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during Masses for inmates at Forrest City Prison and Forrest City Camp on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, and during the Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019.
Ever since the beginning of time, our world has been locked in a struggle between light and darkness. This struggle continues today in the conflicts between nations and individuals, and in the decisions we make in the intimacy of our own heart.
Will we pursue our own perceived self-interest at the expense of others or the common good for the benefit of all? Will we allow our lives to be consumed by fear and insecurity because we insist on placing our trust in the false gods of this world?
That’s how it is for many people today and that’s how it was 2,000 years ago when God sent us our Savior, whose light began to shine in the darkness of the cruel world into which he was born: a place of poverty and foreign occupation, ruled by an evil king who was so consumed by the fear that he might lose some of his ill-gotten power and possessions, that he even stooped to murdering babies.
People who judged Jesus to be a threat to their authority and status — their power and prestige — did their worst to the baby born today and so the darkness seemed to have extinguished the light completely, but three days later we saw once and for all that the darkness is unable to overcome the light, the true light which enlightens everyone, the light whose coming into the world we celebrate today.
Thirty-three years later other people who judged Jesus to be a threat to their authority and status — their power and prestige — did their worst to the baby born today and so the darkness seemed to have extinguished the light completely, but three days later we saw once and for all that the darkness is unable to overcome the light, the true light which enlightens everyone, the light whose coming into the world we celebrate today.
One thing that we see clearly in the light shining forth from the baby born today is the sacredness of human life. God became human on Christmas to replace fear with hope and thereby open our eyes to the sacredness of the life he has entrusted to us, and also to remind us that life belongs to God and one day we will all have to account for how we have lived it.
And you know what? Many of the things that destroy life have one thing in common: FEAR, which is rooted in the false idea that life is ours, not God's, and that we are free to dispose of it as we see fit. So we look after our own perceived self-interest even at the expense of others because deep down we really don’t believe that God will help us through these problems if we limit ourselves to doing things his way.
Out of fear we conclude that’s it’s all on us and so we do our own will rather God's will, even when we know that what we are doing is wrong — but if life isn’t sacred, who cares? It was to set us free from the power of fear that on Christmas day God took on the human condition in all of its brokenness so as to lift us out of the pitiful state of degradation into which we had fallen.
So in contrast to the child-killing king Herod, who did not respect the sacredness of the (from his perspective) inconvenient lives of the boys of Bethlehem, we have Mary and Joseph who choose life, even though she would give birth under very difficult circumstances and they would have to flee to Egypt as refugees, leave their homeland, to protect and provide for this precious life entrusted to them.
And 33 years later, another government — that also claimed the power to dispose of human life as it saw fit — will execute the boy born today, claiming he was a threat to society.
That first Christmas a new chapter in the struggle between light and darkness, between truth and lies, began. The truth that life is sacred and belongs to God, and that we need no longer allow our lives to be ruled by fear. But for that freedom to be ours, we do have to respond: welcoming the light, embracing the truth, casting aside fear, looking out for the weakest among us, living for something bigger than ourselves, "our light shining before all so that people can see the good that we do and give glory to God!"
On Christmas day 2,000 years ago, that light, the true light, which enlightens everyone came into the world, and that light still shines in the body of Christ, living and active in the world today!