In God’s eyes, each and every person counts. Love casts out fear, and allows us to do courageous things. In other words, “love changes the course of the world.”
That was Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley’s message on Christmas Day at Our Lady’s Chapel of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Tuesday morning. The 11:30 a.m. service saw churchgoers of all types looking for seats and neighbors at Christmas Day Mass.
Poinsettias dotted the chapel, and no fewer than six Christmas trees with white lights surrounded a Nativity scene just next to the altar. The scent of incense wafted through the air, and when the choir began to sing “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” the service began.
Focusing on God’s love, O’Malley’s Christmas message urged the faithful, and even the not-so-faithful, to remember and celebrate faith and each other.
“Everything we are, everything we have is a gift,” he said. “We are not here by chance. We’re here because of love.”
God’s love, according to O’Malley, is “always new, always fresh” and “never tires of forgiving us, never tires of giving us another chance.”
O’Malley also acknowledged the church’s shortcomings, asking those who “have been hurt by the church’s sins not to throw the baby out with the bath water — especially if the baby is the Christ child.”
“Christ has given us the church so that we can experience his power and love through the sacraments, through the word of God, and in the community of faith,” he said. “We are all the church, and together we will reform and carry out the mission that Christ has entrusted to us.”
“This is a time of new beginnings,” O’Malley said in a brief interview after the service. “Our connectedness to God and to each other is very, very important. We need to be reconciled with God, and not running away from God. We need to be reconciled with each other in church, reconcile with each other in our families.”
“Sometimes it’s very hard when we love people and we feel that they’ve let us down or that they hurt us, but at Christmas time, the Lord is calling on us to overcome those barriers and to begin again,” he said. “To see each other with new eyes.”
It’s important to come to Mass on Christmas Day because “it’s the birthday of our Savior,” said Maria Gil, a South End resident who has attended services at the cathedral every day for the past 30 years.
Christmas Mass, she said in Spanish, “renews our faith, our enthusiasm, and improves the way we treat each other, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters.”
Gil said she was touched by O’Malley’s mention of the Hispanic tradition of Posadas Navideñas , in which people reenact the biblical story of Mary and Joseph looking for shelter just before the birth of Jesus.
“I miss the way posadas are done in Hispanic countries,” said Gil, who comes from the Dominican Republic. “It’s a very beautiful tradition.”
A woman from Seabrook, N.H., said she and her family have always come to the cathedral for Christmas Day Mass.
“It’s my husband’s birthday as well,” she said. “He passed away in April, and all the family is here in Boston to celebrate with my daughter and we always come to the cathedral. It’s a special place.”
“We have our own churches at home,” said the woman, who gave her name only as Kathleen, but she feels closer to her husband being at the cathedral on Christmas Day.
Calling O’Malley’s homily “wonderful,” Kathleen praised his message of God’s love during this time of year.
“I think the idea of Christmas being important to families, to neighborhoods, and to countries — it’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “Peace on earth, that’s what we’re all hoping for, especially this year.”