If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Holy Family 2015

(Ecclelsiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:41-52)

“Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  And He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me?  Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what He said to them.
Let us first of all remark how the Holy Family exemplified the teaching we have heard in the two previous readings:  Mary herself showed honour and respect for Joseph in her words and attitude:
Son, why have you done this?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.
Joseph, for his part, showed humble reverence and love for Mary by allowing her to speak first, thus finding immediate emotional relief in her sovereign maternal solicitude for her Son.
Jesus too, first of all recognizes and commiserates with Mary and Joseph’s concern with gentle words of sympathy:        
Why were you looking for me (upsetting yourselves so much)?
Then He proceeded to make clear, as best He could, what had been going on in His heart and mind recently:
Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house … for none but my heavenly Father could possibly lead Me to absent Myself from returning with you in the caravan … surely you knew that?
The Boy Jesus – humanly speaking, He was still a boy in some most important aspects – possibly did not fully realize the impact of those words!  And yet, for the very first time He had called the God of Israel -- Whom they all, in accordance with Israel’s Law, had been on pilgrimage in Jerusalem to worship and honour in the Temple – His own, Personal, Father!
Those words I must be in My Father’s house are also seriously translated I must be about My Father’s business: neither translation excludes the other, neither alone can give the full meaning of Jesus’ words. 
Moreover, in the intimate inner circle of family life His words were also surprising, perhaps even disturbing, since they could have appeared to be in contradiction with Mary’s carefully chosen ‘adult’ words:
            Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.
There had always been in the hearts and minds of Mary and Joseph – amid the wondrous amazement, gratitude, and countless joys Jesus gave them – a hidden anxiety about how best to bring up such a Child: One they had both taken, many years ago, to the Temple to present Him originally to God as Mary’s God-given son.  They had both endeavoured to live their lives in His sight and for His guidance, as true Israelites.  Without doubt, Mary’s every word and gesture as she lived her busy round of family, social, and religious duties bespoke her love of God and commitment to Israel’s faith, and she must – frequently -- have shared with her Son her most intimate thoughts and experiences of the great goodness, wondrous beauty, and awesome justice, of God.  Joseph, likewise, had his own indispensable role and function to fulfil: he had to be the man for this sublime Boy: teaching Him responsibility in His work for and relationships with others, above all with and for His mother.  It was by following Joseph’s example that Jesus learned how to love the person and appreciate the sensitivity of Mary, whilst at the same time fitting into the world of working men and gradually advancing in His God-given ‘favour’ among them.  Joseph would also have taken Him regularly (Sabbath, and market days Monday and Thursday) to the synagogue for readings and explanation of the Law and prophets, together with common prayers (Sh’ma – Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One); and it was at the synagogue that Jesus learnt to hear and understand, to read and write, the holy language of His people. 
That teaching from Mary and Joseph, that early lived experience of faithful Jewish practice over the years of His hidden home life in Nazareth culminated in this pilgrimage to Jerusalem and came to its most beautiful first flowering in the short  period of three days when He was alone there in response to and communing with His ‘newly-experienced’ Father in heaven.
During those three days, what was the business that Jesus was about, engaged in, that He found so important and demanding? He was celebrating His new majority, adult-standing and responsibility before the Law, which enabled Him above all to delight more fully in God His Father: through participation in the Temple worship, and then sharing in the regular teaching and discussion sessions -- given, held, by scribes and elders in the adjacent Temple:
After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers.
Notice that this love of the boy-become-man-according-to-the-Law, this love of Jesus for His Father in heaven was an intensely personal and deeply passionate love.  It was not a distant admiration and compartmentalized commitment, one that could be appreciated objectively and weighed in the scales against other loves and other, corresponding, commitments.  No!  It was a passionate and compelling love which brooked no compare.   This consuming love of the boy Jesus ‘for His Father’s business’ had been originally nourished by the teaching of His mother Mary, for she undoubtedly taught Him much about the Psalms of Israel and the words of the prophets calling for love and obedience toward God and fellow-feeling in community and society.  It was, however, above all her humility that was ever a beacon for Him Who would eventually sacrifice Himself for the sins of men.
This Child absorbed the teaching of His mother to such an extent that He understood the Psalms of which she spoke so well, far, far more than she was aware of!  He learnt to read the sacred Scriptures she honoured and treasured with such sympathetic awareness and profound responsiveness that they became for Him a personal communion with the Author of those Scriptures, a communion wherein the Boy ‘discovered’ Himself and was guided to that appreciation of His Father which the Scriptures themselves (Isaiah 55:11s.) foretold:
My Word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me empty, but shall do what pleases Me, achieving the end for which I sent it.   
The Boy’s subsequent awareness and understanding of His adulthood -- His ‘bar mitsva’ acceptation before the Law; His experience of adult worship in His Father’s house, and listening to and participating in the glorification of Israel’s God ‘in the midst of teachers’; all this was greater than anything He had previously experienced.  He was enraptured ... experiencing for the very first time to the fullness of His youthful being, His own most Personal nature: Son – totally from and totally committed to – His only Father, in Heaven.  He quite literally could not turn from the overwhelming fullness of that divine experience to join the caravan with Mary and Joseph back to Nazareth ... He remained three days in Jerusalem.
However, this young Man’s sublime delight in and total commitment to His now to-be-openly-acknowledged Father was not quite the same thing as His adult ‘commissioning’ by the Father for His ultimate mission.  His human understanding was still developing and so -- as was fitting for One still subject in society to His earthly parents -- the words of Mary, with Joseph’s backing, had weight enough to call Him back to an objective appreciation of His obligations as ‘their’ child.   When such obligations would be removed, however, His delighting in, loving and communing with, His heavenly Father, would inevitably take over His whole life and claim His total and absolute commitment.  In the meantime, He had made clear the essential point:
Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house ... about My Father’s work? 
It was by observing His mother Mary’s attitude and bearing that Jesus had learnt to respect Joseph as His earthly father; nevertheless, Mary and Joseph, when the time had come, were both taken totally unawares by Jesus’ behaviour at that year’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover celebrations.  There had always been a certain silence, otherness, about Jesus … didn’t His disciples experience it as they used to walk together behind Jesus as they went about Israel with Him?  Words were not cheap with Jesus, nor were His thoughts, feelings, and emotions easily traceable and recognizable … He was ‘his own man’ as a common expression would put it.  But that is not correct, not accurate, enough, for Jesus was ‘God’s man’, above all and in all He was ‘His Father’s Son’.   However, we are told that He learned to control His enthusiasm, to listen more patiently and ever more attentively to and for His heavenly Father, and so:
He went down with Mary and Joseph and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.
Oh the humility of God made man!  He went back to family life in Nazareth and was obedient: He would calmly love and reverence His earthly parents as He awaited His Father to call Him, to ‘commission’ Him.  Learning ever more of God His Father, He continued to humble Himself before the men and women He served in His recognized work as carpenter with Joseph, to respect those among whom He dwelt, and in all such relationships to quietly encourage and confirm their awareness of God as He shared with them His understanding and Truth, His goodness and Love:
Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favour before God and man.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas 2015

(Isaiah 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14)

Dear People of God, our Christmas celebration evokes not simply emotional rejoicing but deep, existential, joy; because it answers our most desperate needs by revealing God’s Personal love, it initiates our release from self-destroying bondage, and it offers us hope of a future which -- though humanly inconceivable -- corresponds nevertheless to our deepest human aspirations and stirs up within us spontaneously pure and unprecedented delight.

The great prophet Isaiah lived and preached in Jerusalem some 750 years before Jesus.  He was well connected, having access to those in positions of authority and power in and around Jerusalem; however, God chose him to proclaim a message that was very different from people's expectations.  Listen to this:

For thus said the LORD – His hand strong upon me – warning me not to walk in the way of this people: "Do not call conspiracy what this people call conspiracy, nor fear what they fear, nor feel dread.  (Isaiah 8:11-13 NAB RE)

Now that sort of commission is not easy, indeed it would be frightening for most people.  Just imagine, would you want to proclaim a message you knew would offend important individuals and might stir up public anger because of popular prejudices?  What if you were to be labelled racist, sexist, old-fashioned, or intolerant for speaking out?  Well, although Isaiah might never have been labelled in such terms, nevertheless he was made unpopular because of the message given him to speak in the name of God against the mass of the people and against their leaders.

Therefore, if we can understand something of the reason why God sent Isaiah to proclaim in this way the coming of Emmanuel, we will also learn something about the attitude in which we should celebrate this wondrous season of Christmas, the Emmanuel season.  The Lord said:

Sons have I raised and reared, but they have rebelled against Me. An ox knows its owner, and an ass its master's manger, but Israel does not know, My people has not understood. (1:2-3)

In those times the father had power of life and death over his children and the duty of children was to honour and obey their father; to rebel against him, by word or deed could lead to death.  God was saying, therefore, that the ox and the donkey, stupid animals though they were, knew -- that is they loved, trusted, and obeyed -- their master; but Israel did not have the sense of even the ox or the donkey, for they were a rebellious people who would neither trust nor obey the Lord their God.

Don’t think that Israel was godless, however.  Far from it: every nation in those days had its own god, for the national god was part of the national identity.  Consequently, to keep up with the Jones’ so to speak, God’s Chosen People kept up the public worship of Yahweh, the God they alone worshipped among all the nations.  They offered Him all sorts of sacrifices of innumerable lambs and bulls, goats and doves. The seasonal national assemblies in their world-famous Temple at Jerusalem were distinguished from others around them by the accompanying music and incense, pomp and splendour: there were regular hours for official, public, sacrifice and prayer each day, while individuals and groups could meet to study the Law and the Scriptures, or to celebrate more private sacred meals together before their God.  All this devotion, however, was more apparent than real, for the hearts of God’s chosen People were not with their God: the rich sought and flaunted wealth and power, living lives of luxury with no concern for others, being too often drunkards prepared to sell each other down the river to feed their addictions; while the poor turned to idols and destroyed each other.  Listen to the Lord speaking to both factions:

Ah! Those who join house to house who connect field with field.  Ah! Those who are champions at drinking wine, who acquit the guilty for bribes … New moon and sabbath, calling assemblies --- festive convocations with wickedness – these I cannot bear.  Your new moons and festivals I detest.  When you spread out your hands (in prayer), I will close My eyes to you.

The people will be oppress one another … yes, each one their neighbour; the child will be insolent toward the elder, and the base toward the honourable.   (5:8, 22-23; 1:13-15; 3:4-5)

Israel, indeed, did not know her God; Isaiah, however, had personally seen the holiness of God in a majestic vision that had filled him with awesome reverence and fear:  

I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of His garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above, each of them had six wings. One cried out to the other: "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with His glory!"   At the sound of that cry the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. (6:1-4)

That is why Isaiah was filled with zeal for the Lord; that is why, though he pitied his erring compatriots, he was nevertheless thoroughly disgusted at their practices.

The sickness of Israel was shown most clearly in the case of Ahaz, the King of Israel.  At that time he and his people were in great peril: local enemies were literally pressing him on all sides, and he was thinking of turning to the dreaded Assyrians for help! Indeed, he was thinking of making Judah -- God’s Chosen People! -- a vassal state of the mighty, pagan, Assyrian empire.  Therefore the Lord sent Isaiah to meet Ahaz, and the meeting was not to take place in the palace but at a spring called Gihon just outside the city.  

Isaiah delivered the Lord’s message to Ahaz, telling him not to turn to the Assyrians for help, but to trust in the Lord:

Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm. (7:9)

But the king wanted to see something striking, he wanted quick results, he could not just trust the Lord: ‘the Lord knows how long that might take’ we can imagine him saying to himself.  And so, at the spring Gihon, where the kings of Judah were traditionally crowned, where all members of David’s line had been given solemn promises by the Lord of Hosts, here was Ahaz -- their successor and himself one of David’s line -- proposing to ignore the spiritual promises of the Lord and to turn rather to the immediately tangible earthly power of the loathed and feared King of Assyria.

Before allowing Ahaz to go ahead with such a betrayal, the Lord, the God of Israel, offered him one last chance: not a verbal promise as had been given to David and Solomon his fathers; no, this time the Lord accommodatingly offered Ahaz something he could see and see quickly, a sign of his own choosing which the Lord would perform:

Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as the sky.

But would you believe it, Ahaz, the king, was even more of a hypocrite, even more insincere before the Lord, than so many of his people still flocking to the temple with their vain sacrifices, still spreading out their arms in ostentatious but empty public and personal prayers.  Ahaz, like them, pretending to be devout, said:

I will not ask, I will not tempt the Lord!  (7:12)

Isaiah was both astounded and frustrated:

He said, "Listen now, house of David! Is it not enough that you weary human beings?  Must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel. (7:13-14, cf. Mt. 1:23)

To understand something of this sign, we must remember that the king in Israel -- the legitimate king, that is, of David’s line -- was protected by God’s promise, and therefore he himself was a sign to the people that God was with them.  That is why the king was most prominent in their worship, more prominent than the Temple priests; Judah was the Chosen People of God and Judah’s king of David’s line was considered to be a son of God, God’s prime instrument for His People’s well-being.

And so, the Lord’s sign was to be a child, a boy child to be named Emmanuel, “God-with-us”.  This child, however, was to be not a mere sign of God’s presence with His People, and most certainly not a lying sign such as Ahaz; no, this Child was to be in all literal truth, GOD-WITH-US.  It was as if the Lord were saying: “You, Ahaz, are no true king of My people, you are a disgrace.  I will give My people a true King, My own true Son: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God”; and this true King will be no descendent of yours Ahaz, you will have no part in Him for:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel. 

People of God, those are the historic roots of our Christmas celebration and from those roots we learn that, to celebrate Christmas fittingly, we must, first and foremost, trust God wholeheartedly.  We must not put our trust in money or power, nor our delight in earthly prospects or pleasures.  We, as Catholic Christians, are called to trust and delight in the Father Who is giving us His Son, the seal of all His promises to us.  And, in this holy season, we must renew our trust and confidence in Jesus’ own promise to His Church -- the one, true, Catholic Church -- to be with her to the end of time, guiding and preserving her in her struggle with and despite the towering powers of evil.

But there are other roots for our celebrations: roots thrusting deep into our very being, for we are indeed all of sinful stock.  The sins to be seen and heard of in our world today are so disgustingly gross and horrific, unfeeling and barbaric, one might think them inhuman, things that only the Nazis could do; but no, there was Stalin in Russia, Mao tse Tung in China, the killing fields of Cambodia, there are yet many others still all over the world: ISIL and present day terrorists, dictators, duplicitous leaders, exploiters, drug traffickers, even deviant mothers and fathers!!  So, though horrific, the sin of the world is not inhuman … it is resident in the human heart of men and women all over the world.  Indeed, it is resident in our own hearts and minds!  For, just as some of the  greatest saints have been able to say with the utmost sincerity, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’; so surely, each of us is, in various ways, aware of tendencies and proclivities capable of abhorrent developments lurking in the deep shadows of our ego!

Our rejoicing at Christmas, therefore, is real indeed, one with that of St. Paul:

I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?   Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 7: 23-25)

Jesus is coming to His Church anew this Christmas to renew His promises to her, and to give us her children the opportunity to express our gratitude, renew our confidence, and stir up our hope, for His future coming in glory.  Having been baptized as members of the Body of Christ we are assured that we are already children of God.  We have been promised an inheritance and a home, eternal joy and fulfilment, in the Kingdom of our heavenly Father.  We have been endowed with the Gift of the Spirit Who wills to lead us into all truth and enable us to become true children of God, delighting in the fulfilment of our calling.  No matter what our situation, no matter how difficult or dark the way may seem, we should never doubt that Jesus is coming this Christmas to help us in all our needs, and we can be totally confident that there is nothing which may oppress our lives or threaten our hopes, from which He cannot free us.

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice greatly this Christmas, for we who are disciples of Jesus are privileged to welcome Him this day into our Church, into our hearts and lives, and indeed, into our modern world, anew.  St. Paul assures us that:

            However many are the promises of God, their “Yes” is in Him. (2 Cor. 1:20)

Jesus’ last gift to His disciples was Mary to be our mother, and we always remember what her cousin Elizabeth, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said of her:

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled! (Luke 1:45)

Therefore let us implore her to rejoice our lives by her prayers that will protect, nourish, and promote the faith-likeness of Jesus living in us: impoverished as regards our commitment to Him; unappreciated by our ignorance of and indifference to His plans for us; above all, so little loved by us, as repeatedly evidenced by our reluctance to hear Him and our failures to obey Him.

Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, Hail our life, our sweetness, and our hope.  To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.  Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

4th Sunday of Advent Year C 2015

4th. Sunday of Advent (C)
(Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-44)

The time is at hand: soon Christmas will be here.  In today's readings we are given some background to Israel's expectation of, and joy in, the promised Messiah; and through that may we perhaps glimpse something of the fullness of Christian joy that should be ours as we look forward expectantly towards the Christmas coming among and within us of our loving Saviour and, with humility and hope, towards the  same Lord Jesus’ final coming in heavenly glory as the Judge of all creation and ultimate Vindicator of the sublime majesty and holiness of God His Father.
The prophet Micah (4:14 NABRE) foretold that, before the coming of the Messiah, there would be a time of sorrow:
Now grieve, O grieving daughter!  They have laid siege against us!  With the rod they strike on the cheek the ruler of Israel!
The horrors for a city under siege in those days could indeed be catastrophic: supplies of food and water being cut off first of all; then stores laid by running out; finally, rain and wells being insufficient to provide enough water for all those crowded into a city filled to overflowing with battle-weary troops and terrified country people from the surrounding villages who had all poured in for shelter from the invading host.  So terrible could such a siege be that it might even result in the strong eating the weak, and mothers their infants!  
Eventually, Micah foretold, Zion would be seized and their ultimate affliction would be the nations’ final disgrace, when, robbed of all its dignity and respect:
            With the rod they strike on the cheek the ruler of Israel!
Israel's state of subjection and dependency would last long, because the Messiah was to come out of Bethlehem, not Jerusalem the city of Israel's great king, David.  David had been taken from shepherding his father's flocks by Samuel in the name of God and anointed as king to shepherd God's chosen people.  So too, as you heard, Micah foretold of the coming Messiah that:
            He shall take His place as shepherd by the strength of the Lord;
but, he would not arise out of Jerusalem, Zion, the city of David, because Israel's ruler will have been humiliated -- "struck on the cheek with the rod" -- for so long that survivors of the house of David will no longer be found anywhere in the capital city, only a remnant remaining in the abject surroundings of Bethlehem:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One Who is to be Ruler in Israel.
Those long years after the terror of siege and conquest, those long, long, years of humiliation, were acknowledged to be the result of Israel's sin, and God's consequent hiding of His face from her had been foretold:
The Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne.
When, however, the expected Messiah came, He would indeed be a wonderful figure like David:
He shall take His place as shepherd by the strength of the Lord, by the majestic name of the Lord His God; and they shall dwell securely.
Indeed, He would be even greater than David, the prophet foretold:
For now His greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth: He shall be peace.
David's kingdom had been quite small; he had brought some worldly glory to his country, indeed, but he had not brought peace, for war had never been far from Israel's borders in David's days.  Above all, however, the Messiah would be no mere human being; He would be far more than even a great and successful hero, because He would be, the prophet proclaimed:
One Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.
In other words, Micah confirms what Isaiah also had foretold, the Messiah would be divine.  Then indeed, in His days, Israel's humiliation would come to an end and her glory be revealed to all mankind.
Surely, therefore, you can imagine something of the joy, expectation, pride, and hope which the Messiah's birth held out to pious Israelites; and it is there you can find some idea of the true nature of the Christian longing as we draw close to Christmas, the birth of Jesus Our Lord!
However, to have a closer idea of the nature of our Christian expectancy this Advent season, we have to bear in mind what our Christian evangelists and prophets tell us about the Messiah in addition to what the Old Testament prophets had foreseen and foretold, and therefore we now turn our attention to today's second reading:
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me.  Holocausts and sin offerings You took no delight in.” 
Jesus, our Saviour, was not, is not, coming to do everything the Jewish Messiah might have been expected to do, for most Jews would have envisaged the Messiah offering sacrifices in the Temple, and they certainly would have wanted and expected Him to lead their army to victory over their oppressors and enemies: ultimately, indeed, they longed for a return of the ‘glory days’ associated with King David.  Jesus, however, was not coming with the express purpose of radically improving Israel’s political relationship with the nations, He was coming to renew Israel’s unique relationship with God: He was coming with that one purpose in mind, and with His own body to replace the traditional sacrifices and offerings.
Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me.  Holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.” 
He was coming, then, with a love for His Father, Israel’s God, that was divine, but in a body that was truly and fully human and, therefore, subject to the frailty and vulnerability of human nature:
Behold, I come – in the body You have prepared for Me -- to do Your will, O God.
And that vision of God’s will most certainly did not satisfy the popular hopes and aspirations of most Jews!  How could a suffering, sacrificial, Messiah give them that hoped-for military triumph over, and revenge on, the Romans, which would lead to political sovereignty and independence, together with fondly-imagined prestige and prosperity? 
Popular desires and expectations have never determined God’s providential counsels and plans; and certainly, the prophets and those who were most pious among the sons and daughters of Israel, such as Simeon, Anna, Elizabeth, and above all, Mary, desired simply and solely that the sin of Israel -- her disobedience and hardness of heart before God -- should be redeemed.  It was that ever-growing corporate sinfulness which had brought on Israel all the suffering and shame she had had to endure for centuries; she had not lived worthily as God's Chosen People, she had been unfaithful to the covenant made with Yahweh in the desert; and that, dear Christian People of God, is a warning for us Catholics today.  Far too many have long given but lip-service to the Faith they ostensibly professed.
In the Gospel we are told (Luke 7: 22-23) that Jesus, enumerating the blessings of His public ministry, said to John’s disciples:
The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me.
Great blessings indeed, some miracles, but what purpose did they serve in Jesus plan?  Those latter words tell us, and at the same time they condemn too much of modern worship and service of God:
The poor have the good news proclaimed to them; and blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me.
Do our poor (in money/in devotion) have the Good News proclaimed to them, or are they only given what they want or like to hear?  How many stand up for Jesus and His Church when He, His Gospel truth, and/or His holy ones, are not popular?
Of old, the faithful remnant of Israel looked for the coming Messiah to redeem Israel from the disgrace and poison of her own sinfulness, and today we need a similar attitude but with a yet purer scale of values to proclaim, aim for, defend, and achieve.
To that end, let us just listen to some of the most sublime expressions of faithful Israel’s joy at the prospect of the coming and longed-for Messiah, those which provide us with the truest and most authentic model for our Christian, Christmas, joy and hope:
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 
That was the joy of John the Baptist; joy that One had come Who would indeed purge Israel of her sin, just as He had filled his own mother with the Holy Spirit; One Whose way he, John, would prepare by preaching repentance of sin:
He went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:3)
Such too was the joy of Simeon who received the Infant in his arms from Mary:
Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace, according to Your word.   For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You prepared in the sight of all peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for Your people Israel. (2:29-32)
And Simeon -- who knew the people he had long lived among -- recognized that the glory rejoicing his own heart would not prove to be a cause for popular joy in Jerusalem; indeed, worldly Israelites would reject it:
Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.”    (2:34)
This spiritual glory, this cleansing from sin, is what Mary celebrated when she proclaimed the holiness of God:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.  For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.   For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. (Luke 1:46-49)
Therefore, dear People of God, you who have been chosen in Christ, let us all look forward with joyful anticipation to Christmas, but let us look forward to what God offers for the world’s needs, not what human desires suggest nor what human fears might impose.  Let us, indeed, rejoice when Christmas is come, but with a joy that delights in God-made-Man not in men-rejecting-God, in worshipful thanksgiving not in the baubles of this world. Moreover, let us not try to make our Christmas joy popular by stage-managing the presentation and modifying the content of God’s word to please modern expectations and prejudices, for that would be a betrayal of trust given us, a betrayal that constitutes one of the most insidiously powerful threats to our Church today, a betrayal that most resembles Judas Iscariot, who betrayed our Lord with a kiss.
In this holy season, therefore, our joy should -- first and foremost -- be simple and sincere; a joy which enables us to open our minds and hearts, to offer our very lives, to the One Who comes to do His Father's will; a joy that compels us to ask Him to teach us His ways and bless us with the power of His Spirit so that we too -- as His disciples -- may seek and delight to do the Father's will in all things.   In that way may His Kingdom be more surely established in the world by being brought closer to our brothers and sisters around us in our own very modern Babylon or Bethlehem.