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Homily of Archbishop Eamon Martin for Christmas Midnight Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh

“As we reflect on the Christ’s birth in the poverty of the stable, may we always be thankful for the food we have to eat, for our health, and for the warmth and security of a home; may we be more conscious of those less fortunate – the poor and the hungry, the sick, the lonely … We pray that all children – born and unborn – will be protected from violence, trafficking, abuse, abortion, neglect or exploitation” – Archbishop Eamon Martin

Homily

Two weeks ago NASA scientists announced that the Voyager II spacecraft has left our solar system and is hurtling on into interstellar space towards the next star.  Since its launch in 1977 the spacecraft has travelled eleven billion miles – and counting … but don’t wait up!  It won’t reach the next star for another 40,000 years!

Voyager’s fascinating journey into the heavens leaves me speechless at the vastness of the universe and the  miracle of God’s creation.  No wonder the psalmist wrote (Psalm 8):

Lord, when I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

In many ways that psalm expresses the amazing mystery of Christmas:

To think that God, the Almighty, the creator of all that exists, could love each one of us uniquely and intimately!

To realise that, of all the millions of planets in the universe, God loved the world so much that he sent His Only Son to be our Saviour!

To see in that little child, born in a stable on a bitter Bethlehem night, the Eternal Word, who is God, made flesh and living among us!

An ancient Latin hymn sums up the “great and mighty wonder” of Christmas: O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum!

O what a great mystery,

and wonderful sacrament,

that animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in a manger!

Just as it is not easy to imagine the vast galaxies of stars that make up the universe, so it can be difficult for us to comprehend that God loves each one of us uniquely and personally.  God understands our weaknesses and mistakes, but still calls out of each of us the very best of what we are capable.  The Christmas story reminds us that, although we are small and frail, with the grace of God, and our “yes”, like Mary’s, to God’s will in our lives, we can (as the second reading says): “give up everything that does not lead to God”.  We can be transformed and in turn we can help to change the world for the better!

On this Christmas night, as we marvel at the wonder of the universe, let us pledge to care for Planet Earth, our common home, by being less wasteful, and more conscious of the damage that we can do to our environment by selfish living.

As we reflect on the Christ’s birth in the poverty of the stable, may we always be thankful for the food we have to eat, for our health, and for the warmth and security of a home; may we be more conscious of those less fortunate – the poor and the hungry, the sick, the lonely.

As we contemplate this Christmas the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let us pray for our family members at home or away, and spare a thought for families who are wounded or separated by war and violence, distrust or relationship breakdown.

And, as we gaze in wonder and awe at God’s presence in the newborn infant Jesus, let us bring to mind children who bring so much joy and happiness into our lives.  We pray that all children – born and unborn – will be protected from violence, trafficking, abuse, abortion, neglect or exploitation.

As Pope Francis prays in his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si on care for our common home:

All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love, That we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

With that beautiful prayer, I wish you, and your families every blessing for Christmas and for the New Year.  Beannachtaí na Nollag oraibh go leir.  Amen.

ENDS

  • Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland                                                        

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