Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Literal Fact (Holy Family Homily)

We use language a lot of ways.

Sometimes use “figures of speech.”
I might say of a football player, “he’s an ox!”

Or we speak abstractly—heady, “up there” stuff.
Then again, we often use language very literally.
However much we can appreciate the poetry
and all that heady stuff, it’s the language of hard,
physical facts we respect most.

So it was for Hannah and Elkanah in our first reading.

The priest Eli told them over and over
that God loved them and heard their prayers—
But Hannah needed love she should touch and hold.
“Up there” language is nice;
But she needed hard, physical facts.

That’s everyone’s story.
God tells us he loves us, but he knows we need more;
We need hard, physical facts.

So God didn’t just “call” us his family.
He made it literally true.

God the Son took human flesh,
being conceived in Mary’s womb.

People still need this—and God still provides it!
You and I see, hear and touch God in his Church.

While God took flesh
in the fullest sense in Jesus Christ,
it is true to say that the Church
is the Body of Christ;
like God taking flesh in Jesus,
The Holy Spirit is “enfleshed” in the Church.
You may say, “wait a minute,
now you’re back to speaking figuratively.”

No, I’m not!

God becoming human—that’s a physical, hard fact.
Our Catholic Faith is built on that Fact.

By the way, this is why if you go into a bookstore,
as I did Saturday,
you will see lots of books undermining this Fact:
Was Jesus really God?
Are the Scriptures reliable?
Did he even exist?

You know what all this is? It’s an attack—
An attack on Jesus—on our Catholic Church,
and on our Faith.

If you undermine that one Fact:
God became man, Jesus;
Then everything, the entire Christian Faith, collapses.

On the other hand, because we know who Jesus is,
we can have confidence in the Church that He sent,
in the sacraments he gives us through his Church;
in His Voice that speaks through his Church,
which he guides with his Holy Spirit.

This is something we, as Catholics,
emphasize very strongly, and we take very literally:
God is in our midst!

This isn’t just about “Church”—
it’s about all of life; it’s all of a piece.
So we reverence human life in every form,
From earliest beginning to most fragile ending.

We wrestle with problems of poverty and race relations,
because we are our brother’s keeper,
and absolutely everyone is our brother!

We feel obligations even to criminals—
somehow to bring them to redemption—
and we resist the death penalty—because
the reverence due a human being cannot be undone,
no matter what crimes they commit.

We speculate, and try to understand
some of the mysteries of our faith:
How can baptism change us?
How come we still struggle with sin?
How can the Eucharist be turned from
ordinary bread and wine, into God himself?

We may not have all the answers,
but we have this Fact: God became man!
And the God-man, Jesus Christ, told us:
“This is my Body!” and “I am with you always!”

Today is the feast of the Holy Family.

When God calls us his Family, it is literally true.
God literally became a member of the human family,
so that we would be part of a Divine Family.
The Church—and our parish—is our Divine Family.

We understand that a family
is a place where we learn essential life-lessons:
how to get along with others, how to grow up;
how to make it in life, how to have dreams,
and be people who achieve and share those dreams.

That’s all true of the Divine Family, the Church:
Here, we are schooled and prepared for life eternal;
to grow up into the full stature of Christ;
to live with God, and his people, forever.

God calls us his Family—it’s not a figure of speech;
it’s a literal, physical Fact.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Father. I learn so much from you.

Wishing many blessings in the coming year, to you and through you.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent homily, Father. I lost track counting all the issues you touched on, yet you gave each its due. It's a blessing to all of us that you post your homilies.