January 4, 2011 // Local

‘Rejoice in the birth of our Savior’

For photos from Midnight Mass at the cathedral click here.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception altar server Audrey Bond carries the infant statue of the Christ child during the processional of the Christmas Midnight Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. The statue, placed in the Nativity scene, was blessed by Bishop Rhoades.

Bishop Rhoades celebrates Midnight Mass

FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades began his Midnight Mass homily with a reflection on the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

He said, “To truly enter into the mystery of love which is Christmas, to experience deeply the joy and peace of the Nativity of Our Lord, one must be poor in spirit.

“One who is poor in spirit is aware of his or her need for God’s mercy, of the need for a Savior,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Such a person has faith and humility, two virtues that enable one to receive the great light shining forth from the manger of Bethlehem. The poor in spirit are blessed indeed for they are prepared to receive the kingdom of heaven which has come to earth in the person of the infant Jesus.”

Bishop Rhoades, celebrating Mass at the filled-to-capacity Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, said the first Beatitude was exemplified in those who welcomed Jesus that holy night in Bethlehem.

Music for the Midnight Mass was provided by the Cathedral Choir, the brass quartet and strings under the direction of Michael Dulac, music director. The choir and musical accompaniment included a 30-minute prelude.

Earlier in the evening, Bishop Rhoades celebrated the Christmas Vigil Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. He celebrated the TV Mass for shut-ins on Christmas morning on WISE-TV in Fort Wayne.

In the Midnight Mass homily, Bishop Rhoades first contemplated the Virgin Mary, “who believed with all her heart the word of the Lord spoken to her by the angel. Mary was the first to bend low over the manger to adore the fruit of her womb. She is Our Lady of Humility. No human being who ever lived was more poor in spirit than the Virgin who gave birth to the Son of God.”

Bishop Rhoades reflected on St. Joseph, who was also poor in spirit. “We have no recorded words in any of the Gospels spoken by the humble carpenter of Nazareth,” he said, “but we know of his faith and goodness. The Scriptures teach us that he was a just man. He had the courage of faith and preferred to obey God rather than to protect his own reputation when Mary was found to be with child.

“What must have been in his heart as he gazed upon the child in the manger!” Bishop Rhoades exclaimed. “Poor in spirit, he too bowed low over the manger to adore his foster son whom he would protect and teach, love and cherish.”

Of the shepherds, Bishop Rhoades said, “We do not know their names: They were anonymous. They were poor and looked down upon because of their occupation. But they were the ones chosen by God to receive the proclamation of the birth of Christ from the heavenly messenger. What did they do? Motivated by faith, they went with haste to the manger. There they found the newborn child and humbly worshipped him. They then glorified and praised God for all that they had heard and seen.”

Mary, Joseph and the shepherds — the little ones — are the key figures of Christmas, he said. They teach the meaning of the first Beatitude and the way to the kingdom of heaven — faith, humility and love.

“We worship the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We contemplate the mystery of Christmas. We welcome the Savior of the world. We can only do so authentically if we are poor in spirit, that is, with faith in God, with humility, and with love. Christ cannot enter our lives if we do not open our minds and hearts to Him and to the salvation He offers us.”

He said, “We recognize and profess that the child born of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2,000 years ago is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. His divine glory was hidden in that holy manger of Bethlehem. But humbly we believe and we adore because in that manger we have discovered the Truth that sets us and all humanity free. And we continue to discover in the infant Jesus the Love that transforms our lives.”

Bishop Rhoades spoke of the writings of St. Peter: “Should anyone ask us as Christ’s disciples the reason for our hope, we should be ever ready to reply. But what is the reason for our hope as Christ’s disciples, as Catholic Christians? The reason is not a what — it’s a who! Our faith is not so much about a book or a list of teachings or an ethical system. It is about a person!

“Christmas is the great feast of hope, for today the Savior of humanity is born,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The joyful news of our Savior’s birth resounds throughout the world on this holy night. The Son of God came into the world, and He still comes, to give us hope in the midst of doubt, uncertainty, suffering and even in the face of death. If Jesus were not born on earth, we could not be born unto heaven. But because Christ was born, we can be reborn.”

Bishop Rhoades encouraged, “Let us live this (first) Beatitude as we contemplate with the eyes of faith and with humility the holy birth of Jesus. With Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, we celebrate the great mystery of love which never ceases to amaze us: God became the Son of Man so that we might become sons and daughters of God! On this holy night, we rejoice in the birth of our Savior. Venite, adoremus! O come, let us adore Him!”

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.