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Christmas Eve 2020, Fr. Paulus Budi Kledin, SVD

Christmas Eve Homily
of Father Budi Kleden

Dear brothers and sisters,

“The people who walked in the darkness.” This is the beginning of the prophet Isaiah’s text in the first reading in this holy night. This phrase alludes to our situation during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Namely, there is darkness caused by an invisible virus. Since the end of December 2019, this same virus spread when the first cases were reported in China. Since then, every day, the darkness is widening, covering all countries. Some countries first thought that they had everything necessary to protect themselves from the pandemic. In the end, they have to admit that it is not easy to close their borders from the virus, as they are doing with the migrants and refugees.

The darkness covers our Congregation as well. Almost two hundred confreres in all four zones were or are still infected with the virus; nine of them have lost their lives to the virus. A similar situation we also experienced in our Collegio community.

At individual level the darkness is shown in the cancellation of many programs and plans for our work, visits, and studies. We have faced challenges with on-line classes, closing of libraries, and staying at home because of quarantine restrictions, thus not directly contacting others. We have experienced feelings of despair and confusion about the future.

In the darkness, we feel insecure and fearful. However, the prophet Isaiah writes that people “who walked in the darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone.” This is because the Lord does not leave his people without orientation. The Lord intervenes, giving a light of hope. And Christmas tells us that that child promised and expected from ages is now born in Bethlehem by a migrant couple, in impoverished circumstances, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. As Saint Paul writes in his letter to Titus, the grace of God saving all people is manifested in this reality, far away from power and wealth. Here, in the crib, the Lord, who saves us, is hidden.

I want to underline three points on how this light changes our darkness:

  • The first is the necessity to combat all that does not serve and promote life, imprisons us in fear, and makes us pessimists. The light helps us see things and attitudes which cause conflicts, blame, and accusations to others, leading to polarization. We need to overcome these thoughts and actions, which function as a virus, paralyzing the good’s enthusiasm and inflicting hatred. The prophet Isaiah speaks powerfully about this necessity to stop evil. This is possible by smashing the yoke that burdens us, burning every cloak rolled in blood. Now, in this holy night, before the Word made flesh, let us ask the Lord to break the arrogance, egoism, and racism that justifies life at the cost of others and nature. Let us plead the Lord to burn the conflicts and polarization, to overcome the logic of winners and losers, only searching for the guilty, causing further exclusion.

  • The second point is an openness to new initiatives. The Lord himself started a new era, a new tradition of peace, a healthy and responsible way of living. Isaiah proclaims: “Upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace… he comes to confirm and sustain by judgment and justice”. This new tradition respects and promotes the rights of all. It protects life, accepts the fragility and vulnerability of human beings. The Lord has taken the initiative to reconcile us with himself and motivate and empower us to live in peace with others and take care of ourselves and others.

    The Lord gives us his guidance through the scientists who are researching to guarantee a healthier future. Our political leaders make the necessary decisions to facilitate our living together. Our spiritual leaders inspire us not to lose hope. But there are also many small and invisible services which contribute to our daily life. Now, in this holy night, before the crib of the Son of God, let us open our hearts and eyes to see these many signs of the new era. They are reflected in small and yet important things and the love and care of others.

  • The third point is: We start with ourselves. The Lord gave up Himself to discover the cause of troubles and combatted them to create a new tradition. In the second reading, Saint Paul writes: “Jesus Christ gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness.” The Lord takes the initiative to save us. Inspired and strengthened by Christmas's mystery, we are also called to contribute to building the Kingdom of God. Our response to the initiative of the Lord is to give and make ourselves available to be messengers of love and hope of the Lord. Every one of us is essential.

The life and mission of the community depend on our participation. The renewal and transformation of Society are only possible if each one of us collaborates. Now, in this holy night, before the Babe of Bethlehem, let us renew our religious missionary commitment to be messengers of light and of hope in the darkness of our time.

Collegio del Verbo Divino, Rome,
December 24, 2020