A HOMILY FOR MIDNIGHT MASS
by Gavin Ashenden
Perhaps one of the things that is most universal in our experience as human beings is this sense of decay. We get old and things are not renewed; things begin to hurt; people suffer and they die; there is an entropy; there is a catastophe at the heart of life. We hope, we want, to live for ever; we want to stay full of energy, and full of health; and yet there is this corruption in us all which brings age, and then finally death.
On the whole, people don’t like talking about it. We use all sorts of euphemisms to avoid talking about death. But it isn’t just physical ageing; its also moral decay.
One of the strange things, for me, is how, over the years, instead of the spiritual and moral life getting easier, tomy mind its become harder; forgiveness becomes harder the further you get; forgiveness becomes harder the more blows you take; faith can in some ways – perhaps not faith, but trust, can become harder the more round that is taken from under our feet.
Love brings more wounds the more often it is rejected; it certainly doesn’t get easier as we grow older, and there is, as Dylan Thomas described it, a ‘dying of the light’ and some people do ‘rage’ against it.
But in the face of this ‘dying of the light’ we have to say to the world around us, as Christians, ‘we have discovered the secret of the renewal of life and the renewal of light; and it come from the beginning of time, from before the beginning of time and beyond space.
We would, like Plato, imagine that this worldhas a coherence behind it, a rationality. But there are times when that rationality seems cruel – when creation preys upon itself; when there is a kind of inevitable logic that makes accidents happen; when children walk out in front of cars and get killed. There is a terrible logic of cause and effect in a dangerous world, and we might imagine, if we didn’t know; if we hadn’t been told; if we hadn’t seen; that reality was cruel and inevitable – it is certainly coherent.
And if it was not for Jesus we might feel very vulnerable in this rational, causa, coherentl universe where we find ourselves dying. But God chose to surprise us; he chose to find a way that was clothed in the language of love and so he came vulnerably, and secretly, and gently and quietly and mysteriously because we are not ready to find him until we are hungry to know and for as long as the people we live amongst try and shore up the existential difficulty of being human by entertaining and distracting themselves by running after food and drink and all the consolations of the flesh; for as long as our community and our culture so long this mysterious gift of love will escape them. Only when people have tried everything on the whole are they ready to hear the secret that is Jesus. And then we can tell them that into the middle of the coldness and the darkness at the dead time of year when the world is most dead, when it has exhausted itself, when the darkness is deepestt and longest, light comes into the world.