Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day Mass Homily

I have a proposal for each of us this Christmas morning.  I’d like to propose that we celebrate this Christmas in our hearts.  A phrase we’ve heard before, and maybe it even seems trite.  But let me explain what I mean.  

The Letter to the Hebrews we just heard has a serious, and even solemn tone.  A joyful message, but solemn.  We read, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.”  (Heb 1: 1)  God speaks to us in a multitude of ways, and He always has.  He speaks through the immensity of the Cosmos, the beauty we see in nature – a majestic mountain or a delicate bird, but most of all through the laugh of a baby, the eyes of a child filled with wonder or the gentle smile of a grandmother bent with age.  All of these things are a manifestation of the infinite love and wisdom of God.  He loves us.  He wants to speak to us.

And so He also sent His prophets into the world, to communicate His love to us in a deeper way.  They were moved by the Holy Spirit and could truly speak on behalf of God.  They were sent not just to communicate God’s love for us, but to awaken our consciences and to stir us to respond to that love.  They were sent to show us that we were capable of good and evil.  They were sent to show us that there is fruit from our actions – good fruit and bad fruit.

Through His prophets, God was educating us about good and evil.  But in His love for us, He wanted to teach us more.  He wanted to show us that we have limits.  He wanted us to experience both infinite desire for Him, and the reality of our inability to fulfill our desires.  He wanted us to experience our need – our longing for Him.

See how much God loves us!  When a soul discovers her need in the midst of her longing, she in on her way to a miracle - the miracle of Christmas, actually.  She is on her way to an encounter with Love – to an encounter with the Light that comes into the world today.  

This, my dear brothers and sisters, is the beginning of what I mean by celebrating Christmas in our hearts.  Much more than a phrase!  It begins with accepting the infinite desire and longing of our heart, recognizing that the human heart was created with a kind of nostalgia for infinite beauty and for light without limits – for what is perfect and true.  It begins with knowing that only God can satisfy us.  Only He can fill our hearts.     

Our hearts are made for the divine, but they are human hearts after all.  And they are divided.  We want beauty, but feelings of resentment or revenge creep into.  We want to overcome those feelings, but try as we might, we realize that vanity, laziness and egotism have power over us.  We are weak.  And this struggle with ourselves is itself a gift from God.  Because it teaches us that we can’t do it alone.  

Our desire for perfection and light must meet our need for our God.  That intersection takes place right there, in the manger at Bethlehem.  It’s a moment of profound Grace and incomprehensible Love.  In our need, God sends us Light!  

Don’t let this moment of Grace be limited to your intellect.  It is more than a conference – much more than a teaching.  The prophets came long ago to be our teachers.  And yes, even today, philosophers from varying cultures discuss justice and goodness as concepts living in the mind, without even referencing God or our history of salvation.

But the child Jesus brings more than catechesis this Christmas morning.  The baby born in Bethlehem was not just one more philosopher.  Today we celebrate the Good News that God is with us – Emmanuel.  The Divine has taken human flesh.  The impossible is made possible – there is an answer to our longing.  

As the prophet Isaiah says, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.”  The Christ child is a gift to us – a gift that can fill our deepest desires.  He comes to love, to serve, to heal and to forgive.  O, how we need Him!  Today, let’s resolve to get to know Him more and more – the way He prays, the way He works, the way He preaches…  Brothers and sisters of St Mark’s, we must each get to the point where we can say, “My heart has been conquered by Him – that tiny baby has stolen my heart!”  We must each get to the point where we can say, “I need Him in my weakness – I need Him like I need air – my soul needs Him!”  

This is what it means to live Christmas in our hearts.  It’s not just for today, but for every day.  Lord, I accept my infinite desire for You, I recognize my need for You, and I thank you for the gift You give me today.  In my weakness, I want to receive you Lord – to embrace You and kiss You and thank you once again for coming to me and to the world.      

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