Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

Homily for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
December 25th, 2012
Year C

In his letter to the Galations, St. Paul writes: “So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal 4:3-5). I often wonder what St. Paul means by “fullness of time.” Is it possible that time, history as it was known then, had reached its climax? Had God such a disdain for the darkness of the world that it had reached its end? Or is possible that God’s time had reached its pinnacle? The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates ‘the fullness of time’, the time of the fulfillment of God's promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the ‘whole fullness of deity’ would dwell ‘bodily’.” It was, therefore, now the time to shed some light into the darkness of the world. Isaiah speaks of this in the first reading: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Fullness of time has come to mean that it was the precise moment in time, in history, when salvation needed to be revealed. It is the dawn of this Light, the light of salvation and the everlasting day that we celebrate on this Christmas night.

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!

Blessed John Henry Newman penned this most famous poem, The Pillar of the Cloud better known as Lead, Kindly Light, while at sea in June of 1833. He had just visited Rome – the home of the Catholic Church. For Newman, who at the time was still Anglican, the poem expresses the beginning of a journey of discovery, of greater clarity amid the darkness of his understanding. For there was something about Rome’s Catholicism that was impressed upon his heart.  Here, he acknowledges the darkness of his pride yet ultimately trusts in the power that has blessed him to lead him on.

In this process, this journey of his, Newman looked to the “kindly Light” of Christ to be His guide. So too, the shepherds saw this light. The magi saw it as well. This “kindly Light” of Christ, shines brightly over the stable-cave in Bethlehem. It shines in the midst of winter darkness – the darkness of sin. It is a glimmer of hope and has feel of the warmth of welcome. Yet, its brightness has the power to draw us in to discover its source.

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.

The road that takes us to this Light is not an easy trek. Newman surely discovered this when he found himself at a crossroads in his life. He had to make the difficult decision to leave his parochial position at St. Mary’s and enter into the Catholic Church. He did, however, allow himself to be drawn into this Light, to be lead by it to true joy, meaning, and fulfillment in his life. Many times, we too find ourselves in difficult moments. Life is itself a difficult journey of discovery filled with questions that we cannot fully answer. In so doing, we seek aide from sources outside of ourselves and immediate family. In this sense, the darkness of sin and pride may still have an effect on us, as Newman put it:

I loved to choose my own path;

But yet, as Isaiah tells us, this light that shines in the darkness brings with joy and gladness to all. For this light overcomes the darkness and our gaze must be fixed on it:

But now, lead Thou me on
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

This is the Light of Christmas. This is the Light of Christ who dispels all darkness, conquers sin and pride and leads us to the glory of His mercy, the glory of His love. This is the most holy of all nights because God’s light – the everlasting day – has entered the world and defeated the night.

We too have seen this Light, we have felt its warmth and power. This Light too, shines amid our darkness. It shines upon us when we are sorrowing. It shines upon us when we are despairing, when we are anxious, when we face great difficulty, trouble in a relationship, when we come to a crossroad in life – a new job, a big move, a new child, change in finances, and so on. It shines amid joy – not just the enjoyment of vacation, a day off or something that simply distracts us from our daily responsibility – the joy this Light gives touches the soul and brings peace.

In our own journey of life, will we, like Newman, choose to be led by this light? We may not know the road that lies ahead of us but we do know that it leads to the brightness of that eternal day. It leads to the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of our souls. That this Light brings us great joy even though life can be tough because this is a joy that is greater than superficial happiness that only distracts us from life’s responsibilities. This joy brings meaning to our faith, makes sense of life and illumines our hearts to love and forgives our sins. We must choose then, to be led by this kindly Light, we must choose to keep our gaze fixed on this Light that radiates from the manger, from that little baby that is held by His Mother, that is adored by St. Joseph, the shepherds and the magi.

The Light of Christmas day is the Light that radiates above the stable-cave in Bethlehem. This is the Light of Jesus Christ that is born for us today. This is the Light that leads us on through the terrain of life. With our eyes, hearts, minds – the totality of our lives – focused on the Light that leads us on, we journey with the Shepherds, the Magi, with Blessed Newman, to the everlasting Light, the light of that eternal day in which Christ is found. Having found Him, born for us on this Christmas day, may we want for nothing more than His love.

So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on…






Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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