One thousand nine hundred thirty six years ago the author of the Gospel according to Matthew, sat down and wrote down the names of real people. People like you and me, regular folks, called to respond to God’s call, in their ordinary circumstances, often in very ordinary ways. What St. Matthew did in his day, was reach back into his people’s history to recognize men and women of faith. Abraham, the father of faith, Isaac and Jacob, and Rahab, Ruth, David, Solomon, Amminadab, and the list goes on–from Abraham right down to the Christ.
Forty-six names are mentioned that stretch back forty two generations–approximately 2,100 years. Those forty six people were known to St. Matthew by name. No computers. No databases. No microfiche. Remembered from one generation to the next because of the holiness of their lives, their commitment to faith–not their perfection or sinlessness–but their willingness to give their life to God for his purposes–right down to Mary and Joseph whose faith and obedience gave us the Savior of the world–born in a manger in Bethlehem this very night.
That’s the power of faith. That’s what God can do with our “yes” to life, with our “yes” to love, with our “yes” to him. Christmas matters. Not only because we remember the infant Jesus born in a manger, but because we remember and we are renewed in faith. We remember, and are mindful that our Lord wants to be born in the manger of our heart. Our Lord’s birth in Bethlehem of Judea counts for nothing, if the king of peace is not born into our family situation. Christmas and candy canes mean nothing if the Lord of Lords is not Lord of our life.
One thousand nine hundred thirty six years ago Matthew remembered men and women of faith who brought us the savior, and our Church remembers those men and women of faith who have come since then. We hear during the Eucharistic prayers the names of the Saints of the Church who gave every earthly treasure and often their life for our Lord. They wanted only one thing…for Jesus to be born in their village, in their town, in the heart’s of those whom they love. On this eve of Christmas, we ask ourselves, do we have that same want? I know we want presents, and I know we want candy canes, and I know we want two helpings of pumpkin pie…wait, that’s me. We have all these wants–is Jesus and a life of holiness one of them?
My question for parents is, are we raising saints? Have we prayed that our children would one day be named among the Saints of the Church. We want our children to do well in school, to go to college and get a good job, maybe even to be a professional athlete–but more than this, how holiness, sainthood, and eternal life? It starts tonight.
And for my young saints out there…Is that your desire? To be saints? Do you say your prayers each night? Do you look forward to coming to Mass and look for opportunities to help out around the house? Do you use kind words and say sorry when you’ve done wrong? It starts tonight.
Jesus came into the world 2,000 years ago, not so that we would have trees and stockings and candy canes (although those things are okay). Jesus was born into a manger in Bethlehem so that we could become Saints. That’s it. That has to be the number one goal of our life. St. Mary Mazzarello, a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco said, “Make up your mind to become a saint,” and she followed that advice, and she is. St. Therese of Lisieux said, “You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” Choose to be a saint.
And that is what this night is all about. This silent night, this holy night. This is the night that God showed his great love for the world by becoming one of us, so that we can be like him, and live with him, forever. And that’s a Saint. And we can, if we allow Jesus to be born in our heart. And just think, wouldn’t it be something if 2,000 years from now, if our names were counted among the names of the Saints of the Church. That would be the best gift of all. Merry Christmas.