The following homily was delivered by School President Fr. Aristotle Dy, SJ on 24 December 2016 during the Christmas eve mass at Xavier School.
“Rebellions are built on hope.” This line from the worldwide Christmas movie blockbuster, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, has been on my mind these past few days. The film tells the story of a group brought together by the Rebellion, a mission to secure the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The group’s goal is to prevent further evil and destruction. In a critical moment, Jyn Erso proclaims that despite the odds, there is hope. Rebellions are built on hope.
So many things are happening in our country and in the world that to have hope is actually an act of daring. The trailer of Rogue One begins by saying that “the world is coming undone” and this is in fact a good way of describing the year 2016. Brexit and the electoral victory of populist candidates in the US and in our country signify a rejection of traditional institutions and values. The 4-year old civil war in Syria has gone from bad to worse, and the past week has given us very disturbing images from Aleppo. In the past few days, the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin and the cold blooded murder of a Russian ambassador in Turkey showed us just how deep the roots of division are. It seems so ironic that the world has not learned from past wars, and that the negative dimensions of globalization are fast becoming the norm.
So that is the year 2016 for us, a happy year for Xavier as we mark our 60th anniversary and certainly a year of blessings for some individuals and families, but also a year of many disturbing developments in the life of our country and of the world.
All this has been going on as we went through our Simbang Gabi, our parties, and family gatherings. It may seem like business as usual, but I don’t think we are pretending this season that there are no problems around us. I think it is precisely in our experiences of Christmas that we try to get a glimpse of the hope that we so desperately need.
Jesus was not born into a world that had no need of him. Isaiah spoke of a people walking in darkness, a people who dwelt in the land of gloom. A light has shone for this people.
In the story of Christ’s birth that we heard just now, Mary gave birth in a manger and wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes. There was no room for them at the inn. Maybe the scene has been sanitized for us and we don’t always appreciate what is going on, but here is the Son of God being born in very humble circumstances. It is like being born in an evacuation camp rather than a proper hospital.
Nearby, there were shepherds tending their flocks at night. The angels appeared and the glory of the Lord was visible in the sky, but they were afraid. They were afraid, just as many of us feel afraid for the world and what it will bring us in the new year. But the angel assures them that they have nothing to fear. A savior has been born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. This is the one of whom Isaiah spoke: a child born to us, a son given to us.
We go on with the celebration of Christmas despite the darkness and gloominess in the world because Jesus was born precisely to bring light to such a world. We have our cherished Christmas moments with family and loved ones because it is such moments that give us hope to face the future. We take a break from the stress of everyday life and savor the presence of God among us because it is this presence that is the source of our hope. We take time to venerate the Christ Child who looks so vulnerable and yet is the Savior of the world.
The birth of Jesus alters the status quo forever. God is no longer distant, but instead becomes one of us. God brings us redemption by sharing our human state and saving us from all our darkness. Our rebellion against the status quo is built on this hope, and this means that we should never simply accept darkness in our world. If Christ came to bring light, then we must spread that light. How?
Well, we all have people in our lives who are difficult to love, but we must never tire of trying again, or spreading light and love rather than darkness and negativity. We all encounter the practical ways of the world, the so-called natural ways of doing things that involve lying, cheating, and infidelity; but we have the choice to walk the straight and narrow path. We wake up each morning and hear about violence and death in some part of our country, but we cannot and must not give up on the sanctity of life and the right of every person to due process and justice. We all have doubts and fears about the future, but we need to be agents of light. We need to let the light shine so that better days will come.
By all means let us have our Christmas celebrations. These are not selfish pursuits in a time of great human problems. If rebellions are built on hope, then we need experiences of hope so that we will have the strength of will to do what is right and just. Savor and relish every Christmas moment you have, specially when you ponder the Baby Jesus in the manger, He who is the Son of God and the Prince of Peace. He is our Hope, our one and only Hope.