The Solemnity of the Nativity of the
                                                    Lord - Christmas Vigil Mass

                                                                                    December 24, 2023

                                                                                                                        Fr. Josť Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
                                                                                                                                                                           Pastor of the Church of St. Peter
                                                                                                                                                                                North St. Paul, Minnesota


"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, 'God is with us'" (Mt1-23).

Jesus Christ is born.  God is with us! Year after year, we joyfully welcome Baby Jesus, who came to transform our lives.

This Advent and Christmas are special to me.  I had the amazing opportunity to witness the truth of Pope Benedict's words, that on every child shines something of the splendor of Christmas, of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield (cf. Pope Benedict, Midnight Mass, Vatican Basilica, December 24, 2005).

I should like to tell you the story of Mary Gabriel.  Friends of mine, a married couple, have three children.  Nine months ago, they discovered that they were expecting a new baby.  At the first visit to the doctor, they were informed that the baby had a rare disease and would live for just a few hours.  After the initial shock, the couple understood that their baby was given to them to be loved for as long as God would allow them to be with her.  Mary Gabriel was born on December 14, baptized and returned to the Father's house after a few hours, surrounded by the love of her parents and siblings.

This vulnerable little baby was a great sign of the love that Baby Jesus has for us.  In order to show us our eternal destiny, God became weak and vulnerable so that we could love him, so that he could show us our eternal destiny.

The birth of Jesus is the most extraordinary event to befall mankind, dividing history into before and after.  God became incarnate, the light that shines in the darkness.

Although centuries have passed, all things seem about the same: there are wars in the Middle East, Ukraine, Africa and elsewhere, suffering is everywhere and evil is spreading.  Powerful forces are promoting an ideology of death and a false image of humanity.

The Birth of Jesus transforms us when we center our hearts and lives around him, like Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Magi and so many others throughout the centuries.

Despite violence and wars, if we welcome the Prince of Peace, we can start building a new reality in our families, parish, work and friendships, by genuinely recognizing Baby Jesus as our God and King.

The second coming of Christ at the end of times will manifest Christ's power and glory to the whole world.  Now we are called to be the "remnant of Israel," those who recognize the saving power of God in the present, even when circumstances seem to be working against us.  Although we are in the minority, God does great works through the small and insignificant.

The world and the Church need those who truly encounter Christ and allow him to transform their lives.

Jesus came to restore, fulfill and dignify our lives.  We were lost, and now we are found.  He is the way that leads us to the house of the Father.

At Christmas, we need to think about how we love each other and build communion.  If we allow Jesus to transform us, we can transform the world.  As new creatures restored by Christ, we can become, as St. John Paul II said, builders of a new civilization of love.

Let us adore Baby Jesus!  May the light of God that appeared over the manger illuminate our hearts!  May his presence fill us with hope, joy and peace!  Amen.