HE HAS SAID IT ALL: A HOMILY ON CHRISTMAS DAY
Have you ever wondered why in the Old Testament, God seems to be chatting to people so easily, but such things don’t seem to be the case with us? Many people, when they read the Old Testament would imagine that the prophets had a direct phone line to God. Well, it’s not. The prophets in the Old Testament received messages from God, but not in the audible way we imagine it to be. It means that whatever message is recieved needed to be well understood and because the person who recieved it is not perfect, the understanding of the message will not be perfect. Even among us human beings, no matter what you say to people, they will understand you, but nobody can understand you 100%, because those who are meant to understand you are not perfect themselves. Only a perfect person can understand something perfectly, and only a perfect person can say anything perfectly. This means that even when they delivered the message, their messages were not delivered on a 100% accuracy. A very good exercise to prove this is when you call out seven people and they all stand in a row. If you whisper a message to the first person, who will wisper the same message to the next person, etc. By the time it gets to the 7th person and you ask him/her what the message was, you will not believe you ever said that. Let us bear that in mind as we go through our readings today.
Our second reading today gives us a window through which we can understand the entire bible from Genesis to Revelation. We are told that at various times in the past and in various different ways, God did speak to our ancestors through the prophets, but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through His Son. How can someone who understand this passage still be making a big fuzz about hearing voices and receiving private messages from God and seeing visions. In the past, God spoke to us through imperfect people who understood his message imperfectly and delivered it imperfectly. Please do not confuse imperfect with incorrect. Just because a child got 100% in his/her test in school, does not mean that the answer was perfect. In fact, I don’t know a teacher who gives 100% to anyone, unless it is a question that requires just one word answer, like ‘Who is the president of Nigeria?’. But in Jesus, God comes to us Himself. Why would you want Him to send someone to you, when he has already given the message directly to you.
In the first reading, we are told about the beauty of the one who brings good news. What is this good news? It is that ‘Your God is king!’ It is that ‘they see the Lord face to face, as he returns to Zion’. The big thing is that we are no longer being told what God said by someone else. God is now speaking with us face to face. He became a little baby and grew up as one of us and we can see and touch and hear Him. This is what we celebrate and this is the reason for the season.
In our Gospel we are told of the Word, which was from the beginning. This Word was with God and this Word was God. It is through this Word that everything was created. St. Thomas Aquinas wondered why it is not the Father or the Holy Spirit that became man. Why does it necessarily have to be the Son. He gave the answer by saying that Jesus is the Word by whom the World was created and because nothing which exist could have existed without Him, so also when the world was destroyed by sin, the restoration and redemption of the world could not have happened without Him. He is the Word through whom the world was created, and he is the Word through whom the ruined creation would be redeemed.
A distinction is made between Jesus and John the Baptist. John was not the light, but a witness to the light. He was not the Word. He describes himself as a voice. A voice without a word is useless. Newly born babies have voices but they cannot formulate a word and therefore, they are unable to communicate. This is the difference between the message of a prophet and that of Jesus Himself. John declares that the one who comes after him ranks before him. None of the prophets of old saw God, but in Jesus the Word made flesh, we can now relate to a God who has come down to our level to become, not just one of us, but one of the least among us.
Even when anybody claims that they are seeing some kind of vision and receiving some kind of revelation, those revelations would be believable if they are in line with the message of Christ. I say believable because a message that was privately given to one person is believed at the believer’s risk. So do not go from place to place looking for someone to give you a new revelation. Jesus is the fulness of divine revelation and after Him, no other public revelation is possible. Every other revelation is considered private, even when the church gives an official approval to it. The is no revelation greater than that which Jesus has given to us in the gospels. Instead of looking for new revelations, let us try to understand the message of Christ. There is an Igbo saying that if your salary is not enough for you, what you get for overtime will not be enough either. This is why St. John of the Cross wrote the following.
“In giving us his Son, his only Word (for He possess no other), He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word- and he has no more to say…because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behaviour but also of offending Him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel 2,22, 3-5, quoted by CCC #65).