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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: December 25, 2020
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a Mass with his family in Ponca City, Oklahoma on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020.
Winter is the darkest time. Three days ago was the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. The end of six months of ever-lengthening nights. Winter is when epidemics like COVID-19 hit us most severely and is the time when we have the most accidents and funerals.
It is the coldest and gloomiest time, when we most long for the warmth of family and friends, and miss our absent loved ones the most — especially now when we have to live with all the restrictions forced on us by this pandemic. Winter is the darkest time, yet it can also be the time of greatest hope. And it is the birth of hope that we celebrate today.
God had promised through the prophet Isaiah that he was going to send his saving light into our dark, lost world, which is why all of our Christmas Masses begin with a first reading from Isaiah. In the vigil and midnight Masses God promises to save us by his light: “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” (vigil, Isaiah 62:1), and “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown” (midnight, Isaiah 9:1).
COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for how selflessly you have complied with all the protocols forced on us by this pandemic. For the first time since 1918 we had to suspend the celebration of Mass for seven weeks starting in March and have only been able to resume public worship since May 4 under very restrictive conditions, including the use of masks, which nobody likes, and physical distancing.
Then in tomorrow's Masses, God declares that this saving light will be a person, a Savior: “See the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth: 'Say to daughter Zion, your savior comes' “ (dawn, Isaiah 62:11) and: “All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God” (midday, Is 52:7). We live in a dark world but now there is light. The title Emmanuel means “God is with us”. The name Jesus means “he saves”.
Even so the darkness will not give up. When the angels appeared to the shepherds they cried out: “Glory to God in highest heaven and peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests”. But amazingly, it was with words very similar to these that the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus 33 years later, five days before handing him over to die ... five days before Satan's apparent victory.
The child born today will struggle against the darkness his whole life, to the death — his own death. And that is how his saving, divine light will finally destroy, for once and for all, the power of the darkness, sin and death.
You and I have walked in darkness, trusting in the light of our faith, for most of 2020. COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for how selflessly you have complied with all the protocols forced on us by this pandemic.
For the first time since 1918 we had to suspend the celebration of Mass for seven weeks starting in March and have only been able to resume public worship since May 4 under very restrictive conditions, including the use of masks, which nobody likes, and physical distancing.
Some of us have lost jobs and income and are struggling financially. Some students have to take courses virtually and that doesn’t work for everyone. And all of us know someone who has become dangerously ill and many of us know someone who has died. A vaccine is on the way, which fills us with hope, but it isn’t here yet, so we feel very vulnerable and continue to walk in darkness.
The same is true in general society. Divisive rhetoric and personal attacks have replaced the respectful discourse necessary for a cohesive society, with the result that as a nation we no longer listen to each other and so now we live in a land of gloom. We need a Savior! And today we have one! “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests!” (Isaiah 9:5)
Brighter days truly do lie ahead. In Jesus the reign of darkness has ended and the adversities we face are simply opportunities to take up our cross and follow him, and thus share also in his victory!