The Gospel of Matthew tells us that when the Magi reached the stable and saw the star, they rejoiced with the greatest joy. This is the joy of the good news of Jesus’ birth for each of us. With all the messes in the world today, such joy may seem hard to access. But as Father Damian reminded us this morning, we dare to rejoice because God is really with us now in everything. And so we can put cynicism aside and lay claim to the joy that Jesus’ loving presence grants to us.
Joy is truly the meaning of Christmas; joy does not mean simply pleasure and the absence of pain and suffering and sorrow. Genuine joy is a constant that remains with us throughout all our life experiences. And this joy cannot disappear. Even in the stable of Bethlehem the shadow of the cross is present. But this cannot obscure the joy of the Nativity, for as we proclaim all during the Christmas season God in Christ is truly with us, now, here, in all things.
Father Damian concluded his remarks with this reflection by Karl Rahner, who puts the following words in God’s mouth: "I am there. I am with you. I am your life. I am your time. I am the gloom of your daily routine. Why will you not bear it? I weep your tears -- pour yours out to me, my child. I am your joy. Do not be afraid to be happy, for ever since I wept, joy is the standard of living that is really more suitable than the anxiety and grief of those who think they have no hope. I am the blind alleys of all your paths, for when you no longer know how to go any further, then you have reached me, foolish child, though you are not aware of it. I am in your anxiety, for I have shared it by suffering it. And in doing so, I wasn't even heroic according to the wisdom of the world. I am in the prison of your finiteness, for my love has made me your prisoner. When the totals of your plans and of your life's experiences do not balance out evenly, I am the unsolved remainder. And I know that this remainder, which makes you so frantic, is in reality my love, that you do not yet understand. I am present in your needs. I have suffered them and they are now transformed, but not obliterated from my heart. I am in your lowest fall, for today I began to descend into hell. I am in your death, for today I began to die with you, because I was born, and I have not let myself be spared any real part of this death.”Andrea Mantegna (Isola di Carturo, circa 1431 - Mantua, 1506), The Adoration of the Magi, 1495 - circa 1500, Canvas; H. 54.6 cm; W. 70.7 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Lines from Karl Rahner, The Great Church Year: The Best of Karl Rahner's Homilies, Sermons, and Meditations.