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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas!


What is the meaning of Christmas?  What a difficult celebration to preach, because it means so much!  But the truth is, you don’t have to look far to find why Christmas is important.  So, today I decided to meditate on the meaning of Christmas using a bunch of short words.  In fact, I thought I’d get creative and make them all four-letter words, and I hope you do not find this offensive.  I also hope they are the only ones you hear this Christmas.  But seriously, I think they will help you follow along with me.
Hope.  Lately I’ve been raving about the word Hope in my homilies.  The Catechism tells us that 1818 The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.  So hope by definition affirms that things are moving in the right direction, but really aren’t there yet.  We celebrate today the source of that Hope, that God has become man to lead us in the right direction.
Here.  God comes into our lives and our world.  Right into the depths and the meat of it, and that connects to this word: Mess.  God knows that our lives are broken.  He knows that we have sinned and that we have been sinned against.  He knows we are hurting and imperfect people among a bunch of others in the huge dysfunctional family known as the human race.  That is exactly why He comes, and gets involved right in the mess.  Jesus’ family history, as told in the genaeology of Matthew’s gospel, is full of mess.  Perhaps He spent much of His quiet 30 years of His life reflecting upon this mess of sin, the mess that He came to save.
1. Need.  We need Christ.  I believe I’ve already given this horse a good beating, but if we don’t let it sink in, we won’t do anything with it.  We have to examine ourselves and truly say, “I need God!”  This should be a daily cry from our heart, as Saint Augustine so poignantly puts it: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until the rest in You.”
2. Know.  We must know Christ, in two ways particularly: Pray.  We will miss the mystery of God’s presence among us if we aren’t looking, just like all that people that missed Him, ignored Him, and hated Him during His lifetime.  Also, we come to know Jesus through Mass.  Every Sunday we help to satisfy our need by coming together as broken people to be healed by the Word of God, by showing mercy to each other, and especially in the Host, the sacrificial Lamb of God given to us from this altar, Jesus Himself.  There is no better way to get to know Jesus than by daily personal prayer and the Mass.
3. Show. (Loud.)  We must show Jesus to others. If we can confess that we need Jesus and then truly begin to get to know Him and to let ourselves be loved by Him, then we will show it to others.  (Escriva)The cheerfulness of a man of God, of a woman of God, has to overflow: it has to be calm, contagious, attractive...; in a few words, it has to be so supernatural, and natural, so infectious that it may bring others to follow Christian ways
Love. This is how this we show it.  We must love, love in the way God loves us.  Love after the manner of the Cross, loving both God and others, and God through the others.
Pope, or if you wish, Time, the magazine.  The reason Pope Francis won man of the year was because he shows love, in his actions, in his words.  He is like Jesus – attractive yet so often misunderstood.  Yet the actions draw people in.
And just recently, he called all of us to do the same.  In his big document Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis demands that we be people who know Jesus and who show Jesus.
114. Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means that we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way.
The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.

120. In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”.

So that, my friends, is the meaning of Christmas for us.  In a few easy four-letter words: need, know, and show.  After we admit that we need Jesus and then get to know Jesus, that love will move us to show Jesus.

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