Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

25 December 2013

Most Recent. Christmas. Ever.

From the clergy, staff, and faithful of Holy Guardian Angels Parish, prayerful best wishes on this day of the Lord's Nativity! Following is the gist of my Christmas homily.

On this day priests can experience a kind of “performance anxiety,” not unlike many people feel in the interest of making this the “Best. Christmas. Ever.” You see, your friends and family deserve Pinterest-worthy trees, crafts, and cookies, conversation free of even the potential for annoyance and criticism. Well, I preach and write to hundreds of people who are reliable regulars, like…Walter Cronkite, Norm on “Cheers,” or the songs on a Top-40 station for about two months. I also recognize others on the parish roll who choose to participate only on this day and perhaps a few others. Some of you are home from college or from your own families. You may be visiting (or "browsing") from another parish, another locale, or another faith…and some, I suspect, are among the largest growing religious identification: that is, of no particular faith.

On this day, and in general, I want not only to welcome everyone, but to please everyone as well! Maybe you can identify with that impossible dream! Given the tremendous expectations surrounding the holidays, the pain of loss (of loved ones, of employment), marital and family strife, not to mention the general sense of discontentment in the world, can you understand how this time of year is so difficult for so many?

It seems necessary to remind myself, and all of you, that we are not the focus of this and every celebration of the Eucharist. The focus is earth’s reception of her King—a reception for which we are, at root, unworthy; yet nonetheless we strive to be properly disposed. We call Jesus our “Savior,” even though a great many people question what, if anything, we need to be saved from. With an honest appraisal we would identify the effects of original and personal sin in our lives, amounting to a widespread lack of appreciation for God’s many blessings, especially human dignity. 

Scarcely do we realize the great trust that the Lord has placed in His rational creatures, giving us the freedom either to embrace or reject His wise and loving plan! The rejection of that plan, I submit, contributes to the tensions of the world and in our families, although it also has a way of opening our hearts to the redemption and renewal that only God can give.

The first and last word on this holy day comes from the angel Gabriel who spoke to Joseph and Mary: “Be not afraid.” God has forever and completely entered the muck of human existence, to purify and elevate it beyond our imaginings. Be not afraid, then, to trust God with your resources, your relationships, your virtues and sins, indeed your entire life! Be not afraid to give, but also to receive! Be that innkeeper who makes room for the Christ and His parents—not just today, but every day. Come to the feeding trough—Bethlehem, the “house of bread”—to receive heavenly nourishment so that, in turn, you can nourish others in need. United to the God who became flesh in Jesus, who knows what miracles can be born in your flesh?
The House of Bread

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