25 December 2018Christmas

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Christmas Day - Cycle C John 1:1-18

The story is told of a young lay missionary carefully picking her way through the killing fields of Rwanda. She met a boy whom she knew to be Catholic. Shortly before he had witnessed his parents, brothers, and sisters being hacked to death by rampaging terrorists. He told her he no longer believed Jesus is God. Though she suspected the reason, she asked why. He replied, "If Jesus is God, he should be able to do the things that God does. God made the trees and the trees make other trees. God made elephants and the elephants make other elephants. Now if Jesus is God, he should be able to make other Jesuses. Yet I have never seen another Jesus."

This Christmas the best gift we might give the Christ and this disillusioned boy as well as our family and friends is to become "another Jesus." You and I should not merely be Christian and Catholic. Rather, we should be Christ figures. Perhaps we may have forgotten to put this item on our Christmas list. Why not do so this very instant? Last minute gifts it is said are oftentimes the best and most prized. What would happen if we do not choose this way to go? We unhappily would lay ourselves open to a serious indictment this Christmas. People examining our Christian lives would be forced to agree with the wordsmith who declared that many of the dead are still walking about. And, if we are not afraid of the truth, most of us would have to place ourselves among them. The Trappist Thomas Merton puts the case for a fresh understanding of Christmas this way.

"Christ is born to us today so that He may appear to the whole world through us. This one day is the day of His birth, but every day of our mortal lives must be His manifestation." That unhappy boy in Rwanda would heartily agree. So too would that young lay missionary. So would all of us after even brief reflection on this Christmas day. George Orwell summed up the thoughts of Charles Dickens on this season in ten words. "If men would behave decently, the world would be decent." Is there anyone of us who would dispute Orwell's judgment? Mr Dickens you will recall wrote "A Christmas Carol" in 1843. There he argued a self-cleansing of the heart of each of us is the only genuine way to change the world about us. His exact words were, "I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year..." Christmas does not merely tell a story about a Jewish Infant.

Rather it points to an adult Man named Jesus who proved to be most singular. He not only changed the small country about Him but also He possesses the capacity to change us. Through Him, we can cease being selfish people and become noble individuals ourselves. It could be, said one preacher, that the only Jesus we ever envision is the Babe in the manger. But the Babe became a challenging Man. He is much too large for a manger. And, if you attempt to squeeze Him back into it, all you will receive for your efforts will be powerfully painful splinters in both hands. In fact, He is larger than life itself. Accept Him then as He is - the Lord. Allow Him to turn your life inside out and upside down. You may feel that your contribution to the commonweal is so Lilliputian as not to count. If so, listen to this ancient story. A warrior was coming down a road on a mighty mount.

Everyone got out of his way. He came upon a sparrow lying on his back with his feet up in the air. Demanded the warrior, "What are you doing, you silly twit?" The sparrow replied, "I was told the sky was going to fall down and I am attempting to hold it up." The warrior laughed and laughed till the tears ran down his scarred face. He shouted, "Even if the sky were to fall down, what help would you be with those thin little legs?" The sparrow, completely nonplussed, said softly, "You do what you can." Have we not been told often that no one of us can do everything, but each one can do something? Today is the day for you to begin. Do what you can. And notice the difference in yourself and others. I share with you a greeting a friend sent to me: "Carols to sing slightly off key, a family found in easy laughter, and instant replay ever after."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord--Christmas: The Gift of Mercy

They were no different than us those people of the ancient days before Christ. Sure, they didn't have the technology we have, but as people they were the same as us. They got lost in their daily routines, as we all are inclined to do. They called upon God in their needs but not their daily lives, as we all are inclined to do. They were easily swayed to go along with the modern times and the new morality of the Greco-Roman culture, just as we are swayed to go along with the modern morality as presented by much of the media. For them there was the draw of the pagan lifestyle with its deification of immorality. There were gods to be served by behaving like animals. For us, there is the draw of a new world where there is no right or wrong, where all truth is relative, where all forms of heinous behavior are protected by the gods of political correctness. Like us, the ancients looked at the world around them and questioned the purpose of existence. After all, life was expendable.

The political class used rhetoric for what ultimately turned out to be their own ends. Many areas of the government existed more to serve itself than to serve its people. Demagogues rose up every fifty years or so to lead people like lemmings off a cliff. Times change, but people don't change. We have the same problems. Left to our own devices we find new ways to destroy ourselves and others. The people of the past cried out for a Savior to free them from the power of evil. And so do we. And God, the Eternal Father, the Creator of the Universe, hears our cries, sees what our sins are doing to us, and has mercy on us. The gift of Christmas, the gift of Jesus Christ is the gift of mercy. Archbishop John Clement Favalora, Archbishop Emeritus of Miami and the former Bishop of St. Petersburg, has written, "What greater act of mercy could there be than for the Father to have His Son be born in the flesh and live our life. What greater act of mercy could there be than for the Father to send His Son to show us the Way back to the Father." Our God, the creator of millions of stars, of trillions of planets, looks on earth, looks on his ultimate creation, rational life capable of loving him, mankind, sees what the rejection of His Love is doing to His people, and has mercy upon us. He has mercy on us as a people, the human race.

He has mercy on us as individuals, for each of us is a unique reflection of His image and likeness. Our God loves us too much to allow us to be hurt by evil, whether that evil comes from the spiritual force of evil, the devil, from others, the diabolical, or from within ourselves, the deceived. It is so important that we remember how powerful our God is. Many times people will joke that if they go to Church they will be struck by lightning or the walls will fall down. Well, the Church has very strong walls and great lightning protection. The lightning protection is the Body and Blood of Christ. The strong walls are the People of God. Why do we do this? Why do we think that our sins are more powerful than God's mercy? Perhaps we are humbly recognizing our failings, and I don't doubt the sincerity of any of us when we feel the weight of our sins. But we are called to a greater humility. We are called to have the humility to realize that we need the mercy of God. Why do we think that God would not forgive us, no matter what we have done? Folks, here's a news flash, for me as well as for you: None of us are that good at being bad.

We can never be so bad that God will refuse to forgive us. Pope Francis is fond of saying, "There are no limits to God's mercy, other than the limits we put on His Mercy." If we think that we have done something so bad that God will not forgive us, then we are limiting the power of His Mercy. And we are making ourselves greater than God. When the angels announced the birth of the Lord to the shepherds, they sang out, "Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of good will." God is offering us peace. His peace. This is the inner peace of knowing that we are forgiven. It is the peace of knowing that we are united to Him. It is the peace of realizing that with Him our lives have meaning, and purpose, and fulfillment. It is the peace of experiencing the Mercy of God. Perhaps some would consider the past year, consider the horrible mass shootings (defined by the FBI as three or more people in a public place) is over 300 so far, terrorist attacks, the seemingly never ending wars in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, and question God's peace. "How can you say there is peace in the world, Father?

Look around you. I see crying parents and suffering children. I see ISIS and groups like them determined to destroy Christianity. I see the pornography industry that exploits women and children and destroys the very minds of those it lures into addiction. How can you say that there is peace in the world, Father?" This is an excellent question. To it, I respond, "And I see the Church being strengthened by those whose witness is more powerful than the weapons of evil. I see the Maximillian Kolbe's of our day, peacefully accepting what evil does in order to proclaim the greater power of goodness. I see the Gianna Berretta Molas of the 21st century at peace with their choice of life no matter what it costs them. I see Teens and young adults and determined older Christians praying before the Eucharist and committing themselves to God. I see goodness all around us shouting from the quiet lives of the Sons and Daughters of God. I see you, People of God, bringing light to those in darkness.
I hear you shouting out with your lives, "I get it! I know what matters. I know the joy that endures and the sadness that is passing!" Men of God, Women of God, rise up! Shout out Philippians 4:7: Let the world know that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, is guarding our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Tell the world that this peace is offered to them. Tell the world about the Mercy of God. Tell the world that it is no longer empty. The child has been born. The world is full of the Presence of God. And be merciful to others. We have to be vehicles of God's mercy. We have received His Mercy.

We need to extend this mercy to others. This includes being kind to those in our families, being generous to those who need our support, and asking God to sway the hearts of those committing evil. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” demands that we pray for those who have hurt us or are hurting us, from those within our families to those in the sleaze industries, to those who commit acts of terror. We need to pray for them all. We need to forgive them all. The world has been entrusted to the Children of God. We have been mandated to transform the world into a place of love. The Power of God, the Holy Spirit has come upon us. The power of the Most High has overshadowed us. The One whom we carry to those around us, whom we bring into reality, is the Holy Child, the Son of God. Glory to God in the highest. He has been born. Everything has changed. The world has been transformed into the home of the Eternal One. O Holy Night. O Night of Joy. O Night of Mercy.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS

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