‘Jesus shows us the face of God,
full of grace and mercy’
FORT WAYNE — “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Those words from the prophet Isaiah were proclaimed at the Midnight Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.
“This prophecy was fulfilled when God’s light radiated from the manger in Bethlehem on this holy night,” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily. “It is the light of the Word made flesh, the Son of God, who came to dwell among us. His birth was announced to the shepherds by the angel of the Lord: ‘For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.’”
Bishop Rhoades added, “What St. Paul wrote to Titus is true: ‘the grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all.’”
“God’s grace is no longer hidden,” Bishop Rhoades said. “It appeared, manifested in the flesh, revealed in the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
The faithful, who filled the cathedral and gathered for Midnight Mass, first participated in a prelude that included a choral presentation beginning at 11:30 p.m. and the Christmas Proclamation.
As Bishop Rhoades processed into the church, he turned to the Nativity scene where he incensed the crèche and then prayed before the manger scene.
During this Year of Faith, Bishop Rhoades spoke in his homily about the words of the Nicene Creed. “We proclaim with renewed conviction that ‘for us men, and for our salvation, He came down from heaven,’” Bishop Rhoades said.
He continued that Jesus is the light that breaks through the gloom of human history and dispels the darkness of sin. Jesus enables us to see and to understand the meaning and purpose of life.
“His light dispels sadness and fear from every human heart,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Jesus brings the power of God’s saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good and bring peace to the human heart and to the world.”
Life on earth is a journey, a pilgrimage of faith. Bishop Rhoades said, “We have our ups and downs on this journey. There are difficult moments in life, temptations to sin, and experiences of suffering and hurt.”
Through it all, Bishop Rhoades said, “Our faith teaches us to trust in the words of Jesus: ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”
Bishop Rhoades spoke about the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., which occurred just 11 days earlier, “The power of darkness continues to try to dim the splendor of the Divine Light. Unfortunately, we encounter this darkness all too often.”
“A culture of death and violence surrounds us so often, here in our country and around the world,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “St. John, in the Prologue of his Gospel, wrote: ‘the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not receive it.’ Just as people rejected Christ during His life on earth, so many reject Him today. Many prefer the darkness to the light. This is why the task of the New Evangelization is so urgent.”
“As followers of Christ, we have an important mission — to spread the light of Christ in this darkness,” Bishop Rhoades explained.
Although darkness and evil may seem to prevail at times, “God’s saving love is more powerful,” Bishop Rhoades said. “His Son, who took on our human flesh, vanquishes the power of evil and frees us from the slavery of death. The light of Christ is the light of goodness that triumphs over evil, the light of love that overcomes hatred, the light of life that defeats death.”
Just as Mary, Joseph and the Magi welcomed the Christ Child lying in the manger — as well as the saints though the ages — “they teach us to be beacons of light and hope in our world today; not to stumble along in darkness, but to walk as children of the light,” Bishop Rhoades said.
On Sunday, Dec. 23, Bishop Rhoades celebrated the TV Mass in Fort Wayne for the fourth Sunday of Advent.
On the feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28, Bishop Rhoades remembered the 27 lives lost at Newtown, Conn., at Shady Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.
Bishop Rhoades noted in his homily how the mystery of evil of the Holy Innocents continues to unfold today “at the hands of other Herods.”
“Even today, besides the innocent children killed by the gunmen at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there are many other innocent children struck down by violence, sometimes victims of drive-by shootings, or even intentionally in other horrendous acts,” Bishop Rhoades said.
“And we remember the innocent children waiting to be born who are killed in their mothers’ wombs,” he added. “How many mothers, like Rachel, have wept for these children. The culture of death spares no one, not even the most innocent babies. What Satan once convinced Herod to begin, he has persuaded whole cultures to continue.”
In the day’s Collect prayer, “the prayer says that the Holy Innocents proclaimed God not by speaking but by dying. They are considered martyrs,” Bishop Rhoades said.
“We ask them to intercede for us as we entrust to them the Church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life and the task of building a new culture of life in our nation and in the world.”
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