December 24, 2022
Ordinary, “unimportant” people. What did they experience that night?
- Maria Valtorta’s account.
- An apparition of Angels.
- Glory to God
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
“In that region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” One of the things that we can lose sight of now 2000 years later, is that when this greatest of events happened, this extreme marvel of God’s power, almost nobody knew about it. And it’s reminded to us that God often acts, so hiddenly, so much kind of, under the radar, I say, like so camouflaged, that, almost nobody realizes it. And so, He can be acting even in our world today, right now, even in ways that we don’t even realize that doesn’t make the news. And He can even be doing that, in our own lives, and our own souls, without us always realizing it. He can be acting, but in such a deep way below the surface, that we don’t realize it until perhaps later on.. And so, this Christmas night, is an opportunity to be aware, be more attentive to the ways that He is acting. So obviously, we have this Christmas, we have our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, who were the first ones to be aware. But then the other persons who were made aware are what I would call VUPs, not VIPs, but VUPs, very unimportant persons, who seem very unimportant. They weren’t the notables of the region. They were just kind of nobodies. The shepherds, poor, simple, ordinary, very ordinary, very imperfect people, people that we can relate to. And they were just having an ordinary night, difficult work night. Some people have to work on Christmas, and they were having to work that night. And it was like tonight, it was cold and dark. Because unfortunately, in our world, things are often cold and dark. Life often feels cold, and dark. And they were in their little shelter. And God is showing us that God can act, God can come whenever, wherever and to whomever He chooses. And so also, God can come to you, even though you’re an ordinary person, not a perfect person. And can even now in our time, our time, which often seems so godless, so cold because so godless, so dark, because so godless. And even in our time, like that night, the coldness and darkness of that night represents humanity away from God. And even in the coldness and darkness of a world which rejects God, God can come. And so, there are these ordinary persons out in ordinary cold working night, a bitter, cold working night. And then something else happens in this very ordinary, earthly situation. There’s something else. So, tonight at Christmas, the Lord gives us the presence with our Blessed Mother with St. Joseph, also of these shepherds, the shepherds to be with us tonight. And with the shepherds also, the angels. These shepherds were not expecting probably ever in their lives, to have this appearance of angels. And so, what we have is a very ordinary human situation, very ordinary human people. And suddenly there’s like an eruption of heaven, of these angels coming to them out of the blue. “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them. And they were filled with fear.” And so those angels which manifested themselves in a glorious apparition, that night to the shepherds are here tonight also with us, here in our poor little St. Joseph’s chapel. The angels are here with us, because in this Mass on Christmas, heaven is touching earth. And the Gloria that we just sang, this is where it comes from. This is the origin of that Gloria was what the shepherds heard from the angels, the angels bringing a song from heaven, and the shepherds hearing it and transmitting it. And so, the Gloria that we just sang at our Mass, that we’ve sung so many times, is from that night, a tradition that we have received from that night. What was that moment like for these ordinary people, the shepherds. I want to share with you, those of you who have come here regularly know I’ve often shared passages from this Italian mystic Maria Valtorta. I want to share with you this passage about this, this night of the shepherds. She writes, “I see a very wide country. The moon is at its zenith, and it is sailing smoothly in a sky, crowded with stars. I see a rustic lower enclosure from which the intermittent short bleating’s can be heard. Now and again. It must be the little sheep which dream or perhaps sense that it is almost daybreak, because of the very bright moonlight. The brightness is intense to an excessive degree, and it is increasing more and more, as if the moon were coming near the earth, over sparkling because of a mysterious fire. A shepherd looks out the door and lifting one arm through his forehead to shield his eyes, he looks up. It seems unlikely that one should protect one’s eyes from moonlight, but the moonlight in this case is so bright that it blinds people, particularly those who come out from a dark enclosure. Everything is calm, but the bright moonlight is surprising. The shepherd calls his companions. They all come to the door, a group of hairy men of various ages. Some are just teenagers; some are already white haired. They comment on a strange event, and the younger ones are afraid. One in particular, a boy about 12 years old, starts crying. And the older shepherds jeer at him. What are you afraid of you fool, the oldest man says to him, can’t you see that the air is very quiet. Have you never seen clear moonlight? You’ve always been tied to your mother’s apron strings, haven’t you? But that little shepherd is no longer listening to him. He looks as if he is no longer frightened because he leaves the threshold and steals from behind the shoulders of a brawny herdsman behind whom he had previously sought shelter. And he goes out into the grassy fold in front of the shed. He looks up and walks about like a sleepwalker, or one hypnotized by something that compellingly attracts him. At one point he shouts, “Oh”, he remains petrified with his arm slightly stretched out. His friends look at one another dumbfounded. What is the matter with this fool says one, I’m going to send him back to his mother tomorrow. I don’t want crazy people as guardians of the sheep, says another. And the old man who had spoken earlier says let us go and see before we judge him. Call the others also who are sleeping and bring your sticks. It might be a wild animal or some robber. They go in, they called the other shepherds and they come out with torches and clubs. They joined the boy. There, there, he whispers, above the tree, look at that light. It seems to be walking along the ray of the moon. There it is. It’s coming near. How beautiful it is. I could only see a rather brighter light. So, can I. So can I say the others. No, I see something like a body, says one you might recognize to be the shepherd who gave the milk to Mary the day before. It is, it’s an angel, shouts the boy. He is here. He’s coming down. He’s coming near. Down on your knees before the angel of God. A long and venerable “Oh” comes from the group of shepherds, who fall down, face to the ground, and the older they are, the more they appear to be crushed by the radiant apparition. The younger ones are on their knees, looking at the angel who is coming nearer and nearer, and then he stops, midair above the enclosure wall, waving his large wings, a pearly brightness in the white moonlight surrounding him. Do not fear, I’m not bringing you misfortune. I announce a great joy for the people of Israel, and for all the people of the world. The angelic voice is the harmony of a heart and of singing nightingales. Today, in the city of David, the Savior has been born. In saying so, the angel spreads out his wings wider and wider, moving them as a sign of overwhelming joy, and a stream of golden sparks and precious stones seem to fall from them. A real rainbow creating a triumphal arc above the poor shed. The Savior, who is Christ, the angel shines with a brighter light, his two wings now motionless, pointed upright, towards the sky, like two still sails on the Sapphire of the sea, seemed like too bright flames ascending to heaven. Christ the Lord. The angel gathers his sparkling wings, and covers himself with them, as if they were a coat of diamonds on a gown of pearls. He bows down in adoration with his arms crossed over his heart, while his head bent down as it is, disappears in the shade of the tops of the folded wings. Only an oblong, bright, motionless shape can be seen for a few moments. But now he stirs. He spreads out his wings, lifts his head, bright with a heavenly smile and says, You will recognize him from the following signs. In a poor stable behind Bethlehem, you will find the baby in swaddling clothes, in a manger for animals. Because no room was found for the Messiah in the city of David. The angel becomes serious, almost sad in saying that. Then from the heavens, many angels, oh how many come down all him, a ladder of angels descending and rejoicing, and dimming the moonlight with their heavenly brightness, they all gathered around the announcing Angel, fluttering their wings, exhaling perfumes, playing notes, and which the most beautiful voices of creation, find a recollection, but elevate it to a uniform perfection. To hear this melody is to know paradise, where everything is harmony of love, which illuminates from God, to make the blessed souls happy. And then from them, returns to God to say to Him, we love you. The angelical Gloria spreads throughout the quiet country, in wider and wider circles, and the bright light with it. And the birds join their singing to greet the early light. And the sheep add their bleating’s for the earliest light. Then the singing slowly fades away, as well as the light and the angels ascend to heaven. The shepherds come back to reality. Did you hear? Shall we go and see? What about the animals? Oh, nothing will happen to them, we are going to obey God’s word. But where should we go? Didn’t he say that He was born today? That they did not find lodgings in Bethlehem? It is the shepherd who gave the note to Mary earlier who is speaking now. Come with me. I know where He is. I saw the woman and I felt sorry for her. I told them where to go for her sake, because I thought they might not find lodgings and I gave the man some milk for her. She was so young and beautiful. And she must be as good and kind as the angel who spoke to us. Come, let us go and get some milk, some cheese, some lambs and tanned hides, they must be very poor. And I wonder how cold He must be whose name I dare not mention. And imagine I spoke to the mother, as they would have spoken to a poor wife. They go into the shed, and they’d come out shortly afterwards, some with little flask of milk, some with little nets, containing small whole round cheeses, some with baskets, each containing a little bleating lamb, and some with tanned hides. I’m taking them a sheep she lambed a month ago, her milk is very good, it will be useful if the woman should have no milk. She’s seemed a young girl to me, and so pale, says the shepherd who gave the note. And he leads them, they set out in the moonlight, aided by their torches.” I’ll continue the rest tomorrow at our, our Mass tomorrow. That will be the part where the shepherds arrive at the stable. But this is a reminder to us, that God comes to ordinary people. And so, in the darkness of our times, God can be, as I said, coming, acting in a hidden way, even as I say, that we ourselves aren’t aware of. And this night is a night to recognize His presence, even when it’s hidden. Faith helps us to discover what is hidden from our eyes. And that’s what we celebrate in this Mass. The Mass is, the Mass is not a, like a show, like a Christmas pageant, where it’s reenacted. In the Mass, something much greater is happening. Our God comes, becomes present on this altar, changing the bread and wine into His body and blood to come be here for you, to come to you, to come dwell in your heart. And this is an opportunity for us, in a world which forgets, ignores, rejects God. And so, so, many graces, as I say, that darkness and the coldness of this world comes when we reject God. And so many graces are lost. And so, this is an opportunity for us today, with the shepherds, to come adore Him, and to make an act of faith in our Lord, here present in the Blessed Sacrament and to adore Him, to offer Him our faith, our time, our adoration, our love, our desire to be better. And even offer Him our pain, our struggles. And not to feel that He reserves Himself for extraordinary people. The shepherds, as I say, were ordinary, imperfect sinners like us. And it was them who were chosen by the Lord. And so, with the shepherds tonight, with the angels, with Mary and Joseph, I want to just read again, a few passages from the Gloria, that comes from that night, and that we have sung in the Mass as a prayer with the angels of adoration of Our Lord here present. “Glory to God in the highest. We praise You. We bless you. We adore you. For you alone are the Holy One. You alone are the Lord. You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ.” Oh, come let us adore him. Amen
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