Audio Available!

Audio Available!
Be sure to check out in each blog post the links to the audio recordings of my homilies. They are at the beginning of each post! Also, look to the right for links to Audio from other good resources!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas homily

Audio from kids' Mass: click here!

Pope Benedict XVI: The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity of the universe.  It is not a minimal thing which happens by chance on a lost planet.  It is rather the motive for everything, the motive for creation.  Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between God and His creature.
The Gospel is Good News.  The word euangellion (evangelium in Latin) was first and foremost good news of military victory.  It would be brough back from the front lines by “reporters.”  It was the first and most important type of new and postal service.  And so when the Apostles were running all over the earth with their lives on the line, and the Evangelists were writing their own Good News about a generation later, they meant to include this fact in their news stories: there have seen a great military victory in Christ Jesus, by his birth, and above all by his passion, death, and resurrection.  Isn’t it interesting to think that about 2000 years ago, this was a real as what we read in the newspapers and see on television and hear on radio.  It really happened.  Jesus was a real person on this earth, and the stories we hear are family stories, our family stories.
We all have our own family stories, and when we share them, we include all kinds of interesting details that help us to understand more about the people and the events and why they are important.  For example, one Christmas tradition we had as kids was trying to figure out how to sneak one of Grandma’s Christmas cookies before she brought them out and unveiled them herself.  It was tricky business, but even my dad would play the game, and if grandma noticed and said “who’s been stealing cookies?” all our eyes would run around the room to see who it was (or to see if we would get caught).
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ infancy are family stories: it is first and foremost history, but it is blended with meditation and deeper insight into the meaning of the facts.  So the details can be quite important, because it was God who wrote the story, and so on the macro and the micro levels we see a deep use of people, places, and events to help us know what is the point of it all, to know what is really going on with this person Jesus.
Matthew’s Gospel includes details such as the genealogy and later the wise men, while Luke uses the reference to Caesar, Herod, and Bethlehem.  Both are using these details to point to the fact that Jesus is a KING, in fact THE king, the new David who would fulfill God’s promise to reign forever as the long­-awaited Messiah.
It is truly amazing that Jesus, to fulfill His role as the new David, had to be born in Bethlehem, but couldn’t live there, since Herod would slaughter all the young children in his paranoid rage.  So God chooses Mary and Joseph, of Nazareth, to care for His Son, and he finds a way for them to get to Bethlehem by Caesar’s selfish census (which was a way of estimating one’s source of power through taxing and forced military service).  While human beings grasp for power, it is the Lord who truly has things under control to carry out His designs of love for us.  The Lord in these stories is certainly carrying out what Saint Paul so beautifully described in his First Letter to the Corinthians: the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
And why does God do all this?  Why does He need to become man?  The angels remind us through their words.  To Joseph they say: “name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  To Mary: “He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  To the shepherds they say: “a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord…Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.”  So why does God do the unthinkable?  To save us, to give us His peace, to establish a kingdom without end, and to bring about the greatest and most important military victory of all time: the victory over sin and death.  The answer to the question why? Can be summed up in one word: Heaven.
God wants us to be with him in heaven.  His love will not allow any less.  A good life on earth is not enough, because earth cannot contain the amount of joys he wishes to bestow on us.  He love us infinitely, and needs an eternity to bestow it on us.
He wants us to be with Him, and to do that, He first needs to be with us.  He needs to dwell among us, to make his home here with us, to come find us and bring us home.

Just this past Thursday I went out to visit my spiritual director in Ohio and then pray beside the casket of a priest whom the Lord had called home outside of Fort Wayne.  And thanks to modern technology, I had no problems getting back to here, my new home.  After I changed that address in the system, all I have to do now is tell it to take me home, to lead me home, then follow where it leads.  Brothers and sisters, this church here, just like every Catholic Church in the world, is not just the home of the priest.  It is your home.  In fact, it is your Bethlehem.  You know, Bayit Lechem literally means house of bread.  Jesus was born in the town called house of bread, and was placed in manger where animals eat food.  Brothers and sisters, this is your Bethlehem.  It is here where God dwells with us.  It is here in the Mass where God becomes bread for us.  O Come All Ye Faithful to your home, O Come let us adore Him in the Mass, in your Bethlehem.  When we discover God present here among us, becoming poor so that we can become rich in heavenly gifts, it is then that we can truly say: Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  Amen.

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