Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Don't leave Him hanging (Christmas Day)

Does this happen to you?
You’re talking to someone you think is listening;
Then you ask a question…
And the other person just nods…and smiles…
And your question is left hanging!

My sister catches me this way when I’m watching TV.

Sometimes after Mass, I’ll talk to the kids;
I’ll ask a question…
They will nod, and smile…
They leave me hanging!

It’s a humbling experience!

On Christmas Day,
Beyond the wrappings and tinsel,
You and I wake up to an astonishing fact:
God came to dwell among us: God spoke to us.

Will we leave him hanging?

We just heard the powerful beginning
of the Gospel of John
Open up vistas of discovery about God—and about us.

To call God the Word: What does that mean?

The Greek word is Logos:
Order, beauty, truth, which is knowable.

Yet, in this Post-Modern Era,
Many of us despair of knowing the Truth
that knits all things together.

With so many competing voices,
We throw up our hands and say, “Who can know?”

George Weigel,
who wrote a marvelous book a couple of years ago,
calledThe Courage to be Catholic,
Has now written Letters to a Young Catholic,
What one reviewer called “a vivid tour”
of what being Catholic means.

There, he called Catholicism “the antidote to nihilism.”
And by “nihilism,” he means
not the sour, dark,
often violent nihilism of Nietzsche and Sartre…

But a “debonair nihilism”:
the nihilism that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion,
convinced that all of this—
the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history—
is really just a cosmic joke.

Against the nihilist claim that nothing
is really of consequence,
Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence,
because everything has been redeemed by Christ.
And if you believe that,
it changes the way you see things.
It changes the way everything looks.

To say, “the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,” changes everything!
It is to say God has spoken—to us!
And we can know him!

God’s not only talking to us, he’s asking a question:
Will we leave him hanging?

What question?
John’s Gospel recalls Genesis;
That’s where God first asked “The question”—
Do you remember it?

After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves.
And God called out: Where are you?

Ever since sin polluted Creation and darkened us,
We’ve been afraid;
But God has never given up seeking, and asking:
“Where are you?”

Will we have the courage to answer?

You might have thought I’d say “faith” just now.
Yes, it does takes faith;
But almost everyone has some faith—
Gallup reports nearly everyone believes in God.

But more and more of us believe in a kind of…force…
A Presence that’s there—but that’s all.

To be a full-blown atheist takes courage;
Because then, we face a meaningless world alone.

Likewise, it takes courage to believe
Not in a “what” but a Who…
Someone who is talking to us.
Someone we can know—
And enter into a relationship with.

That takes courage.

We prefer a loosey-goosey idea of “Love”:
“Can’t religion just be about ‘love’?
“Can’t we all just ‘love’ each another?”
But in a real relationship, love is anything but easy.
A relationship demands hard choices:
Commitment, fidelity, honesty,
Sacrifice, virtue, and conversion.

Christianity isn’t about some vague God,
who loves us in some vague way,
And we do the same.

This is about the most intimate relationship possible:
God became one of us,
So we could become part of God!

So, yes, God’s Love—and our response—
Could not be more demanding.

That’s why it takes courage.

So is it any surprise to see in our time a revival
Of the paganism that pre-dated Christ?

Have you noticed the “Winter Solstice”
making a comeback?

This is an ideal solution;
We can have a holiday, we can even be “spiritual”—
But without the intrusion of a God
who might actually want something from us.

Impressive as the sun and the stars are,
There’s no relationship.
It’s easier—but it’s emptier, too.

No wonder the pagan gods of old
Looked so suspiciously like ourselves;
When man called out to those gods,
All he heard back was an echo.

But we have the Gospel: “Good News”:
We have Christ!

C.S. Lewis once said that
God pays us the “intolerable compliment”
of not leaving us “as-is,” or “good enough.”

God is head-over-heels in love with us.
But he is demanding.

This is the greatest adventure of romance possible,
Beyond heaven and earth, beyond time,
Beyond our imagining.

This is what Christmas is.

God’s here; he’s talking; he’s asking.
Will we leave him hanging?


Anonymous said...

"Can’t we all just ‘love’ each another?”
But in a real relationship, love is anything but easy.
A relationship demands hard choices:
Commitment, fidelity, honesty,
Sacrifice, virtue, and conversion."

I am going to print your quote out in a large font and place on our refrigerator. So much is made of *our feelings* when we are in love. We forget the hard work. Thank you, Father. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father,

God Bless you this Christmas and have a wonderful New Year!

Gregaria said...

Thanks for this homily, Father. It puts most of my thoughts into words. I reprinted it on my blog and gave you credit as well as a link.

God bless and Merry Christmas!

The Digital Hairshirt said...

Father, this is simply wonderful.