Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Vigil Year A

English is a dynamically inclusive language. Wikileaks has already entered the language. Another coinage in the language is flash mob. I have seen the phenomenon before and you may have too, but I never knew it was called flash mob. It simply means a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place to perform an unusual act for a brief period of time and then the crowd dissipates as if nothing happened.

There is this YouTube of a flash mob that has been going around since 13th Nov 2010. In it, a group of people began singing, in a crowded food court, a part of the Handel’s Messiah that we are familiar with. What caught my attention was the line “King of kings” that this group thunderously acclaimed. This evening and tomorrow, we will have four different Masses with different sets of readings. The emphases may be different but a common theme running through them is that we are celebrating the solemn birth of the King of kings.

We launch it by wading into a genealogy resembling a credit background check on Christ whose ancestry stretches as far back as Abraham making note that the character composition of Christ’s ancestry embraces a spectrum as diverse as the human race. What does this teach us?

If the Son of God could come from such a background, royal but with a lineage stained with scandals, it shows that no human condition is excluded from salvation. No one is so condemned that he cannot be saved. The only thing that stand between us and Christ’s salvation is us. We provide the obstacle to our salvation. The truth is the whole of creation is groaning for the salvation which only Christ can give, as echoed by the first reading: “Like a young man marrying a virgin, so will the one who built you wed you, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bridge, so will your God rejoice in you”.

No part of human history is excluded from the saving presence of Christ the new-born King. The 2nd Reading tells us that God will raise up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour. In unfolding before us the whole tapestry of Christ’s ancestry, Holy Mother Church invites to open ourselves to Him whose saving love embraces even what we dare not or are too embarrass to embrace.

But guess what? We are quite like a flash mob. There is a crowd here which is larger than the usual—a condition ripe for a flash mob. Do not worry though. There will be no sudden singing by the choir. However, this is where I think that the genealogy may just help expand our vision a little bit more. Whilst it is true that the genealogy invites us to come with our human weakness, it also challenges us to a vision beyond what is merely personal like my weaknesses, my history, my ancestry and etc. Like the flash mob, the liturgy prepares us to enter into the proclamation of salvation. Christ is born and He is the King of kings. Perhaps it is time to re-examine the motive for coming to Mass at Christmas.

Recently, there was an inter-religious gathering—the subject matter discussed was about universal values applicable to all religions. At the end of the so-called dialogue session, a defensive and to-be-expected statement was made by one of the religionists who said that his religion does not consider the other religions as equal.

I am not interested in entering into a debate about which religion is the greatest but it does turn the spotlight to us in a way which challenges us.

There is a tension which both our Easter and Christmas liturgies reveal. The crowd is larger than usual. It means that people have stayed away from Church. And yet, there is an instinctive sense that both Easter and Christmas mean something enough to attract people out of the woodworks.

The disparity between a normal Sunday Mass’ attendance and the Easter/Christmas liturgies begs us to ponder deeper into why such a disparity should exist. But, whatever the reason for staying away, it can never outweigh the necessary proclamation we must make with our lives and not only with our words.

There is no condemnation for those who come only once in a while. If you hear that, you heard wrongly. There is however an invitation to a deeper and honest reflexion for those who are baptised. If we accept that Christ is King of kings, then where and how does our lives fit into that proclamation that we are celebrating tonight. There is no need to announce that our religion is better than all other religions.

The agenda is not ours tonight, not even the deepest pain we feel. Instead the agenda belongs to the King of kings. As we hearken to greet His birth, let us do all that is within our power to ensure that He is truly the King of kings and doing it twice a year is really not enough. I would like you to watch the You-Tube clip of the flash mob now.

Do you know the meaning of the word Agoraphobia. It is the fear of open spaces or the fear of the “market-place”. In short, a phobia of crowds. Most Catholics are agoraphobics. Why? We dare to proclaim Christ as King within the confines of the Church. But, it is to the outside world—the agora or the marketplace—that we need to proclaim Him. Doing it twice a year is not enough for it can only be done through a lifetime of words and deeds

Finally, here is our wish to each one of you that Christmas will be a blessed one and that at every corner you turn, you may find Christ the Lord already there waiting for you.