The Last Gospel

Father Steve Mattson on Dec 31, 2020

The proper gospel reading for today, the 7th Day in the Octave of Christmas, is John 1:1-18. It’s the same as that for Christmas Mass During the Day. Coming as it does on December 31st, it is the “last gospel” of the year. Masses this evening are actually Vigil Masses of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

As I proclaimed it this morning, I couldn’t help but be struck–yet again–by the power of John’s beautiful prologue. So much Good News is captured so poetically in the first chapter of his gospel. Here is an apt excerpt:

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.

Thanks be to God, the Word did, in fact, become flesh. And dwelt among us. And he gave us the power to become children of God.

This morning in my homily, I focused on the great privilege we have to be children of God, bearers of the light of Christ. As such, in Christ, we are called, as members of the Body of Christ, to reveal God the Father to the world, as Jesus did when he became flesh. May we be faithful witnesses in our world, which is so desperately in need of light and love.

After proclaiming this (last) Gospel of the year, I expressed my hope (perhaps prophetically, perhaps in false hope) that–should the Lord tarry–the Novus Ordo might one day be modified to reinstate the traditional reading of “The Last Gospel” at the conclusion of Mass after the final blessing. Much was lost, it seems to me, with this change. And I say that as one who does not celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.

Some parishioners have asked me to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, and I’m not opposed. In fact, I hope to be able to learn to do so. For now, though, I strive to celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass as beautifully and reverently as possible. As I have done so, I have been inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s vision of a “mutual enrichment” of the two forms of the Mass.

The Last Gospel reminds us why Jesus came. Today it offered a fitting finish to the year. Who knows? Perhaps one day it will do the same for every Mass.

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