Saturday, December 22, 2007

Heaven spoke--will we obey? (Sunday homily)

Today’s Gospel shows us Joseph as someone very human,
someone we can readily understand.

A lot of tradition says Joseph was older than Mary.
If so, we might wonder if Joseph thought,
“I’ll just get out of the way.”

In any case, it wasn’t long
before a message came from heaven.
When the Scriptures say “behold,” that means—
it happened quickly.

Heaven spoke—and Joseph obeyed.
There’s not much better
that we could say about Joseph, or anyone.

But there’s a reason that happened so quickly:
Joseph wanted to hear.
By contrast, in the first reading,
the king does not want to hear from heaven.
So we might wonder if what the prophet said,
made any difference.

Which reminds us that God does, in fact,
speak to us very frequently,
in many ways, but we don’t hear it, for many reasons.

Maybe we, like Ahaz, don’t want to hear it,
because then, we’ll have to do something.

Then there is Paul—we heard him in the second reading.

We remember how Paul heard from heaven.
He was a hard-charger;
and heaven knocked him to the ground.
He was very certain he saw clearly;
he was struck blind for awhile.

Again, that’s an experience we can identify with.

In the end, we can say it of Paul, too:
“Heaven spoke—and Paul obeyed.”

Paul traveled thousands of miles
to tell everyone what we just heard:
Jesus Christ offers us grace and peace,
power over sin, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Recently, Rome sent out a letter reminding us that,
even though it’s important
that we have good relations with other Christians,
and its important we never look down on people
who believe differently, the fact remains
that we have a Gospel—Good News—to share,
and it is urgent that we share it.

Can God save people who never become Christians?
Yes, God can do that;
and as far as what God actually will do? We don’t know.

But remember what we do know,
what heaven has told us, through Paul:
Share the Gospel—tell everyone about Jesus Christ!

When Paul encountered Jesus Christ,
we realize how deeply it changed such a strong man
that he would call himself “a slave of Jesus Christ.”

When we encounter Jesus Christ,
when we really let him speak to us,
when we acknowledge our sins to him
and are ready to let him take the lead,
we discover why He is Good News;
why everyone needs to know him.

Jesus is, as our pope recently said,
“the God who has a human face
and who has loved us to the end.”

Christmas makes this clear:
if you take Jesus out of Christmas, what’s left?
Fun and presents, pretty lights and good feelings,
but nothing really changes, no hope for eternity.

Even so, the whole world celebrates Christmas;
including so many people who don’t believe in Jesus.

Why do they do it?
Because they are looking for
what Isaiah promised the king:
A child is born, Emmanuel, God is with us!

The whole world longs for what you and I
have been freely given!
Emmanuel, God-with us!

Yes, it’s true, many resist; many say, “another day”;
many, like St. Paul, want God—
but only on their own terms.

But the fact remains, there is a longing for Christ.
When the time is right—
and that time is different for everyone—
who will be there to tell them
and to lead them to Christ?
That is our task.

That’s why it’s important we have silence…to hear Christ.
That’s why it’s important we be in the habit of prayer.
It’s why it matters that what our lives say
matches our words.

And, it’s why it is so important we know our Faith;
so that when someone asks us—
and they will ask you,
long before they will ever ask the priest—
“why do you believe that?”

When the time comes to speak, to share Christ,
what will you say? What will you do?

In a moment, the miracle that happened once in Mary
will happen again for us as it does day after day:
Jesus will offer his Sacrifice at this altar,
and he will give himself to us in his Body and Blood.
And we can say it in a way no one else can:
“God is with us!”

If we come to communion,
or, if we aren’t able to do that today,
and we make a spiritual communion instead,
let this be the moment for us that happened to Paul:
we discover Christ fully,
and we cannot fail to share him with others.

We might let this be the moment for us
that happened to Joseph:
Heaven spoke—and we obeyed.


Anonymous said...

Your homilies always make a compelling case for Christ and a compelling challenge for us to respond to Him. I often read them twice or more.

Tim Langenderfer

Anonymous said...

Beautiful meditation Fr..

Anonymous said...

This IS a beautiful homily Fr. You have a gift for explaining the readings, and to encourge us to apply them in our lives.

Do your parishioners know how blessed they are to have you as one of their priests?

Blessed 4th Sunday Father,
Tracy of the former Woodland Word